Employee Engagement, Small Business

How to Successfully Drive Your Team’s Mission

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Mission-driven companies don’t just heal the people and communities they’ve chosen to serve; they stimulate and strengthen their own internal teams as well.

According to a Deloitte study, mission-driven companies are 30 percent more innovative and 40 percent better at retaining employees than businesses that don’t foreground their senses of purpose (Source: Becoming Irresistible: A New Model for Employee Engagement. Deloitte Review Issue 16, 2015). Why? Because when employees believe in the company’s mantra and immerse themselves in its vision, they become emotionally invested advocates for the brand’s story.

Take, for example, Patagonia. Giving is an important part of Patagonia’s overall brand identity, as evidenced by the more than $185 million it has donated to environmental groups trying to conserve Argentina’s timber forests. But Patagonia’s so impactful not just because of the donations, but because it has built corporate responsibility into everything it does. As the brand grows, then, so does awareness of the cause and mission behind it.

Being truly mission-driven takes more than identifying a cause, writing it down, and posting it for all to see. A company’s entire team — from the very top of the C-suite to the earliest entry-level employees — should be involved in order to create a brand that makes a difference.

Putting the Mission Front and Center

No matter your mission, you can mobilize your team to start making its mark. Here are three ways you can bring your team closer to the heart of your mission-led business:

1. Let leadership lead.

No giving model can work if its leaders aren’t totally and completely invested in its objective. When a brand has a storyline that’s imperative to how people absorb and connect with your business, it’s of utmost importance that leaders spend time on the business’s front lines to communicate that narrative.

Working alongside my employees at one of our stores was one of the more invaluable lessons I’ve learned as a leader. I’m not the best cash handler in the world, but that wasn’t the point. I was there to tell our story — about what our products mean to people and the reasons and inspirations behind the business’s structure. Creating and sharing a clear narrative is key to drawing people toward the heart of the company’s mission.

A giving business is a family that everybody, from the CEO to a freelancer, should feel a part of. That inclusiveness starts with leaders conveying the company’s vision and helping employees connect with it. By reinforcing the business’s values, leaders can empower all employees to embrace and live the mission — and successfully communicate it to customers through their work and their words. That’s how you’ll send a united, focused message to the world.

[Related: Employee Engagement Checklist and Calendar]

2. Communicate urgency.

Urgency plays a huge part in turning adversity into action and turning a mission into a successful business. Establishing a sense of urgency produces better engagement, banishes complacency, keeps staff members attentive to goals, and encourages employees to telegraph the company’s mission to outsiders.

Urgency is central to the mission at Ivory Ella, a clothing company that’s on a mission to save endangered elephants. Part of this mission is donating profits from each sale, but another crucial factor is engaging employees in the fight against elephant extinction. Employees are invited to volunteer through an employee engagement program that allows them to witness the issue firsthand, shows them how critical their work is, and learn to put a sense of urgency into their work.

Sending a message that the mission is never complete encourages your company to eagerly continue tackling a cause. If your team’s sense of urgency remains constant, your mission objectives will receive consistent attention.

[Related: Complete Guide to Employee Engagement Activities]

3. Prioritize the mission during hiring.

I’ve found that the employees at my company who are the happiest and most successful deeply understand and support our giving mission. They care on a personal level about the people who benefit from our product. So during the interview process, I ask candidates how much they know about our business model. I’m drawn to people who want to join us because they’ve heard about our giving, and I can spot those who get genuinely excited when they hear about it for the first time.

Doing business on a mission is not always easy. Make your company’s mission central to the recruiting process to ensure you’re attracting candidates who want to work for you and strive toward the greater purpose your company is pursuing. During interviews, ask questions that uncover whether the candidate shares values compatible with the company’s mission, sees your vision clearly, and feels your company’s sense of urgency.

For mission-driven companies, the focus on a greater cause is as important as knocking out menial daily tasks associated with individual jobs. But that greater good isn’t just carried out by one person or department — it requires a companywide effort and buy-in from across all departments in order to truly come to fruition. Maintain your team’s top-to-bottom focus on the big picture to make sure it looks the way you always envisioned.

Lee Rhodes founded glassybaby in 2001 after a chance meeting between a tealight and a hand-blown glass vessel during her seven-year bout with cancer. Rhodes developed the idea for glassybaby’s one-of-a-kind votives and drinkers with the core mission of helping cancer patients she met during treatment afford basic needs such as bus fare, childcare, or groceries. Ten percent of the company’s entire revenue goes toward a charitable organization; to date, glassybaby has donated more than $7 million to 350-plus nonprofits since opening its doors.

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