In a recent newsletter, we discussed the importance of establishing your business mission and values, which can center you and help you stay on course for organizational decision making and action. Through your mission statement, you are defining who you are, what you do, and how you do it, which is key for the organization as a whole, for your employees, and for those who you serve.
We often work with emerging organizations and, along with our guidance on steps for good HR practices and compliance, we include establishing mission and values as important foundational work. KMA encourages clients to highlight their mission and values as they create organization-wide documents and communications, including employee handbooks, websites, and other highly visible and often shared communications.
The challenge is staying true to your business mission over the long term, and actually living up to your values.
This can be hard work, and it’s where we as HR professionals can help you stay the course, or facilitate interventions when you’re veering off track.
Welcome to the fascinating, challenging, drama filled, and often surprising world of the HR professional. In this world, we have seen deteriorated cultures, negative and non-productive behaviors, and scared, angry, and stressed employees. We have also seen disappointed leaders who let their mission and values get away from them, and suffered the consequences in undesirable behaviors and discouraging feedback from employees, and even customers and clients.
We ask ourselves why this happens, and often it’s due to the same reasons:
- A focus on the bottom line, to the exclusion of other priorities.
- Stressed, overworked and under-appreciated employees.
- A multitude of distractions diverting attention away from what matters most.
- Shifting priorities and demands.
- A refusal or inability to acknowledge what is really happening.
- Rewards systems that incentivize the wrong behaviors.
Making matters worse is the pandemic that has turned our working world upside down for the past couple of years. In this chaotic environment, many leaders have had to focus solely on what required their immediate attention, neglecting those longer-term, mission-driven goals.
So how do you stay on track and course-correct when you stray? Here are four suggestions:
1. Write a mission and values statement you will actually live by.
One of our mantras when we help clients develop employee handbooks is: Don’t include anything in it that you can’t or won’t live by. Employees notice when you are not abiding by your own policies, and the same holds true with the mission statement. Be thoughtful in developing your mission statement to ensure it reflects who you actually are and why your organization exists. It also needs to be something employees can support and see in action every day. Evaluate your mission and values statement from the perspective of your employees and future hires, asking: Would you want to work at this organization based on the stated mission? Is the mission truly reflected in your culture, and can you see it being lived out every day?
2. Ensure everyone in the organization knows what your mission and values are, and how important they are to leadership.
Provide your mission and values statements to new and prospective employees and include them on your website, in employee handbooks and other internal communications channels. An excellent practice would be to start all company-wide meetings by reading out the mission and values statements to constantly reinforce the company’s reason for being and direction. And when it comes to employee feedback and evaluations, make sure to measure performance in comparison to your mission and values, demonstrating that all-important commitment from leadership.
3. Make decisions based on your mission and values.
Sometimes emotion rules the day when decisions are made, and other times it’s the loudest voices that have the greatest influence on decision-making. And some teams fall into the pattern of making decisions based on the path of least resistance. A better way is to reflect on your mission and values statements before you go into decision making mode, and before you implement any actions. Let it be a filter through which decisions are made at all levels of the organization, enabling greater autonomy and employee buy-in on the company’s direction.
4. Take action immediately when you see that you’ve strayed from your business mission and values.
Of all four recommendations, this is the most critical. When you realize that you’ve strayed off course, there’s no point in playing the blame game. Pay attention to what is really happening and take immediate steps when actions and behaviors do not align with the mission and values. Take stock of bad behaviors, like a lack of collaboration, unethical or self-serving conduct, harassment or bullying. Seek out that invaluable employee feedback by speaking with team members individually, conducting regular internal surveys, or doing a situational assessment or culture study. While it may be tempting to ignore negative behaviors for fear of losing staff (especially in the current job market), this is a recipe for destroying employee trust in leadership. A swift and agile approach to turning things around when behaviors or conduct go awry will build trust, and improve employee engagement and retention over the long term.
Having the discipline to stay true to your mission is not easy, but establishing a clear vision of who you are, communicating that vision regularly, and taking immediate action when a course correction is warranted, can help you fully live up to your values – and set you and your employees up for long-term success.
If you need guidance on developing a culture study, stay interviews, internal survey, situational assessment, or employee relations issues in general, contact the experts at KMA today!
KMA’s Resources Director