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Company Missions: Not Resonating With Employees
Business Journal

Company Missions: Not Resonating With Employees

by Nate Dvorak and Bailey Nelson
Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • Companies devote considerable time to purpose statements
  • Leaders are failing to connect employees with their company's mission
  • Companies need to recruit employees who share the mission

Most leaders recognize that a clear mission and purpose are crucial to their company.

Many have devoted considerable time and effort to developing such a statement and posting its words prominently for employees and customers to see. And for good reason: A mission or purpose statement declares why the company exists, what it stands for and -- just as importantly -- what it doesn't stand for.

A compelling purpose can drive companies toward positive business outcomes, give employees something to aspire to, and inspire customers to a deeper personal and emotional attachment to companies' products, brands or services.

The problem is that just four in 10 employees worldwide strongly agree that the mission or purpose of their company makes them feel their job is important. And less than half of workers in any industry feel strongly connected to their company's mission. These sentiments might contribute to the fact that only 13% of employees worldwide, and just 33% of employees in the U.S., are engaged in their jobs.

It's clear that a majority of leaders and managers are failing to connect employees with their company's mission or to sustain a purpose-driven culture.

What can leaders and managers do about this? For starters, they need to make these statements more than words on a wall or a few paragraphs in their employee handbook. They must ensure that employees understand the company's purpose and can relate it to their individual work.

Purpose: Keeping Companies on Course

Gallup research shows that a compelling purpose promotes organizational success in quantifiable ways, including higher profitability, fewer accidents and lower turnover. Here are specific steps that leaders and companies can take to reap the benefits of working with purpose:

Build a robust organizational identity. Gallup's analysis shows that organizational identity has three components: purpose, brand and culture. These components are important and meaningful in their own right. But when measured and managed together, they give companies the direction they need to achieve high performance by communicating consistent messages to employees and customers.

When a company starts with a well-defined and well-supported purpose, it can build a differentiated brand that reflects its desired position in the marketplace. This brand promise states what the company offers, what separates it from its rivals and what makes it worthy of customers' consideration.

Purpose should also inform the company's culture. Culture is a company's operating manual, giving employees ground rules and guidelines for living its purpose and delivering on its brand promise.

Recruit and identify employees with a shared mission. People crave purpose. Gallup finds that 83% of people say it is "very important" for them to believe that their life is meaningful or has a purpose. Talented, high-performing employees want to work for a company that has a distinct identity with sound values, a well-articulated brand and a reputation for making a difference in customers' lives.

Purpose-centric recruiting messages targeted at specific audiences set companies apart from the competition and pique the interest of the right people. Clearly conveying the company's purpose in attraction messaging can draw high-performing job seekers who readily identify with the company's purpose.

Foster employee engagement. Gallup's decades of research on employee engagement reveal that a mission-driven workforce is more productive, profitable and committed to the company.

When a company's mission or purpose makes employees feel their job is important, they are more likely to be engaged and, ultimately, to perform at higher levels. Business units in the top quartile of Gallup's engagement database on this element average from 5% to 15% higher profitability than bottom-quartile units.

When employees strongly agree that they know what their company stands for and what makes it different from competitors, nearly eight in 10 (77%) strongly agree that they plan to be with the company for at least one year.

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