Why Employees Don’t Know the Company Mission — and How to Fix It

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The modern-day workforce is mission-driven. In fact, more than 80 percent of American workers rate meaningful work as a top priority in their careers.

But how many employees can accurately describe their company’s mission? Can you?

According to the 2021 Mission Alignment Index (MAI) from my company, Gtmhub, about one-third of the world’s largest companies fail at mission alignment. That’s a lot of employees who don’t have a clear understanding o why they show up for work each day.

Why Mission Alignment Is Critical

Aligning employees with a company’s why is a significant challenge, but it’s a worthy investment.

Unilateral communication, minimal engagement, and an obsession with output over outcomes: This mindset worked in the Industrial Era, but it is antiquated and ineffective in today’s knowledge economy. Knowledge workers crave connection and purpose. They need it to succeed.

With clarity of purpose, employees feel connected to their work, find meaning behind their contributions, and deliver outcomes that align with the company’s overarching goals. It’s the difference between employees who work to fulfill their eight-hour commitment (ahem, Industrial Era mindset) and those who work to pursue stimulating, relevant initiatives that are part of a larger picture.

Imagine multiplying the knowledge worker who is connected to the mission and delivering purposeful work across an entire organization. You’ll quickly realize why mission alignment has significant positive business implications. In fact, according to PwC’s Strategy&, more than 90 percent of purpose-driven organizations earn profits at or above the industry average.

How to Fix Misalignment

Mission alignment is as beneficial as it is challenging to strategize and deploy. The mission statement that speaks to your company’s unique value proposition needs to be communicated consistently to employees regardless of their position, team, department, or geographical location.

And, because your mission needs to speak to everyone across the organization, it should eliminate language barriers, cultural nuances, and unintentional ambiguity by using measurable goals. A well-defined, quantifiable mission statement sounds less like “become an industry leader” and more like “become an industry leader with 50 percent market share.”

How do you ensure that the mission statement inspires all corporate activities, interactions, and decisions? And how does the mission become the backbone of every employee’s professional responsibilities?

The objectives and key results (OKRs) methodology sets the framework for accurate mission alignment. This methodology, or rather this corporate mindset, requires leadership to articulate an accurate corporate mission statement as the first critical step to adopting effective OKRs. From there, leadership can define the corporate objectives that describe how the company will achieve its mission.

But implementing the OKR methodology is only one piece of the puzzle. Those OKRs need to be paired with tools and strategies that give you the power to communicate the corporate mission statement and objectives across your entire organization. By sharing information and mobilizing workers to pursue a common purpose, you ensure that the mission reaches every employee and permeates the corporate culture.

How to Measure Success

The power of OKRs doesn’t stop at helping communicate your company’s mission statement and objectives. OKRs help you define the qualitative, aspirational objectives you want to achieve at the team and individual levels, clarifying how these activities feed into global corporate objectives. OKRs also identify exactly how you’ll measure these results with quantitative figures. For example:

Corporate mission statement: Become an industry leader with 50 percent global market share.
Objective: Expand from a national presence to a global presence.
Key result: Launch five international marketing campaigns.

Talk about eliminating ambiguity!

It’s important to utilize the right tech tools to gain transparency on and access to OKRs at all levels of your organization, as this will allow company leaders to see how well you’re aligning the company behind its mission. This will also give you the ability to assess your teams’ and individual employees’ OKRs that feed into the organization’s performance. If a business is veering off course at any level, you can appropriately prioritize your resources and attention.

In the Industrial Era, leadership told employees what to do, and they did it. But we’ve evolved. What worked 40 years ago will lead to unmotivated and dispassionate employees now.

The collaborative, creative, and skillful work that we require from our modern workforce — the work that propels modern businesses forward — is achieved through mission alignment. In the Knowledge Worker Era, you need to identify your employees’ professional purpose and uncover their connection to the organization’s work to find true mission alignment. Only then will you realize your workforce’s true potential.

Jeremy Epstein is the chief marketing officer at Gtmhub.

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By Jeremy Epstein