Earlier this month, we published our first findings from our employee engagement survey. That research showed that employee engagement programs, in and of themselves, have an underwhelming impact on employee engagement and can contribute to what Brian Solis calls the "Engagement Gap".
We did find some potent predictors of employee engagement, however. They are:
A reasonable takeaway from these findings is that if you want an effective employee engagement program, it needs to focus not on “engagement” but on building these elements. An engagement program of picnics and employee recognition will give you a little boost, but our data strongly suggests that you can do better. In this second installment of the series, we’re looking at what builds company pride.
Our survey showed that having pride in your company has a strong (0.76) correlation to higher employee engagement. So, how do you build pride in the company?
1. Have a quest as your mission
As an employee, the first thing I need in order to be proud of my company is a basic understanding of what the company does. I need to know not only what it sells, but why it sells it, how it makes it, and why it matters to people. That generally means you need three things.
First – A mission statement of purpose
Most companies have some kind of mission statement on their homepage. But not all mission statements are created equal, and not all companies use their mission statements in the same way.
There is evidence to suggest that two traditional types of mission statements have no, or possibly even a negative impact, on pride. The mission statement that says “Our goal is to maximize shareholder value” is not likely to inspire pride. It may be, and probably is, the primary focus of your board of directors. It is not, however, a point of pride – even if your employees are shareholders.
A second kind of mission statement that fails to elicit pride is “We aim to be the number one provider of X.” This type of statement has failed to stir either hearts or minds for decades.
So - what kind of mission statement does work? A quest. A statement that says how the result of your work or product has a positive impact on something. Nike’s mission statement sets the bar: “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete. If you have a body you are an athlete.” Google’s mission is well-known, “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” (and some would argue they make more progress than we are comfortable with). But it is interesting to note that we don’t know the mission statements of any of the other search engines, which leaves them as simply…search engines. IBM is committed to “Making the world a smarter place.” Your corporate financial goals are not inspiring to anyone. Not even your board of directors. Now, stating a quest and truly committing to that quest are not the same thing.
Yahoo’s mission in 2012 was to “Create deeply personal digital experiences.” It is now restated as “Making the world's daily habits inspiring and entertaining.” In fact most organizations refine and restate their mission statements. Nike does it every few months, without ever really changing the core of it. And that’s a good thing. But some seem to have more heft than others. This is a matter of mission authenticity.
Second – Mission authenticity
If your operations and your quest mission statement are not aligned, your employees know. And it diminishes their respect for executives as well as their pride in working for the company. It poisons your company culture. You will note that respect, company pride, culture, and a belief that one’s work matters, are interrelated. It is nearly impossible to be successful at any one of these without working at all of them. Your mission statement must be an authentic reflection of your intentions or your employees will be the first to know and your customers will be a fast-following second.
While I’ve always admired IBM's mission, they still have significant work to do to make that mission and narrative cohesive throughout their organization. The IBMers I know both have pride and some confusion over how things fit together. To some extent there will always be a gap between aspiration and action, as organizations struggle to interpret and discover the best way forward. Some companies do struggle more than others. Some, as part of an authentic quest, and some not. An authentic, aligned mission statement, however, is a source of pride for every employee.
Third – Mission at the center
Your employees will only be proud of your authentic, impact oriented mission if they know about it, and it is a constant presence. A constant presence does not mean posters on the walls. It means that leaders at every level of the company actively use the mission statement in everyday decision-making. Do we offer one new feature or another? Do we invest here or there? The first thing they do is check in with the mission. Mission-focused teams and companies will make the choices that are most likely to fulfill their mission.
2. Company impact
As an employee I take pride in understanding how my company impacts its customers. How has it changed their lives, their moments, their work? Customer stories are not just for marketing. They are for everyone who makes those customers successful. A great outcome for customers is a great source of pride.
Does your company support charitable or community events? Make sure people know. Does your company contribute to sustainability? Does it get great press? These are all great for marketing purposes, but your first audience for all of this is your employees. Earning their pride and their respect is the first step in gaining the respect of the market.
3. Personal impact
People like to know that their work has an impact on the company and on customers. They want to know how their work fits into the larger picture. They want to know what other people do, and how it fits. This is partly an issue of transparency, and partly an issue of constant and continual communication at many levels. It is ultimately about building a strong sense of team spirit. Of belonging. We’ll talk about this more in our discussion on culture.
People need to believe that their work is contributing to the mission, that their skills are required, and that they are not just an interchangeable cog in a wheel, but an individual whose contributions matter. We’ll talk more about the belief that one’s work matters in another post. The survey statistics on it are remarkable.
When people understand the quest, believe in the quest, and understand their part in the quest, they take pride in the quest. This has a strong impact on company culture as well.