It doesn’t take more than a few minutes scrolling through your LinkedIn feed to find one article or another on company culture. With the #culture tag on LinkedIn now garnering over four million followers, it’s fair to say there’s some buzz online.
But company culture is more than a buzzword.
In fact, 84% of respondents to Deloitte’s 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report say they’re rethinking employee experience as a way to boost productivity. Though there’s no debate that company culture has become a priority, that doesn’t mean managers have it all figured out.
Even as Gallup research now reports record-high employee engagement for US workers, that high only tops out at 34%. And one of the biggest reasons for that lackluster record high is that employees don’t believe in the work they’re doing.
Meaning motivates—in this Harvard Business Review report, 90% of respondents said they’d be willing to earn less if their work meant more. One of the chief ways companies create this kind of meaningful work is through their mission, vision, and values.
While most managers could tell you their company’s mission, vision, and values in their sleep, the same can’t always be said for their teams. As much as these statements are designed to give employees a purpose and give the company direction, they aren’t always translated from the whiteboard to the real world. And it’s here that employees start having a hard time believing them.
To help you get your team on board with your mission, vision, and values, let’s look at four reasons why employees aren’t buying into them (and what you can do about it):
- They’re not communicated clearly
- Your team doesn’t care
- They don’t align with your brand
- Your culture doesn’t reflect them
Whether you’re starting to develop your mission, vision, and values, or looking to make them a bigger part of your strategic management plans, reviewing these roadblocks and their solutions will help you to build more engaged, effective teams—teams powered and empowered by your company’s values.
They’re not communicated clearly
Even though you’ve probably heard your company’s mission, vision, and value statements hundreds of times in management meetings, your team has likely had less exposure to them. Recognizing that your experience with your MVV might be different than your employees’ can help you to empathize with why they might have a hard time understanding and applying them.
While it sounds obvious, one of the best ways to make your mission, vision, and values part of your team is to actually tell your employees what they are—and what the difference between them is.
Communicating the difference between mission and vision and values
To start, let’s outline each of these principles clearly. Consider this your refresher course, so you can better answer questions about how exactly vision and mission differ and why organizational values even matter.
Vision is what your company is looking to accomplish. It’s your overarching goal, and it should be directing every strategic decision your company makes.
Mission is how you’re looking to accomplish that big goal. If vision is the North Star you’re navigating by, mission is the boat you’re sailing.
Values are the ‘why’ behind both. They’re the underlying beliefs and ideals that drive your team to do their best work.
Here’s where it can get a little complicated though—and where you’ll want to be sure your team is on the same page. Companies can sometimes have two sets of values: product values and cultural values. Product values are specific to the product you’re looking to build, while cultural values are aimed at the culture you’re looking to create. Both are important to managing your team, but they aren’t always the same.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, how should you go about communicating each component (and their differences) to your team? Aside from providing a detailed explanation during onboarding, conveying MVV clearly needs to be an ongoing effort.
If your company has quarterly town halls, consider checking in on how this quarter’s initiatives have brought you closer to your vision. For companies using a KPI system, have employees explain how their KPIs contribute to the company mission. Even small things like giving recognition to employees who embody certain values during a difficult project can help to make your company values more tangible.
Effective missions, visions, and values don’t come from a one-off lecture—they’re embedded into every strategy, plan, project, and task your employees work on.
Your team doesn’t care
While it’s easy enough to get the management team on board with the idea of mission, vision, and values as a way to motivate their teams, actually using MVV to motivate employees isn’t quite as easy. One of the big reasons is because managers focus on their goals, while forgetting about their employees.
If you want employees to care about mission, vision, or values, you need to explain how they can benefit.
Why should your team care?
Motivating employees to live and breathe your MVV means showing them why they matter—for both company and personal success.
Aside from using examples of MVV improving employee performance within your own company, you can use a few external examples to help as well. Strong missions, visions, and values have a real business impact when employees believe them. There’s a reason some of the world’s most successful brands are prioritizing their MVV—and profiting in the process.
A clear way forward
Patagonia’s mission statement gives their employees a clear idea of exactly how they’re going to tackle the difficult task of saving the planet—through business. Turning everything from their sourcing, to manufacturing, to distribution, to investments into a vehicle for change, Patagonia’s mission makes every team member’s work count.
An aspirational vision
Amazon’s mission and vision statement, captures both its what and its how: “to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices”. And it’s that vision of becoming the earth’s most customer-centric company that’s inspired innovations like Amazon Prime, Amazon Fresh, and the Amazon Echo—which go way beyond the company’s original online bookstore business model.
Nordstrom is famous for its customer service, which it fosters by valuing entrepreneurialism in its employees. Nordstrom’s values empower employees to make their own decisions about the best way to solve a problem, creating the company’s signature brand of exceptional customer experience.
They don’t align with your brand
Even if you explain and illustrate the importance of mission, vision, and values to your team, they still might have difficulty buying in. Because your company might be sabotaging itself. One area where you might be unintentionally undermining your MVV efforts is your brand.
While mission, vision, and values are meant to be the basis for your brand, it’s easy to go off course. The more your brand and core principles deviate from each other, the harder it is for your team to believe in either.
Keeping your brand and team aligned
If you want your employees to buy into your MVV, you can’t let your brand play by different rules than your team. Keeping your brand consistent with mission, vision, and values helps to bolster a sense of authenticity for employees.
By building a brand identity around the same principles as your team, you ensure your company creates a cohesive experience for employees. Take a minute to consider whether your core brand elements follow the same ideals you want your team to.
Does your logo speak to your vision and mission? Does it support the way you want the world to see your company? If not, it may be time to make a logo that does.
Does your font support the message you’re looking to send? Is it as appropriate for external marketing as it is for internal communications?
Could you see your team surrounded by your brand colors? Do they reflect the kind of work environment you want for your team?
Is the way you speak to customers and the way you speak to employees aligned? Does one get better treatment than the other?
Are your marketing messages conflicting with the messages you’re sending your team? Do the two support each other?
While your team might be nothing like your customers, the way you interact with both needs to be aligned. If it’s looking like MVV is missing from your brand, you might need to shift your marketing—to get both your brand and team back on track.
Your culture doesn’t reflect them
Mission, vision, and values aren’t only the basis for your brand—they’re also the foundation for your company culture. Or at least they should be. But your lived culture can be the biggest culprits of why employees don’t believe in your company principles.
When your team spends every day watching their coworkers undermine company values, ignore the mission, and push the vision aside, it’s no wonder they have a hard time listening to a manager telling them that MVV matters.
Building company culture around your core principles
Before you start going around trying to correct the behavior of other employees, do some self-reflection. Managers and team leaders should be leading the charge on culture, championing mission, vision, and values at every opportunity. But that isn’t always true.
Holding yourself to the same standards (or higher) as your employees is one of the most effective ways you can start integrating your company ideals into your team. After all, it’s difficult for employees to embrace mission, vision, or values, if you don’t.
As we mentioned earlier, making mission, vision, and values a part of every action you take as a manager (from KPIs, to kudos) will help employees to believe. But there’s more you can do to build an authentic culture that supports your core principles.
Support MVV in every area of the employee experience, starting with a few of these ideas:
Are you hiring people who support your values? How do they fit into the culture you’re looking to create?
How do new employees learn about your mission and vision? Do team members understand their role in achieving them?
Events and workshops
Do you hold events and workshops that reflect and support your company’s values and goals? Are they still fun?
Are employees recognized for upholding your core beliefs? When employees aren’t embodying these principles, how do you address the issue?
Are goals and projects created with your mission and vision in mind?
You can even bring brand identity into your company culture. The right interior design, swag, and internal communications can help bring brand, culture, mission, vision, and values together into one amazing employee experience.
Now that you know what might be standing in the way of your employees believe in your mission, vision, and values, you can better lead your team towards living them. Whether your issue is with understanding, underlining importance, or ensuring alignment, the more you can make MVV a management priority across the company, the more your employees will see their value.
And remember, this all starts with you. Even if you can’t change your marketing materials or throw a vision-themed event, the way you lead will speak volumes to your team about the importance of your MVV. The more you believe, the more they will.
About the Author
Dawson Whitfield is the Founder & CEO of Looka; an AI-powered graphic design platform. He is an entrepreneur, designer and built his first website at the age of 11.