Every business begins with a vision. As your company grows, however, your vision may get lost in the day-to-day concerns of the organization. Worse, it may be paid mere “lip service” or ignored altogether by employees who are more interested in dealing with today’s problems, or who simply don’t know what the company’s ultimate goals should be.
Terms like “buy-in,” “engagement,” and “alignment” sound great when you’re thinking about ways to improve employee productivity and encourage everyone to strive for the same vision. But if these concepts are no more than nice-sounding ideas within your organization, it may be time for a “vision adjustment.” Here’s how to get your employees as invested in realizing your vision as you are.
Step One: Communication is Key
Employees cannot support a company’s vision if they do not know what it is. In order to help employees focus on a common goal, communicate with them regularly about the company’s goals and vision. Give regular feedback on how the company’s projects are progressing toward that vision, and talk to individual employees about the focus and direction of their contribution.
Using Two-Way Communication to Generate “Buy-In”
Because communication is a two-way street, you can and should use it to encourage “buy-in” from employees. In addition to giving employees a description of the goals to strive for and feedback on their progress, ask each employee to outline goals for the coming year and to describe how each goal fits into the company’s vision as a whole. By aligning progress toward the organization’s vision with progress toward employees’ individual goals, you encourage professional growth without sacrificing productivity toward the common end.
Whenever you offer employees an idea or plan that is new to them, it’s wise to prepare for objections. In most cases, employees will not offer objections merely to be contrary – they’ll offer them because, as the workers on “the front lines,” they’ll see potential problems and conflicts that management may not.
As you work to bring employees on board with the company’s vision, remain open to employee feedback. You may choose to respond to anticipated objections on the spot, or to collect feedback and let employees know you’ll respond after considering their concerns. By preparing for objections and other critical feedback, you keep the lines of communication open while providing yourself with a potentially valuable source of information that may greatly impact how your company proceeds toward its vision.
“What’s In It For Me?”
Whenever you work with your employees to communicate and instill the company’s goals and vision, be sure to discuss how working towards the common end benefits employees. Every employee will share in at least one question: “What’s in it for me?” By answering this question, you encourage employees to participate in executing the company’s vision.
Step Two: Start Well, Work Better
Although you can do much to encourage “buy-in” from current employees, the best way to ensure your company’s vision is executed is to hire employees with the right traits and to create a workplace culture in which the company’s vision is front and center.
Consider Behavioral Hiring
Behavioral hiring focuses on the behavior and personality traits of job candidates in order to find someone who is not only skilled for the position, but who is temperamentally suited to it. For example, a company using behavioral hiring to find a chief financial officer (CFO) might look for candidates who are naturally detail oriented. A company seeking a sales professional might look for someone with great charisma and “people skills.”
By combining a focus on “hard skills” with a focus on behavior and temperament, companies can find candidates who can merge the path to the company’s vision with the path to their own career goals.
To leverage the power of behavioral hiring, train hiring managers in the use of behavioral interview questions that ask candidates for concrete examples of how they tackled challenges, pursued projects, or handled conflicts.
Train with the Vision in Mind
Once a new candidate is hired, train your newest employee not only in the day-to-day tasks, but also in how the company’s vision underlies those tasks and is built by them. Do more than merely share the vision statement with your employees; describe how each part of “the way we do things here” arises from that vision.
By providing concrete examples that connect the company’s vision with its daily business, you’ll teach new employees to think about their own work in terms of the company vision. You’ll build a company culture that centers the company’s vision in its daily tasks. You’ll also identify places in which daily business can’t be explained in terms of the company’s vision – which tells you where priorities need to be realigned.