In every relationship, we all want to feel valued. We all want to feel useful. We want to feel understood, acknowledged, and included. This is true even in the workplace.
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When a company starts to think about where it will be in five or ten years, reaching out to employees for their input goes a long way toward making them feel all of those things.
Finding ways to engage with employees about the design and future of the company ensures that you create a corporate culture that fits the people who have to work within it every day.
"Our employees are an incredibly creative group, and we try to provide as many opportunities as possible to get their input," says Andy North, vice president of corporate branding and communications for Bazaarvoice, a consultancy that connects brands and retailers with the opinions of their consumers. "When we started to look at our prior vision statement, we wanted to see if it still resonated with employees."
Bazaarvoice had previously sourced employee opinions when designing a new building, so the company knew its employees could provide valuable feedback for this latest project as well. The company also knew how to organize and get the best information from as many workers as possible.
"It's crucial that your employees believe in your vision and find ways to connect it to their daily work, so we knew we needed to get their feedback on it," North says. "We set up a series of focus groups across our Austin, New York, and London offices, and at each site they felt like a new vision was necessary – one that involved our clients, their customers, and the strength of our network."
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Listen and Learn
Many companies would keep a project like developing a new corporate vision statement within the C-suite, or perhaps assign it to a particular marketing or branding team. But the truth is, nobody knows your company like the people who work there. Taking advice from the ground up can often help executives gain valuable insight not only into the company, but also about the employees themselves.
"We learned a great deal about what employees thought and felt about our business strategy, products, clients, and how they thought we should approach all of these going forward," says North. "It was an interesting exercise, to say the least, with some excellent insights gained that came in handy beyond the creation of a new vision statement. But in general, they were excited to be asked their thoughts and to feel like they had a key role in creating our new vision."
It turns out sourcing ideas from the employee pool might have some entertainment value as well. When sourcing ideas from a large pool of employees, you're bound to get some interesting feedback.
"One of my favorites was simple yet profound: 'Be awesome,'" North says. "A few suggested vision statements tried to boil the ocean and ended up being almost two paragraphs long. We looked at sample vision statements from other companies and learned quickly that the shorter ones meant more to the team while the longer, more specific statements ended up losing attention quickly."
Silliness and long-winded answers aside, most employees were able to offer valuable insight about what they thought their company should be.
"The tone and tenor of their input, the client focus, and the passion behind their words were what resonated with the leadership team," says North. "It provided a good barometer of the employee mindset and what they wanted the company to aspire to be over the next several years."
Effective leaders are often praised for their ability to make snap decisions or for their strong opinions, but companies that place a high value on employee engagement reap the rewards in the form of higher employee productivity and loyalty. The next time you find yourself discussing the direction or mission of your company, think about asking your employees for their opinions on the matter. You won't be disappointed.