Social Change   Strategic Communication  

How Purpose-Driven Organizations Influenced Corporate Actions and Employee Trust During the Global COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 changed everything, including how companies approach business—specifically, the importance of leading with purpose. The pandemic furthered this discourse by showcasing how, in times of crisis, organizational success can become more dependent upon the company’s ability to bring people together for social good, beyond making a profit.

Purpose-driven organizations can highly influence their employee’s trust and how those employees view an organization during times of change or crisis. For clarity, purpose is not an organization’s mission or value statement, but rather its clear-cut, foundational goal for the firm that reaches beyond profit and fulfills a social good. But how exactly can communicating purpose impact a company and its employees during events like COVID and beyond?

This question inspired research by University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications Associate Dean for Research and Public Relations Professor Marcia DiStaso, Public Relations Professor Linjuan Rita Men, doctoral student Eve Heffron, and Ph.D. alumni Yufan Sunny Qin and Alexis Fitzsimmons. The researchers sought to better understand the role purpose-driven organizations play in cultivating employee trust through an employee’s “organizational identification,” or how an employee identifies with an organization, primarily on a cognitive level.

The study found that that:

  • After COVID-19, there is an increased expectation for organizations to be purpose-driven.
  • For an organization to benefit from leading with purpose, stakeholders must deeply know, understand, and be connected to that purpose.
  • When employees perceive their company as purpose-driven, they have a higher organizational identity and trust their company more.
  • Employees identify more strongly with companies that have missions and social values deemed desirable in society.
  • Employees who identified with their organizations also trusted their organizations.
  • Leading with purpose is a way to build employee trust and retain employees during times of change.

Communications professionals can use these findings to guide strategic communications and galvanize employees and stakeholders around organizational purpose, as well as clearly communicate to employees how their work is meaningful to build an employee’s organizational identification. This is particularly critical during times of crisis and will only benefit organizations—and their stakeholders—as the world continues to change.

The original article, “How Purpose-Driven Organizations Influenced Corporate Actions and Employee Trust during the Global COVID-19 Pandemic,” was published online in the International Journal of Strategic Communication, June 19, 2022.

 Authors: Yufan Sunny Qin, Marcia DiStaso, Alexis Fitzsimmons, Eve Heffron, Linjuan Rita Men

 This summary was written by Jessica Berube, M.A.MC. 2021

Posted: September 8, 2022
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