Why do you work?
Imagine an ordinary employee in your company, a mid-level manager, or a common worker. Even if she works eight hours per day only, five days per week (which is not the case in many cultures), and has to commute, she spends ten or more hours per working day or 50+ hours per week at work or on the road. If she sleeps eight hours every night, it steals 56 hours every week from her life. Considering that a week equals 168 hours, and she needs some time for herself and also for shopping, jogging, visiting doctors, reading, going on business trips, etc., she spends much more hours doing her work than she can devote to people she loves. Is this work meaningful and rewarding?
According to Gallup
, a mission statement is essential from the point of view of employee engagement, but leaders, on average, are not very good at doing this job. But how a decent mission statement can help employees feel that their work is meaningful? It provides them with the answer to the question: "Whom do I help by doing my job well?". It helps them satisfy their natural need to help others. If a company doesn't have a mission statement, or if it doesn't work properly, employees feel that they waste their precious time on something worthless and futile. Mission statement as a slogan
Two years ago, I joined a company manufacturing devices and liquids for cancer screening as an independent board member and a strategy committee chairman. The mission statement they had sounded as "Life-saving diagnostics."
We carried out an internal survey and discovered that:
1. Every employee knew the mission statement and could recall it without a hint
2. Most employees found it difficult to answer the question: "Does the mission statement inspire you?"
3. Most employees didn't see a clear connection between their labor and the mission statement
So, a catchy, bright slogan was easy to remember but didn't work as a mission statement, meaning that it didn't help workers see that their work helps other people. A short, eye-catching slogan is suitable for corporate websites or customer presentations. But a mission statement is an internal communication tool aiming to explain to employees that their work is meaningful.
As a lecturer, I am always searching for good examples of mission statements, and it is hard to find good examples. Most statements sound like "we are for good and against evil," but they are not specified enough to inspire somebody. Ancient people lived in small groups, around 150 individuals, and it is hard for us, their descendants, to be inspired by helping "humanity" or "save the planet." Richard Thaler, a Nobel Prize winner, mentioned in his book Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioural Economy that advertisements encouraging people to donate money to save, say, South American jungle work worse than the ones calling for help for an individual. Put a face of a sick child in an ad, and it will help collect more funds than one of a charity organization helping many children, even if the latter is obviously higher.