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When Mission Doesn't Matter

by Nate Dvorak

We've all seen it happen. It's like a scene from a movie. The boss introduces the company's new mission statement. It's a great speech full of noble ideas and inspirational language. There's even colorful new signage with eye-catching graphic design.

But relatively few employees in the audience are really listening. Eyes drift to the clock and cellphones.

Why? Because the organization never laid the proper foundation. Leadership missed the first, most important step: Engaging people at work.

Engaged employees are loyal and committed to their work and the people around them. Compared with those who are not engaged, they are more invested in the organization's mission and purpose. These engaged employees are more likely to care and listen. They're more primed and receptive to a discussion about the organization's mission.

A foundation of engagement helps employees connect with and promote the organization's mission. Once leaders establish this foundation, they can focus on creating a unique and valuable culture that influences how employees interact and accomplish their work each day.

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Gallup has discovered five main elements of an effective approach to creating a strong, positive culture through engagement and mission:

  1. Leadership and Communication -- The way you define, display and communicate your organization's purpose and brand influences whether employees will represent those values. Actions often speak louder than words and are the most influential messages your leaders convey.

    For example, if part of your company's mission is giving back to the community, let your employees see examples of managers and executives donating their time and energy to a worthy cause.

  2. Values and Rituals -- Common, important social interactions offer a way to communicate your desired identity and create occasions that strengthen it.

    Making time to recognize work that highlights specific values communicates your organization's desired identity to employees, fostering a culture focused on what matters most to the company.

  3. Human Capital -- You must select, engage and develop employees in ways that introduce and reinforce the organization's purpose, brand and culture.

    For instance, new employees might be attracted to your organization because it promises a culture of autonomy, but when they start and work with a manager who micromanages projects, this experience is not only disengaging, but it fails to deliver on the employment brand your company promised.

  4. Work Teams and Structures -- Your company's structure should support its desired culture. Structure dictates who communicates with whom, how frequently and on what topics. Processes and structure also affect how your customers and employees perceive and experience the company.

    If your brand promises a relentless focus on customer service but customers who need support are constantly shuttled from rep to rep or team to team when they call for help, you can't expect customers to feel like they've received the highest level of personal service.

  5. Performance -- One of the most powerful influencers of human behavior is recognition. From goal setting to accountability to pay and other rewards, performance management practices must support your company's purpose and deliver on its brand promise to reinforce its desired culture. When these are not in sync, both employees and customers feel the inconsistency.

    If you say you want a collaborative culture, yet employees are held accountable for and recognized at an individual level only, then you are failing to measure the right things. There must be alignment between what you say you believe in and what you reward.

Once a foundation of engagement is in place, then you can focus on culture change. If you can't engage your employees, then you can't build a culture, and if you can't do that, then all talk of mission rings hollow.

Gallup can help you create a company culture that empowers your organization to be at its best and inspires your employees to say, "I belong here."

  • Watch our five-part webinar series on how organizations of any kind can achieve cultural transformation.

  • Learn how our comprehensive culture solutions can help you build a culture that gets the best from your people.

  • Bring our Leading High-Performance Teams course to your organization to help all managers understand how to build an engaging environment.

Kelly Slater contributed to this article.

Gallup


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