Spending time on your organisation’s vision statement and values is only worthwhile if your employees actually engage with them.
If you surveyed your employees right now, how many of them would be able to confidently speak about your organisation’s vision? How many would feel connected to or even inspired by it? And how many are likely to remember all your organisation’s values?
In some organisations, vision and values can feel remote from employees’ day-to-day work. Even if they know them, they might not live by them.
This can be particularly tricky if you’re working with a lot of contractors or temps – who, understandably, often won’t have the same level of emotional investment in the organisation as permanent employees do.
Here’s what you can do to help your employees engage with the organisation’s vision and values, whether they’re permanent, contracted, or temping.
1. Make your vision and values clearly visible (and understandable)
Are your vision and values easy to find? You might have them proudly displayed on your wall in the reception – but that’s not much help to staff working from home or off-site.
Before you can help employees truly take your vision and values to heart, you need everyone to actually be fully aware of them. All employees should be able to easily find your vision and values any time they need a refresher. That might mean having them highly visible on your company’s online portal – or even issuing a printed version to employees.
It’s also important to make sure your vision and values are clear and easy to understand. A vague (or worse, ambiguous) vision is going to sow confusion.
2. Acknowledge and praise employees for engaging with your vision and values
Simply knowing your vision and values isn’t enough: you want your employees to use these principles in their work too.
Make a point to acknowledge (and praise) employees when they engage with your vision and values. For instance, an employee who proactively brings a problem to your attention – or even fixes it – might be engaging with your vision for “industry-leading excellence” or your value of “constant improvement.”
Spotting someone engaging with your values and vision is important when they’re a permanent employee. But don’t forget to praise a temporary or leased employee for sticking to your values in their work too. This can be a huge morale boost, especially if your temp is struggling to feel fully engaged or appreciated at work.
3. Show that YOU care about your organisation’s vision and values
As a leader, it’s crucial that you set a good example for your team to follow by always acting in accordance with your organisation’s vision and values. For instance, if one of the organization’s values is “personal accountability” then that means taking responsibility where it’s due – rather than trying to pass the buck, even if it allows you to save face.
By showing your commitment to your organisation’s vision and values, you help employees see what it means to live out those values in your day-to-day working life. Plus, you emphasise – through your actions – the importance and significance of the vision and values to the leadership in your organisation.
Another way to show this is when helping an employee with a question or dilemma. For instance, perhaps an employee in your customer service team explains that a customer has asked for a refund two days outside the normal refund window. The customer has been unwell and wasn’t able to contact your organisation more promptly. In this case, giving permission for the refund and explaining how it matches your values (e.g. “people first” or “be kind”) will help the employee see you living by the company’s values.
4. Consider revising your vision and values and reflects current times
In some organisations, a lofty vision and set of values are developed at a leadership retreat … and then left as-is for years. While some values are timeless, others may need tweaking or even replacing as your organisation grows and evolves.
For instance, a company value of “treat coworkers as family” might have worked when the company was a small startup with 10 employees – but if you’re now a much larger company of 200, you should probably stop saying that your employees are family.
If at all possible, let all employees have a say in the development or reassessment of your company’s values. You might well find that certain values have already naturally emerged from your company’s culture – perhaps a lot of people mention the importance of “teamwork”, “quality”, or “ownership”, for instance.
You may also want to reframe or redefine your company vision to make it more inspiring to your staff. Again, it’s a really good idea to seek feedback from your employees on this. What makes them excited to come to work each day? What would they like to see your organisation achieving?
5. Link your company vision and values to employees’ goals
Within your team, do your employees have goals that are clearly linked with your company’s vision and values? While you should certainly make sure that their goals align with your values, rather than contradicting them in any way, you can also go further in drawing explicit links with the company’s vision and values.
Linking tasks to the vision and values can also help make them more meaningful, by giving employees a clearer understanding of how these fit into the bigger picture.
For instance, if one employee has a goal of updating 30 outdated pages on your company’s website during the next quarter, that might not in itself be particularly inspiring. However, if you provide an explanation about how this is an important part of meeting the company’s values of “constant improvement” and “quality”, then it might make more sense and become more meaningful – helping employees to engage with the task at hand as well as with the organisation’s values.
You can also look at this on a team level, perhaps by developing a team vision that works in harmony with your company vision and values – and then tying these to team goals.
It can take time to embed your company vision and values into your organisation at every level. Be patient with employees if they seem to be struggling to remember your vision and values, and while you’re at it, explore potential new ways to communicate these.
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