It’s very difficult to work hard when you don’t understand what you’re working toward. We’re all capable of putting our heads down and grinding it out – but that behavior generally leads to burnout, apathy, and updating your LinkedIn.
A recent study from Reward Gateway, a global employee engagement company, which surveyed 1,500 workers and 750 senior decision-makers across the U.K., U.S., and Australia has revealed that only 25% of employees feel completely informed about their employer’s corporate mission and only 32% of employees feel completely informed about the values of the organization they work for.
When you compare that to the fact that 89% of employers say it’s absolutely critical to the success of their business that employees understand their mission, vision, and values, it’s clear there’s a major disconnect here. So, where is the divide and how can we close it?
The False Divide
In hiring and HR, we often talk about the difference between hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills are the concrete, measurable skills that make you a great fit for a specific position: coding, budgeting, IT. Soft skills are harder to measure – they’re the interpersonal skills like communication, empathy, and leadership that would make you a great fit anywhere.
Some companies make the mistake of dividing their work into these rigid categories. They think, “Hard skills drive real growth: our business strategy, our R&D and M&A roadmaps, our sales playbooks. Soft skills are merely nice-to-haves: our culture, our brand, our employee engagement.”
The truth is, a company divided cannot stand for long. Vision, mission, strategy, brand, and culture are inextricably connected, and all parts must work in concert to drive growth for your business. These strategic pieces must be thought of as one moving piece. Sales needs strategy to sell, marketing needs brand to have an impact, culture is the bedrock upon which all strategy lives or dies, mission keeps us grounded, and vision keeps us inspired. Beyond paying the bills, people need to understand why they get up every morning to come to work. There’s nothing soft about soft skills.
The numbers speak for themselves. A strong, well-defined, and positive culture increases employee engagement, job satisfaction, and well-being. A Business 2 Community report stated that companies with engaged employees outperform those without by 202 percent. Yet, only about 25% of employees said their organization has a strong culture based on core values and a similar amount said they trust their leadership at the executive level.
Unite Your Communications
On a very basic level, employees need a singular and regularly updated “space” to access communications about mission, vision, and the future of their company. That could be an intranet, a newsletter, or an in-person town hall. Ideally, this is a place where they can also voice their opinions and contribute to the shared meaning of the company.
Whatever the medium, the key is consistency in timing and aesthetic. Too often, employees are bombarded with irregular and disparate communications from different departments. Because they receive the communications in a silo, they think about them in a silo. There’s real power in bringing everything together in an integrated, holistic way.
Taglines vs. Tools
The fun thing about marketing is that everyone hates it – unless it’s really good. The distance between a mission or vision statement that feels like a “useless tagline” vs. a “useful tool” is a deadly gulf. There’s no surefire formula for bringing strategy to life in a meaningful way, but there are a few best practices that any company can glean:
Keep things human. If the goal is for every employee to be able to see themselves in the mission, then it needs to be written in a simple way. For example, the mission of TED is refreshing in its purity. It’s simply: spread ideas. It’s a perfect demonstration of how they serve, and their vision elevates this through the belief that ideas change attitudes, lives, and the world at large.
Be as transparent as possible. Mission and vision statements tend to be crafted by a small executive committee – and that makes sense. But even if all employees can’t actively participate in the shaping of the strategy, providing transparency into the decision process creates emotional buy-in for the end result. People are curious. They want to know the driving forces behind decisions and how they ladder up into something bigger. If you hand them a new mission statement with no context or transparency, it doesn’t mean anything.
Reward and model good behavior. If you’re asking people to make shifts in how they think and act at work, there should be systems in place to encourage those behaviors. Everyone wants their team to be more innovative and think beyond daily cycles – but nobody wants to allot the free time it would take to make that a reality. Some of Google’s most iconic products started off as side projects, a fact realized by their 20 percent rule, which states that employees should be able to devote one day of their work week to any project they like. Everyone wants their employees to engage more with internal communications – but it’s difficult to produce fresh and engaging content on a scheduled basis. After all, you can’t fault employees for not being up to date if things are regularly updated.
Vision, mission, strategy, brand, and culture are different blocks of the same blueprint. Creating the perfect house to hold these elements together can be difficult, but it’s critical if you want to drive growth home.
Emotive Brand is a brand strategy and design firm in Oakland, California.