Healthcare is arguably the most purpose-driven of all industries. Yet defining and articulating a distinctive purpose that speaks to all audiences – patients, providers, employees and investors – is a challenge, says MaryLee Sachs, US CEO at Brandpie.
“Leaders in this space know that purpose matters. The impact of purpose is most certainly being measured by its influence on the bottom line in every industry. The question now is how to use it to stand out and to empower your people (employees and stakeholders) to act.”
Brandpie’s fourth annual study of CEOs into purpose showed that different sectors want purpose to do different things. In healthcare, it’s much more linked to employee engagement. Being a ‘good place to work’ came in at 38% versus an average of 27%.
“We’ve worked with several leading healthcare organisations to help them determine a clear and compelling business purpose,” says Sachs. “The overarching takeaway is that making an intentional effort to define and communicate purpose impacts so many aspects of the company.”
Purpose empowers healthcare professionals to act
The nature of most work has changed beyond recognition over the last three years. Healthcare was probably the most significantly disrupted sector as hospital staff and other healthcare workers reconfigured how, when and where they want to work.
“Founded amid the 2021 clinical staffing crisis, ScionHealth set out its role supporting those who provide care to deliver the best possible experience,” says Sachs. “With its purpose statement, ‘empowering the hands that heal’, ScionHealth made a distinct choice to focus on its internal stakeholders – the healthcare providers delivering care. The thinking behind it is simple yet powerful. Recognising and inspiring the caregivers results in them being able to provide the best care to patients.
“Beyond motivating people, purpose can become a lens through which to make bigger business decisions. At ScionHealth, it now helps guide thinking on health tech investment and acquisition opportunities. Lisa Estrada, our firm’s Chief Administrative Office & General Counsel, shared that seeing how other companies align with its own purpose has been ‘a powerful tool’.”
Mergers and acquisitions can be a challenging time for an organisation with its own set of risks. At times of uncertainty, talent might be considering their options and need good reasons to stay. Companies need to integrate teams and build belief in the new structure among leaders and people. A shared purpose, amplified by brand, can unite employees. Especially when they’re geographically disconnected.
“Being purposeful means developing a single idea that puts what you do firmly at the heart of the business,” says Sachs. “The idea should be as actionable as it is inspirational; grounded in the reality of what the organisation does and how it operates. The message is: everyone across the business can work together to achieve it.”
This was true for Clario, formed by the merger of two companies in the clinical trials space – ERT and Bioclinica.
“The organisation developed a new business story and a unifying purpose, ‘transforming lives by unlocking better evidence’. Communicating purpose via a new brand reminded people (employees and stakeholders) why the company exists and helped them reconnect with the end goal – to transform real lives.”
What could be more energising than a renewed sense of pride in the work you do every day?
Challenging healthcare leaders
Another organisation resulting from a merger in 2022 is professional services firm FORVIS. Kevin Locke, Managing Principal of Healthcare Consulting at FORVIS, says the new company’s decision to define a purpose statement was ‘very intentional’ across the spectrum of its portfolio.
Specific to the healthcare sector, he would challenge healthcare leaders to "continue to push ourselves, our organisations, the industry towards adopting a more courageous mentality around why we do what we do and assume that when we do it right, the economics are going to take care of themselves.
"It’s not an easy time to be a leader in healthcare and pharma. Inside the organisation, there’s mounting complexity, systemic change and growth. Then there are new market entrants, instability, and disruptive technology to get to grips with. A distinctive purpose helps shape your strategy, decision-making and future vision.
“To determine your 'why' and what you want to achieve with it, be bold in your ambitions. Ask what will make stakeholders lean in, and what action you want them to take. For many courageous healthcare organisations, becoming purposeful has helped them not just survive significant disruption, but to thrive and grow in the face of it,” says Sachs.
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