Purpose, Goals and Values Part 2: Finding your What
Last week we talked about purpose and why finding your company’s ‘why’ is crucial in engaging your staff, retaining your best people and even attracting new talent to your organisation.
This week I want to talk about your company’s ‘what’. Now, that might seem obvious (Look, Jo, we just make shoes, ok?!). But actually, your ‘what’ is about a lot more than just the day-to-day processes of your company.
Defining what your company really does means looking deeper into what benefits you actually bring for the customers you serve, what your goals are and what that means for your own employees.
Oh, and by the way, it’s crucial for recruiting and retaining the right talent for your business.
What is your ‘what’?
So what is your 'what'? Put simply, it’s what you do. But remember: we’re looking at this from an employer branding perspective, so as usual there’s a bit more to it.
Yes, your ‘what’ is what you do, but not just in the sense of ‘we’re a recruitment marketing agency’ or ‘we make shoes’.
Your ‘what’ is the thing you do better than everyone else to make people’s lives better. Defining it – and expressing it clearly as the vision for your organisation – will not only ensure clarity for everyone and help your existing employees become more engaged but could just attract more of the right people to your organisation.
Why your ‘what’ is important
You’d think that all your employees would know what you do as a company. But what about the bigger picture?
During the space race of the 1960s, putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade was NASA’s ‘what’. It wasn't just what they did, but a wider vision for the organisation. Everyone at the top knew that was the goal.
But what did that mean for the rest of NASA's employees?
Well, quite a lot. Famously, when a janitor sweeping the floor was asked what he did for NASA, he answered just the same: ‘I’m putting a man on the moon.’
Now there was a man who knew his company’s ‘what’. He knew that, although he played a small role in the company, what he did was important to the overall vision. Without this vision, he might not have had much enthusiasm for sweeping the floor, but with it, he was able to put his contribution in context.
That’s empowering, meaningful and inspiring – even if you're just a janitor.
Of course, NASA’s ‘what’ might not have been quite so powerful if it hadn’t been so catchy. Putting a man on the moon is pretty memorable, after all.
And that’s why the way you articulate your ‘what’ is particularly important.
How to turn your ‘what’ into your company’s vision
Your vision is a way of communicating what you do as a company to everyone who works there – and to those who don’t. It’s a great employer branding tool and one that should take pride of place on your careers site.
So how do you articulate your vision clearly?
The first thing to remember is that your ‘what’ is best defined in a statement that sums up not just what you do, but what you want to achieve. That means it should be:
Your vision needs to be memorable so that all your employees – right down to the janitor – can remember it and say it out loud. It needs to be succinct so that there’s no opportunity for confusion or lack of clarity. This is what we do – simple.
Finally, it needs to be big. It’s not just what you do, but the bigger thing you achieve by doing it. In other words, it’s how you make your customers happy.
Let’s take a look at some examples.
Firstly, here’s the vision of Ritz hotels:
“We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.”
That’s pretty memorable. And it says a lot about Ritz’s values and the customers they serve.
Or how about Gallup’s?
“Helping people be heard.”
It’s pretty succinct. No one’s going to forget that in a hurry, and this short and simple statement can be understood and repeated by anyone in the business.
And then there’s Sonos:
“Stream all the music on earth, wirelessly into any room.”
Now there’s a great example of a company looking at the bigger picture. Note that Sonos doesn't just say, “We stream music” – which would certainly be succinct. No, it goes above what it does day to day and highlights the bigger picture – even if that’s partly aspirational.
When your employees know what you do on a grand scale, they’re more likely to be engaged with your goals and strategy, offer new ways of thinking and – ultimately – stick around. In fact, according to research by Imperative, vision-oriented employees are 54% more likely to stay at a company for more than five years and 30% more likely to be high performers than those who work for pay alone.
So if you want to improve retention, finding your company’s ‘what’ is more important than you think. Especially for the janitor.