In recent years, it’s become the norm for companies and institutions to develop mission statements, which are often supported by vision statements and occasionally some core values. These are valuable tools intended to help employees and other stakeholders in an organization understand its purpose and what it stands for. As marketing professionals, we are frequently asked to play an active role in developing or refining these important business elements.
When we roll these out, it is often with great enthusiasm and is intended to lift morale and drive sharper focus among the organization’s stakeholders. However, I heard a story recently that gave me pause to think about this on a deeper level.
I was listening to a presentation that Dr. Peter J. Pronovost made to the City Club of Cleveland about ways to improve outcomes in our healthcare systems. In the course of his talk, he related an experience he had on an aircraft carrier. As he describes it, an aircraft carrier is a floating city designed to launch and recover heavily armed airplanes at sea. He was on the deck with an admiral watching planes — loaded with ordnance that could blow the aircraft carrier to pieces — land every three seconds. Nearby, a seaman was sweeping the flight deck. When Dr. Pronovost asked what his job was, the seaman stopped what he was doing, stood tall and looked the doctor directly in the eye. He responded, “Sir, I help planes take off and land safely to serve the mission of the United States.” The doctor responded, “Now that’s leadership!”
The doctor went on to relate conversations he has subsequently had in his own healthcare organization where he replayed the same question. When he received an answer that was task-oriented, like, “I clean rooms,” he would turn it around and advise the staff member that what they were really doing was “preventing infection so that patients would have more positive outcomes following their hospital stay.”
For many organizations today, there’s a valuable lesson to be learned here. The mission statement, vision statement and core values are only as effective as they are ingrained in the culture of your organization. It is one thing to post the words and images on a website, digital signage or in a video. It is another to live and breathe the mission in each and every task. Every member of the team must understand how valuable their role is in the success that is required to achieve the mission.
For instance, the production assistant in a video production team is just one player, but their ability to manage multiple concurrent tasks and maintain many small details plays a crucial role in the overall success of the production. In this example, one element of the producer’s role is to make sure everyone on the team has a clear sense of the “mission” and how their contribution lends to the success of the show.
In a retail environment, the team members who pack and ship inventory to the stores must understand the role they play in customer satisfaction. Likewise, team members in the accounting department must understand the contribution they make to overall company operations so that customers perceive that they are getting good value when they purchase the products. The store personnel, whose role in customer satisfaction used to be so obvious, now must realize that their store and their company’s e-commerce offerings have to work synergistically to create a great customer experience.
Rolling out a mission statement, vision statement and/or a core values program is only the beginning. To make them truly effective, they must be reinforced consistently at every level of the organization. No matter what the industry, here are some key approaches our company takes, and that any organization can take, to reinforce the importance of each and every role as it relates to the company’s mission:
• At every level of the organization, thank employees regularly for their many contributions while tying their contributions back to the company’s mission. This can be a simple email, a verbal thanks at the water cooler or a more formal recognition. The impact of the thank you — no matter what form it comes in — is what will resonate with employees.
• Host a “State of the Company” on a quarterly or biannual basis where leadership brings every member of the organization into the fold on financials, future goals and other key elements that support the mission and vision of the company.
• Recognize employees for what they do to deliver on the company’s mission. Whether it’s a special lunch or something like a gift card, any tangible gesture to say thanks for what they do will go a long way.
Everyone from the CEO to the lowest-level supervisors must invest in making sure their team members understand and believe that the functions they perform are critical to the success of the organization. They must walk the talk every day. To support them, the communications team must consistently reinforce those programs through all touch points. It is then that those statements will truly become a part of the culture and drive the desired success.