Keeping employees engaged is vital for the health of your company, but it’s not a simple task that you can just scribble at the bottom of your to-do list. Your employees respond in complex emotional ways to the culture of your company, and the more positive and well-defined that culture is, the more they will feel they belong. Missions and values articulated through mission statements define a company’s identity right from the moment of its founding. When shared widely, these expressions of an organization’s purpose are an incredibly powerful tool for creating and focusing employee loyalty. Douglas Ready, a senior lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, points out that the secret to getting employees engaged “lies in three organizational capabilities: being purpose-driven, performance-oriented, and principles-led. Developing the three together is referred to as creating ‘collective ambition.'” But how do you put your company’s purpose into words?
Vision, Mission, Values… Parsing the Vocabulary of Inspiration
Although a variety of terms can be used, each company statement usually expresses some guiding vision or purpose, followed by a set of practices or behaviors that aim to realize that purpose. Let’s take a look at Ericsson. The first sentence of their vision states, “Our vision is a Networked Society where every person and every industry is empowered to reach their full potential.” That vision declares what this company is aspiring to; it describes the world that they want to help create. Ericsson’s mission statement describes how they plan to proceed: “We…have set out our mission to lead transformation through mobility… We do this in three principal ways…” And then they go on to enumerate those three ways. Occasionally, companies switch up this language and use the word “mission” to describe their overall vision, and the word “values” or “strategy” to explain how they plan to get there. As PwC puts it, “Our purpose is why we exist. Our values define how we behave.”
Building Blocks for Expressing Your Purpose
If your company’s reason for existing is buried in a pile of printed brochures and hasn’t seen the light of day since your founding, or if you’re creating a mission statement for the very first time, it’s helpful to look at how other organizations have chosen to express themselves. Five qualities that characterize the very best mission statements are as follows:
In most cases, today’s companies are looking to create solutions better than any that existed in the past, and they want their mission statements to express this aim. An example is Samsung’s vision statement, which begins, “Through innovative, reliable products and services…” and then goes on to elaborate how they are “taking the world in imaginative new directions.” Our own mission statement here at Achievers also centers on innovation: The purpose behind what we do every day is “To Change the Way the World Works.”
Regardless of how mission statements are structured, the one quality they universally share is that of optimism. A statement may specifically address the future role of the company, as when Cott says their vision is “To become the leading North American and European Water, Coffee, Tea and Filtration service provider …” On the other hand, Bank of Montreal (BMO) simply lists as one of their values, “Make Tomorrow Better.”
Ryan, LLC specifically lists integrity as one of their company’s core values. They promise to “Do the right thing” on their web page, letting employees and customers know that they can trust the company’s honesty. PwC also lists “Act with Integrity” as their very first corporate value. The company identifies the primacy of this value, along with others like “work together” and “make a difference” as the way they strengthen employee alignment.
4. Generosity and Citizenship
Businesses don’t exist in a vacuum. Even a primarily online company still participates in its surrounding community, providing employment and paying taxes. Rogers places the following statement in a bold banner at the top of their “Vision and Strategy” page: “Contributing to our community, economy, and society in a meaningful way.” They go on to elaborate, saying, “We strive to be a good business for our customers and shareholders, a good employer for our people, and a good neighbor in the communities where we operate.” PwC also directs their purpose in an outward direction: “Our purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems.”
5. Employee Empowerment
The importance of a company organizing its fundamental principles around employee motivation cannot be overstated. Your employees are your most valuable asset, and managing them well requires a clear declaration of their worth. It makes a real difference when (as with Cott), a company states: “Cott employees worldwide are united by a single, unifying core value: to think and act as owners and as if Cott’s resources and reputation were our own.” One of the values listed by 3M underlines this principle: ” [We will] …value and develop our employees’ diverse talents, initiative and leadership.”
The majority of employees — 57 percent — say they aren’t motivated by their company’s mission statement. This may be because they simply aren’t aware of it: Only 39 percent of workers even know their organization’s mission statement, and just 40 percent say they are familiar with the vision or purpose behind the work they do each day. The next time you’re thinking about revamping your company’s mission statement, remember to keep in mind these shocking stats and leverage our top five company missions and values list.
To learn more about how companies like 3M, Rogers and Ericsson are effectively engaging employees, access their success stories here.