Positive Impact of Purpose with Kiersten Rippeteau

For Kiersten Rippeteau, purpose, meaning, and company culture aren’t just lofty words but high-impact actions. Unfortunately for many business leaders, they are just word-du-jour. They toss them around in the hopes something sticks. She, however, believes that every business can have a powerful positive impact on its employees, customers, and community. And for nearly 15 years, she has been helping leaders do exactly that – connect the dots between the business strategy, mission, and people. You are not going to want to miss this episode.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • The positive impact of a purpose-driven business
  • How men and women view purpose differently
  • Why it’s a myth that purpose driven business comes at the expense of profit
  • How to become a B corporation

Who Is Kierstan Rippeteau

Kiersten Rippeteau stumbled her way into what she calls “the rabbit hole of purpose driven and I never came out.” (Rippeteau, 00:07:40). It led her to the current day when she helps business leaders take social responsibility to the next level. Kierstan started out as a trip guide where she grew a deep appreciation for nature and the effect nature has on people. It gave her a deeply ingrained desire to help protect nature and help others appreciate it more. She worked for several non profits, both in programming and operations and then moved on to the corporate world. But she felt something was missing which forced her to ask: “Why does a purpose-driven approach to business have to be exclusively for the nonprofit world. What happens if we bring that to the for-profit world?” (Rippeteau, 00:07:20)

Determined that every business can be a powerful source of positive impact, Kiersten Rippeteau started her consulting firm New Commodity with a mission to make authentic purpose a practical tool for every business to generate that impact and drive performance and organizational health. Her background is in business operations, leadership, and organizational strategy in healthcare, non-profits, food & beverage, and construction. Before heading down this professional path, Kiersten led groups of teens and adults on wilderness trips across the U.S. and Canada. Kiersten holds a master’s of science in Management & Organizational Behavior from Benedictine University.

The Importance of Purpose

With businesses struggling to attract talent and keep them, purpose has become very important if not a bit of a buzzword. While most people recognize what the media is calling The Great Resignation, Rippesteau suggests a better signature could be The Great Reevaluation. According to Rippeteau, people are starting to look at what’s really important and what matters and [asking] “what do I want to be doing with my time? If [I’m] going to work then why not work for a company that I feel good about, that contributes to something that I care about” (Rippeteau, 00:08:50). The Great Resignation, Rippeteau believes, is consequently the result of a great mental shift in how workers view work and the companies that employ them.

Asked if there were any indicators before the pandemic in regards to how employees viewed the purpose of their employer companies, she admitted that pre-pandemic you started to see a slow shift of employees seeking to find more meaningful work. But the floodgates opened after two years of pandemic living. But the shift isn’t just for the 23 percent of Millennials and Gen Z who are willing to exchange income for working with purpose. Rippeteau also claims a big factor in this shift is that Baby Boomers are getting older and finally retiring. The pandemic forced many of them to re-evaluate their legacy and what meaningful values they’re leaving behind.

Difference in Genders
Host Ira Wolfe cited a recent survey that revealed how genders view remote work differently. Women are withdrawing from the workplace faster and wanting more remote or hybrid options than men. According to the survey, “70% of women want a remote or hybrid option, where only 30% of men do. Part of that differential is related to how genders find purpose in their work.” (Wolfe, 00:12:37). That’s not surprising because women have been and still are the primary family caretakers. Rippeteau does, however, see a rise in the number of stay-at-home Dads. 

One key difference for men is that many prefer the office workplace over home due to more opportunity to compete, get recognized, and subsequently get promoted. Women, on the other hand, are better natural collaborators  and don’t feel the need to be physically in the same space. But wherever one works, all genders agree on the need for purpose.

A Hidden Benefit of Working from Home
The workplace shift from office to home offered a hidden benefit: kids got to see what Mom and Dad actually do for a living! Rippeteau shared a personal reflection of how her son was able to watch her work from home during the pandemic, allowing your children to better understand their careers.

Leaders and Frontline Workers

  1. What is the purpose of an organization? (Rippeteau, 00:17:02)
  2. How do you start to tap into each individual’s sense of purpose? (Rippeteau, 00:17:04).
  3. How can you start to align their day-to-day work with this larger purpose but also help them fulfill their own? (Rippeteau, 00:17:12).
Easier Said Than Done
Aligning the purposes of leaders and workers is not always a match made in heaven. Oftentimes, managers will need to help employees find their purpose and goals. It might require some time off to reflect and focus on what’s important or give employee’s special projects. Help personalize employee work experiences and uncover how their contributions at the company make an impact. Co-host Jason Cochran offered an example: to create more innovative products and services, Google came up with the “20% Time” rule, which gave employees time to focus on whatever goals they wanted to achieve. With labor shortages expected throughout the decade, businesses will need to shift gears and start aligning purpose with business.
Purpose-Driven or Profits?
Like everything, the purpose-driven organization has its naysayers. Many believe that purpose takes a bite out of profits. This is the wrong mindset, says Rippeteau:“The two need to be in balance… if they want to thrive long term and really grow as a leader, [the company] must support innovation. To reach a lot of those vision statements, they need to be purpose driven as well” (Rippeteau, 00:23:00). The proof is in the pudding: purpose driven companies are lightyears ahead and are outperforming even the S&P 500.
How Can Companies Become a Purpose Driven Business
Rippeteau shares how companies can be purpose driven from her experience in the construction industry where practicality and physicality often shapes the culture. Many of these leaders believe one has little ontrol over culture; it is an intangible concept. Rippeteau disagrees, “[Culture] is just the outcome of your operations.” (Rippeteau, 00:25:57). Your company’s practices, how you reward your employees, and what shows up in your budget reveal your priorities, and that’s culture. As an example she shared  how a seafood company thought seafood sustainability should be their purpose. But after meeting with Rippeteau, they realized that their seafood was not their purpose – it was developing the next generation of leaders. This created a shift in momentum starting with hiring the right people and giving them more opportunities, then training workers on customer service and business management. After a short time, this business noticed a significant improvement in performance and a much happier customer base.
The Certified B Organization
Over the last couple of years, B Lab has seen a 30% increase in the number of applications to become certified B corporations. What is a B corp? Your company receives a third party review of your business practices, environmental impact, and governance to help ensure your company has a positive impact. Any company can apply for this certification or reveal what areas they need to improve. Achieving B corp status helps these companies avoid the narrative of false marketing (you just can’t say you do good!)  Host Cochran suggested that many organizations seek designations such as a “Best Place to Work” for marketing purposes but in doing so, they may not always practice what they preach.”  The B Corp “isn’t just a [popularity] contest you can pay to win; it’s something you have to earn by having the right practices in place.” (Cochran, 00:35:49). Rippeteau confirmed it is a rigorous process and one that not all companies can achieve. Wolfe added that the B Corp is a reflection of the current times and shows how much effort companies are willing to do to align purpose with business.