If you’re like many organizations, your mission statement suffers from what employee engagement authors Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden describe as the ‘Event Syndrome.’ Basically, your mission statement was launched around some kind of employee meeting or program. Everyone bought into it, employee engagement was high, but in the end nobody really knew how to keep that level of excitement and interest for the long haul.
Fast forward several months, years, or even decades (depending on when your statement was first introduced to employees). You’re hard-pressed to find anyone who remembers that you have a mission statement at all.
So is there a fix? Is there a way to revitalize that original enthusiasm and employee engagement?
First, let’s assume that your mission statement does everything it’s supposed to do. (There are plenty of articles about how to write great mission statements, especially those that include what author Wanda Thibodeaux describes as encompassing the ‘larger societal purpose behind’ your organization’s goals.)
If you’re confident that your mission statement is up to date and truly reflects your organization, it’s time to continually align it with employee engagement programs. Here’s how to get started in 3 steps.
1. Gather mission statement success stories.
While it’s tempting to simply rebroadcast your mission statement and hope to drill it into the minds of employees, a tactic like this fails to create true employee engagement. It’s too much about top-down communication and may be seen as an out-of-touch corporate communication program. Instead, try to highlight how employees are already succeeding in ‘living’ your mission statement.
It’s easier if you reach out to department managers. They can help identify the most engaged employees. Ask how this employee engagement has led to customer satisfaction, employee productivity, continuous improvement, the ‘larger societal purpose’ of your organization, etc. The more specific the example, the better. Each will serve as a local reminder that when individuals strive to achieve a common goal, we all succeed.
You’ll want quotes, possibly interviews with those star employees, their managers, and maybe even some photos of those employees in action. You’ll put all this to use as you reintroduce your mission statement.
A side benefit to this information-gathering is that you now have managers actively considering your mission statement. Instead of telling them to spread the news of the statement, you’re engaging their minds in a different way. You’re also providing them with a way to recognize the achievements of their direct reports.
2. Make it easy to understand.
One of the issues with mission statements is that, well, they’re written statements. They sit there in an email or plastered on a wall and beg to be ignored often because they’re boring.
The answer is to utilize the material you gathered in Step #1. That material will pull double duty, first by grabbing attention, and then by helping to explain your mission statement through easier-to-understand visual communication. And let’s be clear, visual communication is an absolute necessity when it comes to employee engagement. For example, you may have workplace digital signage throughout your organization. It’s a great tool for spreading information to workers without email. But if you’re simply using your digital signage to display your written mission statement, employees will walk right by. Instead, grab their attention; Use employee names, quotes, and photos of their mission statement success stories to apply those assets to the mission statement itself.
This thinking becomes even more important if you have ESL (English as a Second Language) employees. Reneé Maxell, Director of Human Resources at Hansgrohe, Inc., in Alpharetta, Georgia, emphasizes the basic reasons behind keeping employee communication visual at her facility. “Some things are universal,” says Reneé. “Pictures are universal. People understand a smiling face. They understand that people in a photograph shaking hands is a good thing. And so we became much more visual in the way we communicated. Obviously those who don’t speak English probably won’t be able to read it either, so a visual becomes so much more important to fill in that gap.”
3. Keep it rolling.
In order to prevent Event Syndrome, employee communications that take full advantage of Steps #1 and #2 needs to occur on a regular basis. Roll your employee recognition programs into an ongoing celebration of your mission statement. That means always having fresh employee pictures and success stories to share throughout your organization, along with summary statements about how those employees are truly ‘living’ your mission statement. The more employees you recognize, the more chances you have to spread your mission statement positioning.
So stop lamenting a forgotten mission statement, and start empowering managers and employees to give that statement a new life.