Improving employee engagement: actionable tips from client success

Improving the experience of your people

4 steps to living an inspiring vision

lightbulb in hands - inspiring vision

Many mission statements – or statements of vision, mission and values or guidance and positioning statements (GPS) – are empty words that simply hang on a wall and have little connection with what employees do each day. Why is that the case?

Why is there a disconnect between words and actions? How can it be different? How can GPS be made to come alive so as to energise and focus the efforts of employees? How can your vision, mission and values or GPS truly guide and position your organisation?

The four steps to creating an inspiring GPS are set out below: Why is that the case? Why is there a disconnect between words and actions? How can it be different? How can GPS be made to come alive so as to energise and focus the efforts of employees? How can your vision, mission and values or GPS truly guide and position your organisation?

1. Buy in to the importance and power of an inspiring GPS

Many leaders believe the development of a GPS can be used as a quick fix employee motivational exercise. They have been in organisations where this is what was done before so they repeat the process without understanding the real purpose of an effective GPS. They don’t understand the important connection between their GPS and the organisation’s plans, decisions, culture and messaging.

Some leaders, however, understand the importance of an effective GPS, how it should be positioned and what it can achieve for their organisation. BHP Billiton includes its GPS in what it calls its Charter, on its website. It’s been there, largely unaltered for over 12 years and has been signed off by five CEOs. BHP Billiton must have tens of millions of very important documents in dozens of countries. They say on their website that their Charter is the “single most important means by which we communicate who we are, what we do, and what we stand for as an organisation, and it is the basis for our decision-making”.

Insync  describes:

  • who we are
  • where we’re going and why
  • the values that we abide by, and
  • why we are different

Our GPS guides all our plans, decisions and messaging and is the foundation for our strategic and business plans. The core values included in our GPS are our organisation’s way of life. We embrace, reinforce and live by them to succeed, to overcome challenges, lead change and evolve. Our values form and shape our organisation’s culture and DNA and make us distinctively Insync Surveys.

2. It should not just be the leader’s vision

A vision of a compelling future and a meaningful purpose that are developed with the engagement of all employees or a good cross section thereof are to die for! However, it’s much quicker and easier for a leader to come up with their own GPS or create a GPS that has input from only a small number of people. Involving many others takes a whole lot more energy, effort and time of not only the leader but of their employees too. That involves a significant cost that some will rightly see as a very valuable investment whilst others will see as a big expense in both time and money.

Engaging multiple employees in the process, from different areas of the organisation, requires being open to diverse perspectives. Many leaders don’t welcome a process that engages many employees as it requires them to give up a level of control and adds uncertainty to the outcome. Great leaders, however, are still able to hold the reins lightly whilst genuinely listening and taking account of other perspectives. Their employees are far more likely to be engaged, energised and focused on seeing their organisation’s vision brought to reality if they were involved in its development.

3. Gain emotional, not just rational buy-in

Gaining buy-in involves engaging both the head and the heart; the rational and the emotional. Most leaders have a very strong left-brain orientation. They are structured and systematic thinkers and often highly intelligent. They are good at arguing and debating the merits of a proposal. They use their head but rarely use their heart.

Great leaders also achieve an emotional connection with their employees. They go much deeper and connect with the heart. They are able to identify those things that will provide meaning and fulfilment for employees and that also have a positive flow on to productivity. This is particularly important when it comes to expressing the organisation’s core purpose or its reason for being. Too many organisations simply say that their purpose is to make lots of money for their shareholders. They rarely take the time and effort to discover and articulate the meaningful and nobler purpose that will create a deeper connection and greater fulfilment for their employees and other stakeholders. They need to dig deep into the feelings and emotions of employees to achieve a more meaningful and long-lasting connection.

4. Embed and integrate your shared GPS

The ultimate objective is to embed and integrate the GPS you developed with your employees into your organisation’s culture and DNA. This will make it part of the everyday language and thinking of your employees and will ensure that all your plans, projects, decisions, actions, behaviours and messaging are aligned with and easily linked to your GPS.

This takes a significant effort and commitment from your leadership team. Your GPS needs to be even more at the top of their minds than for other employees. Once they get in the rhythm, it will become part of the way they think and act and a normal part of their messaging.

Embedding your GPS will require changes and updates to your organisation’s systems and processes, including your induction, recognition and performance management systems. Every reasonable opportunity should be taken by management to relate current projects, plans and decisions back to your organisation’s GPS. This will involve management explaining why the particular projects and plans are essential if the organisation’s Vision is to be achieved. Explanations of progress made over the last two or three years towards your Vision, the main goals and an explanation as to what needs to be done over the next few quarters or year brings a bigger picture perspective to daily actions and achievements.

The real test of whether you have achieved steps one to four and embedded an effective GPS will come when your employees voluntarily and proudly describe themselves as an integral part of the organisation. Organisations can measure this regularly by conducting an employee Alignment and Engagement Survey to determine whether their organisation has a clear GPS, whether everyday actions of employees are aligned with that GPS and the extent to which employees are engaged.

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