Spotlight for Recruiting ProfessionalsMarch 20, 2013
by Sue Keever Watts
That business purpose and business mission are so rarely given adequate thought is perhaps the most important cause of business frustration and failure. – Peter F. Drucker, management consultant, author, and teacher
Corporate vision, mission, and value statements. Why do we roll our eyes when we hear these words? It’s because so many employees will tell you that in their company there’s no evidence that the company culture, processes, or leader behaviors are aligned with the mission.
A mission statement has to be created in a way that motivates employees to drive toward something important, believable, relevant, and achievable. It should meet the human need for relatedness and meaning. While it should be ambitious, the mission statement must accurately reflect a company’s culture. Processes that evolve into habits over time have to be designed to reinforce the mission. And, employees and customers have to witness behaviors that support this mission every single day.
Employees don’t just show up every day to get a paycheck. Compensation has to be fair and equitable, but it doesn’t drive people. Employees (humans) want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They want to feel connected and they want to do work that has significance.
This is why a mission statement is important. It’s aspirational in nature. It sets the bar. It sets the tone. It informs everyone in the company of why their work is important. And, it influences what habits and behaviors are necessary to succeed.
I remember sitting in a boardroom with a beautiful set of value statements framed and mounted in full view of all those at the meeting. One of the value statements was “We promote an environment of camaraderie and mutual respect.” Ten minutes into the meeting and I witnessed intimidation, disrespect, and division. Eleven minutes into the meeting and I knew that the mission statement was irrelevant. It was a lie and everyone knew it.
If you’re developing a mission statement or brand for your department, you must begin with the company’s overarching statement. They must be aligned; however, you do have flexibility. An employer brand has to answer the question, “Why would a successful professional want to work for your company?” Don’t create your mission statement, employer brand statement, or values statement in isolation. Here’s an example:
When helping a company develop an employer brand, I conducted focus groups and interviews throughout the company to understand from leaders, experienced hires, and new hires what the company stood for, what it valued, what it aspired to be, what it was good at, and how it treated its people.
I also asked employees to answer two questions: First, if the company were a famous person, who would it be? Second, if the company were a magazine, which magazine would it be? Strange questions for sure, but when I asked people why they gave the answers they did, it told me a tremendous amount about the heart and the core of the company.
All of this feedback was assembled into what we called “the tribute.” In essence, it was like an obituary. If the company were to shut down tomorrow, who would be impacted and how would it be remembered? It was everything that was real and true about the company. The tribute became our guide as we developed our employer brand, our advertising messaging, and attraction campaign.
Sue Keever Watts is founder and president of the Keever Group.
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