Home Best Practices Get your workforce engaged! (101)

Get your workforce engaged! (101)

In our last posting, we talked about the need for, and the benefits that flow from, an “engaged” workforce . . . that is, employees who are energized by their work and committed to supporting the company’s goals.  In that posting, intended to be an introduction to a series on workforce engagement, we described what an engaged workforce is, but not how to build one.  So that’s what this series will attempt to do . . . help you to understand the pieces that must be in place before you can have a fully engaged workforce.  For this, the first installment of the series, please read below.

First, we need to talk about your mission, vision, values, and culture because . . .

Wha . . . ??  I just felt a great disruption in The Force, like a whole bunch of people hitting “Delete” at the same time.

I know, I know.  A lot of you think this stuff is a bunch of fuzzy crap that has no real relevance to how you run your business . . . high-sounding words that you put on your conference room wall and nobody pays any attention to.  But if that’s true, if your mission statement and the rest have no relevance to your business, then you simply did a poor job of crafting them.  And they are necessary if you want a fully engaged workforce.  Why?  Let’s look at them one at a time.

Values.  These are just the rules of the road for your company.  They tell us how we’re supposed to behave around here.  They tell us how we’re supposed to treat one another, how we’re supposed to treat customers, suppliers, and any other stakeholders in our company.  When we practice our values openly, honestly, and consistently, we create a framework that helps guide decision-making throughout the company.  For instance, if one of our core values is “Extraordinary customer service,” doesn’t that give us some guidance when we’re trying to resolve a tough customer service issue?

OK, so what do our values have to do with an engaged workforce?  Simple.  If we expect our people to pull together, operate as a team, and strive to go in the same direction, they need to share the same values (rules).  Without shared values, there is chaos, and an engaged workforce  will never evolve.

Culture.  This is simply the sum of our values and the working environment we create when we adhere to them.  Again, if we have people amongst us who can’t embrace our culture (our values), they will be disruptive to an engaged workforce.

Mission.  I have found very little agreement among business writers about what should be included in a mission statement, or about what separates a good mission statement from a bad one.  Personally, I think a good mission statement is very short (preferably only one sentence, no more than two) and answers the question, “Why does this company exist?”  It doesn’t have to be clever, funny, or flowery.  It doesn’t have to rhyme.  It just has to give a straight forward statement about what your company does.  Consider the mission statement for a pump manufacturer: “We make the most durable, dependable marine pumps on the planet for the largest commercial ships afloat.”  Short, sweet, and direct with a little bragging thrown in for dramatic effect.

Why is this important to an engaged workforce?  Because everyone needs to have the same understanding about what we do around here, and because everyone needs to be able to uniformly articulate what we do to the outside world.

Vision.  This gives most of us trouble.  Even George H.W. Bush, when he was criticized for failing to clearly articulate policies, said in exasperation, “Oh, that vision thing.”  Like a mission statement, I think a vision statement should be short and to the point, but it also needs to create some excitement.  If a mission statement describes the bus you’re driving, then a vision statement describes where you want to take the bus.  When you’re asking your workforce to get on board your bus, they need to know where you think you’re taking it or they won’t be able to help you get there.  And the destination needs to be one that unifies and excites your people.  Who’s going to want to get on your bus if all you’re going to do is drive it around the block.  If you need help with this, Google on “corporate vision statements” and all sorts of stuff comes up.

Your values, mission, and vision need to be in writing, and they need to be disseminated, explained, and discussed.  They need to be repeated and reinforced regularly.  And if you need to revise these documents, or if you don’t have them at all and need to draft them, don’t be afraid to involve your people . . . they’ll be more likely to support them if they have a hand in creating them.

Next up in this series, we’ll talk about some leadership concepts that will help you down the road toward an “engaged” workforce.

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