Seeing as I have been on the topic of employer branding lately, I thought I would share my thoughts on mission and vision statements and values. They are a critical component of any business and feed into both the company brand and employer brand strategies. But surprisingly, for many businesses they a bit of an afterthought, or in some cases non-existent! The reason for this is the same reason that many businesses don’t know their ‘why’, and that’s because they get so bogged down in what they do and how they do it.
At a high level, the easiest way to understand the definition of mission, vision and values is to think about the dictionary meaning of the words.
Mission – an important assignment given to a person or group of people. So, essentially what you do.
Vision – the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom. There are two words that spring out to me here, future and imagination. Your vision is what you aspire to be.
Values – principles or standards of behaviour, one’s judgement of what’s important in life.
On a mission
A company’s mission statement should drive everything the business does. It is an internal anchor; your very reason for being here, your core purpose. A good mission statement should provide focus and motivation to all employees and will help find and attract the right customers. It’s the articulation of your why and gives everyone in your organisation a common purpose and understanding of why you’re all coming to work every day.
Writing a good mission statement takes vibrancy, excitement and dynamic words. Your employees should feel inspired and motivated when they read it. And it doesn’t have to explain exactly what you do. For example, Google’s mission statement is ‘To organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.’ And one of my personal favourites is Starbucks; ‘To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time.’
I think most people get mission statements, but its vision statements that they struggle with. Where do you want to be in the future? How do you want to make people feel? What words can you put around the goals you have for your business that will invigorate and motivate and inspire your people?
That’s where you’ll find your vision statement.
When I was marketing manager at NZSki, the vision statement at the time was ‘Life as it ought to be’. Short, sweet but powerful. If you’re a snowsports enthusiast and you work within the industry, what do you think of when you hear those words? I bet it’s got something to do with flying down a powdery white slope on skis or a snowboard. Microsoft also has a great vision; ‘Empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more.’
Neither of these vision statements say anything about what or how these companies do. It’s about rich, emotive words to act as a driver for achieving goals within your organisation.
This is the part that ties it all together. If your company was a person, what would your personal beliefs be? What would you value in life and what is important to you? A company’s values should underpin almost everything it does because values dictate behaviour.
Company values should be determined by everyone within an organisation. To achieve a sense of buy-in, values need to be the result of many minds coming together to determine what is important. A good example is religion; people don’t agree or disagree because someone says they should, they base this decision on what resonates with them personally. So, if you are working on your company values, make sure everyone has their say.
To this point, your values should also have some relevance to your business. And by that I mean think about your why and then think about how you deliver it. Values are so often just words on a page, like ‘honesty’ and ‘integrity’. And to me, those should be a given for ANY business; after all, who’d do business with an organisation they didn’t trust?
I think Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream has some of the best values I have come across, and you can tell they have put considerable thought into these so that their values align with the very core of their business. And not a mention of honesty and integrity anywhere!
We strive to minimise our negative impact on the environment.
We strive to show a deep respect for human beings inside and outside our company and for the communities in which they live.
We seek and support nonviolent ways to achieve peace and justice. We believe government resources are more productively used in meeting human needs than in building and maintaining weapons systems.
We strive to create economic opportunities for those who have been denied them and to advance new models of economic justice that are sustainable and replicable.
We support sustainable and safe methods of food production that reduce environmental degradation, maintain the productivity of the land over time, and support the economic viability of family farms and rural communities.
You get a real sense of what Ben and Jerry’s is about, and it’s not just about selling ice cream.
Well I think the question you really need to consider is what is the cost of not having well-crafted mission, vision and values. There is a significant trickle effect to these; they all impact your culture, the mindset your employees have, the level of service they provide your customers, the impression people have of your business, which impacts your employer and your company brand. And both of those things impact your ability to be profitable and to grow.
Pretty compelling I think.