Make Sure that Your Vision is More than Just a Piece of Paper on the Wall
Employees may like reading a mystery, but they don’t like working in one. Heidi Grant Halvorson, writing for Fast Company, says it right when she says, “Make a point of saying exactly what you mean, and asking for exactly what you want, and you will be pleasantly surprised by how often you get it.” It is difficult, if not impossible, for employees to arrive at their destination if you, their boss, are not crystal clear in providing them the directions and road map detailing their journey.
In our twenty years of conducting employee opinion surveys, we have collected data from 100,000 employees and have noted significant variances between the Overall PBS Benchmark and the Best-of-the-Best PBS Benchmark-the top 25% percent of organizations surveyed. (Click here for more information on PBS Benchmarks)
One thing that has caught our attention over the years is that the Best-of-the-Best PBS Benchmark is significantly higher than the Overall PBS Benchmark in the communication category. Here’s what the Best-of-the-Best organizations do better:
First, leaders in the Best-of-the-Best organizations do a better job of telling employees about their vision for the future. They clearly define goals and ensure that each employee understands how their contributions help the leader and organization achieve the vision. Here’s how our two Benchmarks compare on the question regarding clarity of the organization’s goals and future direction:
Statement: “I am clear on my organization’s goals and future direction.”
|Best-of-the-Best PBS Benchmark||92.2%*|
|Overall PBS Benchmark||76.7%|
|Best-of-the-Best exceed by||+15.4|
*Percentages in the benchmarks are the number of employees who either “strongly agreed” or “agreed” in response to a statement in the survey.
Second, although most companies hold regularly scheduled management meetings, when the Best-of-the-Best leaders exit the meeting, they are significantly more likely to make sure they communicate important information to their employees:
Statement: “My supervisor/manager keeps us informed about our organization’s plans.”
|Best-of-the-Best PBS Benchmark||88.6%|
|Overall PBS Benchmark||74.2%|
|Best-of-the-Best exceed by||+14.4|
Finally, although vision is usually the responsibility of senior leaders, the challenge for senior leaders is that they will never be fully effective at getting the message down to the front line unless supported by managers and supervisors who place a high value on keeping their employees “in the loop.”
Statement: “Communication flows effectively from upper management to employees.”
|Best-of-the-Best PBS Benchmark||72.4%|
|Overall PBS Benchmark||58.9%|
|Best-of-the-Best exceed by||+13.5|
Here are three quick tips to get the right information to the right people at the right time:
Make sure the vision is more than a framed document hanging on the wall. Employees are more apt to act off what they see in the hall versus what they read on the wall. It’s not good enough for senior leaders to develop a powerful vision. They need to make sure that the vision is clearly communicated to every employee, along with the goals that will help bring the vision to life. When people are clear on their destination, and are given a map to get to the destination, as well as a tour guide communicating along the way, they will not only support the expedition, but usually will really enjoy the trip.
Place a high value on two-way communication. Get in the habit of actively seeking employees’ thoughts and opinions, especially prior to making decisions that impact their work. You’ll experience fewer surprises along with greater employee engagement and productivity if you consistently encourage your employees to think and provide their input to help you and your team make the best decisions possible. Look at the significant difference between responses to the following statement:
Statement: “Managers and supervisors in my organization seek the opinions and thoughts of the employees who work here.”
Best-of-the-Best PBS Benchmark 77.9% Overall PBS Benchmark 62.6% Best-of-the-Best exceed by +15.3
Over-communicate during periods of rapid change. Often, we communicate the vision and goals, then shortly after, change goals. Keeping pace in this interconnected, global market place requires change after change. Most employees understand that to be successful, plans need to change, often frequently. What they don’t like is being blindsided because they did not know that the plan had changed. Make it a high priority to provide timely updates when plans change.
Statement: “When changes are made in my company, I hear about it in a timely manner.”
Best-of-the-Best PBS Benchmark 77.3% Overall PBS Benchmark 65.9% Best-of-the-Best exceed by +11.4
Great leaders do a great job of communicating vision and values. Make it your personal responsibility to tell the right people, the right information, at the right time – all the time.