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StrategyJan 03, 2019

Employee Engagement Part 3: Vision and Mission

Kevin Erickson, Grace Lee, Cameron Weinert, and Ben Grotta

This article is the third of a six-part series on employee engagement and retention, which we refer to as “stickiness.” Younger generations make up an increasingly large share of the modern workforce, and companies must respond in order to acquire and retain top talent. This article will explore how a company’s vision and mission drive excellence among hungry professionals.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” In his bestseller, Start With Why, Simon Sinek explains that all companies know what they do, some know how they do it, but few know why they do what they do. While knowing the “why” has always been important when marketing products and services, companies are increasingly understanding its importance in recruiting and retaining motivated employees.

In a recent millennial survey, six out of 10 millennials stated that a company’s underlying purpose was a major factor in taking a job. Moreover, Gallup revealed that millennials who feel that their company’s mission provides purpose to their jobs are 4.5 times more likely to be engaged at work. Millennial employees don’t just want to know what they are being asked to do, they want to understand and buy into the “why” behind it.

So how do vision and mission statements communicate the why, how, and what of a company? In terms of vision and mission, the why can be viewed as the vision statement, the ambitious goal, or the reason for a company’s existence. The how translates to a company’s mission statement or the actionable headline of how the vision will be attained. The what is the day-to-day work that aligns to the vision and maintains the integrity of the mission. As Sinek points out in his writings, the most inspiring leaders start with the why, thus inspiring loyalty and sparking movements. Companies seeking to do the same among their employees should assess whether or not their vision and mission are effectively communicating their purpose and motivating their employees to action.

the why: start with an inspiring vision

Far from simple written words, a vision statement is a powerful tool to define a company’s reason for existence and unify employees by providing an ambitious goal to work toward. A vision statement acts as a North Star, continually pointing a company’s actions and efforts toward an achievable dream of success. When all employees strive toward a shared goal every day, results happen. You’re more likely to move a mountain if everyone pushes in the same direction.

Writing an effective vision statement is not a perfect science, nor is it an easy endeavor. In fact, Harvard Business Review’s leadership assessment, which returned nearly one million responses, revealed that leaders’ greatest struggle is casting a vision that resonates. That being said, successful vision statements have important commonalities. Below are a few prime examples of inspiring vision statements:

  • Amazon: To be Earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.

  • Tesla: To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.

  • Alzheimer’s Association: Our vision is a world without Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Google: To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

With even basic knowledge of the above organizations, it’s clear to see how a vision statement can shape the destiny of the organization. When approaching the creation or assessment of a vision statement, consider key themes of strong vision statements: brevity, clarity, and aspiration. The best vision statements are memorable due to the clarity and conciseness of their message and inspirational by their ambitious pursuit of a better world. Employees can rally around brief, clear, and aspirational vision statements.

the how: craft a clear and actionable mission

Once you’ve cast a stimulating vision, you need an actionable plan to get there. That’s where mission comes in. Your mission statement serves to answer three primary questions: What your business does, who it does it for, and how it accomplishes its function. Mission statements are more specific and focused than vision statements, carving out the path forward to realize the defined aspiration. Below is a compilation of effective mission statements:

  • IKEA: To create a better everyday life for many people. Our business idea supports this vision by offering a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.

  • Target: Our mission is to make Target your preferred shopping destination in all channels by delivering outstanding value, continuous innovation, and exceptional guest experiences by consistently fulfilling our “Expect More. Pay Less.” brand promise.

  • InVision: We help companies of all sizes unlock the power of design-driven product development. InVision gives teams the freedom to design, review, and user-test products—all without a single line of code.

Compelling mission statements are tailored to the company’s core business and serve as a consistent reminder of strategic goals, as well as desired market positioning. A company should be recognizable from its mission statement, as its mission should convey the differentiated value the company provides.

A well-crafted and communicated mission statement imparts a sense of purpose and focus to employees, which in turn increases employee engagement. According to Gallup, 67% of millennials are engaged at work when they find purpose through their company’s mission statement. By clearly outlining the what, who, and how of your business in a mission statement, employees can gain clarity on how their day-to-day work contributes to the larger goal.

the what: align and communicate

Even carefully crafted vision and mission statements can prove ineffective if they are not consistently communicated and lived out by the entire organization. The effective dissemination of a company’s vision and mission begins with leadership and can infiltrate the company culture through strategic messaging, recognition, and decision-making.

While frequency and repetition promote top-of-mind awareness, leaders should consider the most impactful ways to communicate their vision and mission. In addition to making the statements prominent and well known, leaders should regularly employ storytelling as a method of communication, sharing success stories of employee actions that align with company vision and mission. Storytelling is an impactful communication tool to inspire. Former Proctor & Gamble executive Paul Smith emphasizes the influence of storytelling, saying, “When’s the last time you heard somebody say, ‘Wow! You’ll never believe the PowerPoint presentation I just saw.’ Nobody says that, but they do say that about a good story.” A good story that resonates with its audience has the power to transform mindsets and behavior.

Moreover, companies should consider ways to tie recognition and celebration to vision and mission as a way to motivate employees. At Zappos, when an employee delivers exceptional customer service, the employee will ring a bell, inciting celebration throughout the office and reinforcing the mission of providing the best customer service possible.

At the end of the day, vision and mission statements are meant to inspire action toward a shared goal. Thus, they should serve as filters by which daily decisions are made. Well-written mission statements should be consistently introduced into conversations about strategic decisions or investments. True progress begins to happen in a company where organizational decisions are aligned with the overall vision.

evaluating your company’s why, how, and what

When assessing your company’s “stickiness,” do not discount the power of a good vision and mission statement. According to a Gallup Survey, “71% of millennials who strongly agree that they know what their organization stands for and what makes it different from its competitors say they plan to be with their company for at least one year.” When evaluating whether or not your company’s vision and mission measure up, consider the following questions:

  • Does our vision statement clearly and concisely communicate our company’s greatest aspirations?

  • Could someone differentiate our company from another simply by reading our mission statement?

  • Do we regularly communicate success stories and recognize employees who act in accordance with our vision and mission?

  • Are our decisions and investments in alignment with our stated vision and mission?

Executed effectively, your company’s vision and mission statements have the potential to increase employee engagement and retention and build a better future for all.

Interested in learning more about how to develop an impactful mission and vision? Curious how Credera ties these goals into our everyday work? Reach out to us here to find out more! Or find the rest of the series here:

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