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Employee Engagement Is Not a “Program”

Identify Your Organization’s Vision

Engaged employees are those who understand and are on board with an organization’s purpose. An organization's vision, expressed in the form of a vision statement, outlines what the organization wants to be and/or how it wants the world in which it operates to be.

As author Andy Stanley notes, vision is “what could be and what should be, regardless of what is. Vision creates possibilities and inspires people to behave and take action in ways that allow the vision to become a reality.”

It should be a longer-term view with a focus on the future. For example, a charity that works with the poor might have the vision, “a world without poverty.” As another example, consider Amazon's vision statement:

Our vision is to be earth’s most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.

A successful vision statement has six key characteristics:

  • It's imaginable. Does it prompt employees to think about the future? Is it part inspirational and part aspirational? Is it unique to your firm?

  • It's energizing. Is it exciting, captivating, and engaging? Does it make employees want to jump out of bed in the morning?

  • It's feasible, yet bold. There is a fine line between inspiring employees to reach for new heights and creating jaded skeptics. A vision that is too bold risks cynicism (“Are they kidding?”). A vision should be bold but achievable.

  • It's focused. For example, Amazon's vision explicitly states that its business model will continue to be built around online shopping. A vision that's too vague can result in employees and customers not understanding who you are or where you're going.

  • It's flexible. Successful visions allow for flexibility in chasing and responding to shifting market and labor forces. If Amazon's vision started as “online bookstore,” the company would have struggled with its subsequent diversification strategy.

  • It's easy to communicate and remember. Can a stranger remember your company's vision statement after spending 40 seconds with you in an elevator? If not, it needs work. This is never more true than today, with the increasing prevalence of social media and mobile applications.

Also, the vision, which can be emotional, should be a source of inspiration. To quote the great Walt Disney, “A vision is a picture of the future that captures the imagination of others and inspires them to follow.”

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