Research Indicates Most of Your People Don’t

Once upon a time, I applied for a corporate job. At my initial interview, I paused in the lobby and read the vision, mission and values plaques hanging on the wall. Then I made sure to reference these when answering questions from my potential boss.

They hired me to start their public relations department. From then on, the only time I remembered those ideas was with a smirk of sarcasm: thinking how far the ideals were from what I was experiencing.

  • We treat employees with respect: The CFO stood in the door of the investor relations director’s office (next to mine) and shouted, “What did you say today that made the stock price go down a point?”
  • We strive for excellence through continuous improvement: My boss told me, “We let you set up the department last year. This year, we just want you to run it.” “But I can make it better!” I replied. She said, “But we’re happy with the way it is now.”
  • We are transparent in our practices: The chairman told me, “It’s your job to insulate me from the media!”

I stayed for less than two years. The difference between what the leadership said and how it acted was too schizophrenic for me. It turns out my experience is pretty common.

The Numbers Aren’t Good

Your mission, vision, values and code of ethics. You probably invested a good amount of time and money in creating these.

Research shows you’re not getting a great return:

 Think that can’t possibly be true for your people? As a leader, you may be out of touch with them. According to a study by Deloitte:

  • 47% of executives strongly agree that they can identify with their company’s purpose, compared to just 30% of employees
  • 44% of executives say leaders set an example of living that company’s purpose, while only 25% of employees agree
  • 41% of executives say the company’s purpose plays a role in major business decisions, versus 28% of employees
  • 38% of leaders say their organization’s purpose is clearly communicated, compared to 31% of employees

(Are you also appalled that even the highest numbers for executives are below 50%?)

According to a July 2020 Gallup survey, all this adds up to 40% of U.S. employees feeling actively engaged in their work. 13% are actively disengaged (spreading their unhappiness around) and 47% are not engaged (and likely looking for work). Why is that important?

73% of people who work for a purpose-driven company are engaged. That number drops to 23% for the non-purpose-driven organization. Engaged employees care about the mission and vision, and they will work harder to achieve these.

This also means lower turnover. Because Gen Xers, Millennials and Baby Boomers identify having a mission and purpose that matter as two of the top factors for working with a company.

Start Simply

As soul crushing as all those statistics can be, you have the power to improve them. It begins by pulling out all those mission, vision, values, code of conduct and purpose documents. Ask some simple and powerful questions:

  1. Can people easily understand these? (see if this passes the gobbledygook test)
  2. Are these really the things we believe in as leaders? (knowing it’s likely that less than half of them do)
  3. What am I doing each day to live up to these ideals? (you need to walk the talk first)
  4. How am I reinforcing and rewarding others who embody them? (so everyone understands this really is important)

 I was happy the day I left that company that couldn’t live up to its purpose. And I took a lot of useful information and good ideas with me. Don’t give your talented people a reason to leave. Give them a connection to something that inspires them to stay and work hard.