How Your Vision Fuels Employee Engagement

Do you think we’d ever have reached the moon without big dreams and inspirational visions? While your organization probably doesn’t aspire to space travel, great Vision and Mission statements, Values and Goals are the rocket fuel that fire up employee engagement and lift successes higher.

employee engagement rocket fuel

In today’s work world, we’re pushing accountability right to the front lines, trying to engage and empower employees to make decisions that are right for the organization. Confident decision-making can be sped up if employees have a clear understanding of their organization’s Vision and what’s trying to be achieved.  Vision is, after all, the backbone of decision-making, whether it’s how to respond to a client or what you should take on as an organization. Vision helps us know where to channel our time and energy. It gives us a sense of direction, how to prioritize and focus on activities that build towards the future.

What are the differences between Vision or Mission, Values and Goals? 

Vision: is a short, inspiring statement of where you’d like to get to.  It provides a unified direction for everyone in your organization and is a continual source of inspiration.

Mission:  is a follow-up statement about how you intend to get to where you want to be, by being the best at what you do. Your Mission is like an over-arching goal that you aim to achieve over time using your organizational strengths.

Values:  are usually four to six guiding principles or statements which affect how everyone in your organization will behave, every day, on the way to fulfilling your Mission.

Goals: are key benchmarks or metrics to help you achieve your Mission. They include quantifiable targets usually over a three to five-year period. Subsequently, they’re then broken into sub-goals for different departments, functions, and levels through to your front lines.

Sometimes organizations interchange these terms.  What’s important is that great organizational Visions are long-term and overarching. They inspire and bring clarity. Impart optimism and a sense of direction. Drive and evoke passion for the work and for the organization. Here are a few examples that hit the mark:

Oxfam A just world without poverty.

Tesla To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy

Disney To make people happy

Ottawa Hospital To provide each patient with the world-class care, exceptional service and compassion we would want for our loved ones.

Heart & Stroke Healthy lives free of heart disease and stroke. Together we will make it happen.

There’s a growing body of academic and consulting literature that links organizations with a clearly defined Vision and a clearly defined Mission to a better performance outcome.  Small midsize or large, all can benefit. Especially during turbulent times.

Succinct and visible Vision, Mission, Values, and Goals are especially important when it comes to employee engagement.  Daniel H. Pink, author of the book DriveThe Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, found three fundamental things that drive and motivate employees. One is autonomy. People want to feel they have self-direction, they have freedom, they have control over what they’re doing to some extent. He also found that mastery, being good at something, feeling that you’re making progress in your work day-to-day and feeling you’re getting better and better at what you’re doing – motivates employees. The third underlying motivator is around purpose; that the “how” and “why” and “what” we do is meaningful and contributes to the world beyond ourselves.

TalentMap consistently sees this in employee engagement survey results too.  Employees indicate their need to share in a common, compelling, desirable direction. They voice a desire to feel part of a larger goal or purpose. And they want to understand how they contribute to the bigger picture (the achievement of their organization’s Vision, Mission, Values, and Goals).

In 1970 a longitudinal study asked employees what they expect from work. Less than one out of every four respondents (23%) said they expect meaningful work.  The same study has continued over the decades. Now, in the 20-teens, over 67% of respondents expect their work to be meaningful and bring fulfilment. Millennials add a new twist with their expectation to be part of Vision discussions. In other words, to be invited to sit at King Arthur’s Round Table. Bonus if the Vision has an altruistic or philanthropic component.

organizational vision

The emotional and intellectual connection

The very definition of employee engagement is “a strong emotional and intellectual connection that an employee has for their job, coworkers, manager, and organization that, in turn, influences them to apply additional discretionary effort to their work.”  Your Vision is in part what makes that emotional and intellectual connection.

When we talk about people connecting intellectually or logically to their work, it’s question of “Can I achieve career and financial goals here?” When an organization has a great Vision and strives towards future goals following a clear direction, employees can see this, say yes, and check that box. The emotional component revolves around “How well do my Values fit with the Values of my peers, my manager and the leadership overall?”  Organizations with a clearly defined Vision and Mission, give employees something tangible with which to align their own personal Values. If employees understand the Vision and Mission, and second, if they buy into it, employee engagement follows.

How effective is your Vision?

Go ahead, be honest and ask yourself:

Do your employees have a shared Vision of what your organization will be in the future?

Do your employees understand what needs to be done to succeed in the long run?

Does your organization have a long-term purpose and direction?

Have senior leaders painted a compelling Vision of your organization?

Based on responses from a million+plus employees across 500+ organizations in TalentMap’s benchmark data, Organizational Vision (12.6%) is the number two most influential factor out of 12 employee engagement determinants (second only to Professional Growth at 19.5%).

Vision is the heart and soul of engagement.

How can you bring employees on board? Inclusiveness and involvement are key. Think along the lines of Google, which has an interesting 60/40 perspective. They understand a top-down driven Vision will probably not be agile enough or flexible enough for today’s workplace. Ultimately when they develop a Vision for a business unit, 60% of the objectives in key result areas are bottom-up driven.

If you already have a Vision - put it out to your employee population for comment. If you’re in the process of crafting or modifying your Vision - seek and record input. Your Vision gives employees a larger sense of purpose, so they see themselves as building a cathedral instead of laying stones.*

References:

Ruyle, K. E., Eichinger, R. W. & De Meuse, K. P. FYI for Talent Engagement, Lominger International, 2009

Coulson-Thoman, C. Transforming the Company: Manage Change, Compete and Win, Kogan Page, 2004

Coulson-Thoman, C., 2007, “Creating a Compelling Vision”, Institute of Management Services

Purdy, R.  “Employee Engagement Best Practices Lead to Increased Employee Retention and Economic Growth”, Carlton Group Limited

*Erica Olsen, Strategic Planning Kit for Dummies, Wiley Publishing Inc, 2011 p. 112

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