Let me tell you about someone who runs a successful garden centre. The business is doing reasonably well and employs 20 or so people. But the owner is frustrated. His business vision was to design gardens for people and then sell them the plants and equipment to maintain the designs. He knows he can expand his business hugely, doing what he loves best.
His advertising all includes the garden design offering and he talks to customers about it if he gets the chance – but he doesn’t often get involved in the customer-facing end of the business. He spends his time producing wonderful designs for gardens which are only in his imagination.
His problem is that he hasn’t told his employees of his vision. They all know they work for a garden centre and they work quite hard at selling the plants and suggesting suitable tools for customers. But they are unaware of the garden design option.
One day the owner happens to be chatting to a neighbour of his who runs a motor mechanic business. The friend is praising the staff at the garden centre, but then says that he wants the derelict area at the back of his garage made-over to provide a garden as a benefit for his staff and customers. Crucially, he comments that he has mentioned it a few times to the staff in the garden centre, but nobody knew of anyone who did garden design. One had mentioned a garden designer who they had seen advertising on the internet, but they were based a distance away and the motor mechanic had hoped for someone closer. But he was going to check out this option as he did not have any other ideas.
Sharing Your Business Vision
The obvious point of this story is that if the garden centre owner had shared his vision with his employees, then they could have directed queries about garden design to the owner. So he might have been able to move closer to his business vision more quickly.
But there are other reasons for sharing your vision with your employees. And the way you share it is important too. Many organisations have their business vision written as a statement and displayed for all to see. But even if employees know what the vision is, that does not mean they automatically buy into it.
My business is too small to bother about this
Even a business with only one employee (the owner) has a vision of why they exist and what is the purpose they are aiming to fulfil. In fact, smaller businesses often have a much more clear idea of their vision.
If a business employs someone else as well as the owner, even just one employee, then it is important to share your business vision with that employee. That person is critical to your success and expansion. They need to understand that they have an important job, and why it is important.
You need to have a clear vision for your organisation. You need to understand what it is that you are aiming to achieve and you need to be able to communicate that to your staff. At this point, you may be thinking “but I just want to make and sell widgets”. You need to think about what your customers want and how they want it.
Do they want fine quality, high-end widgets for which they will be happy to pay a premium? You can then have a vision along the lines of “XYZ Company makes the best widgets in the county. We make our widgets sustainably and sell them to people who want to buy premium widgets.”
Or do your customers want large number of cheap widgets, which are quickly available? In that case your vision can be “XYZ makes thousands of low cost widgets and we keep our customers happy by delivering them the next day”.
You could use either of these as your business vision but you would need to show your employees where they fit into that vision.
Why share my business vision?
- If your employees know what is your business vision, they will work towards it.
- As a result of your employee understanding how their own job fits into your business vision, they will feel more job satisfaction and a sense of belonging in the company.
- When your employee understands how they are working towards the business vision, they will feel more loyalty to the company, more pride in your achievements and will contribute more in terms of ideas, solutions, suggestions.
- Your employee will feel trusted and valued if they know they are part of your vision. This will help them to trust you as well.
- If an employee feels trusted and valued and can see the importance of their job, they are less likely to leave to work elsewhere. They are less likely to go off sick. Their loyalty to you and your business will increase.
- All of these benefits will contribute to growth and profit for your business.
How can I share my business vision?
This is about more than putting up a notice proclaiming what the business vision is. Many companies do this and there is nothing wrong with it. But you need to do more. The danger is the belief that a notice stating the vision is enough to embed that vision in people’s minds.
In my garden centre story above, the owner had included his vision in his advertising, but the employees and customers were still unaware of that vision. When we read something often enough, it ceases to sink in and have any meaning. The vision statement of a large corporate company where I worked was written in large letters in the reception area. I walked past it several times a day for six years and I cannot tell you what that vision statement said or what the vision was for that organisation. Certainly nobody ever talked to me about how my job contributed to that vision.
And that is the key. Line managers need to speak to individual employees on a regular basis and outline what is the company’s vision and how that individual contributes to it. Just telling people once is not enough. It needs to be reinforced regularly.
Team meetings, company newsletters, appraisals, inductions for new staff, any company communications – these are all opportunities to reinforce the company vision.
Tying it all up
Every business, whatever the size, needs a clear business vision to aim towards. But just because you know your business vision, it does not mean that it is clear to everyone else. And even if it is clear, that does not mean that your employees are all working towards it.
You need to communicate the purpose of your business to everyone – customers, suppliers, potential clients (advertising) – and, most importantly, your employees.
Your employees need to understand where their job fits into the achievement of this vision. They need to believe they are an important cog in the wheel. And this message needs to be reinforced and repeated at every opportunity.
Get this right and it will build trust and loyalty, which are an invaluable asset and will contribute hugely to your business growth and profit.
If you think this article is useful and you would like any strategic HR support or information to help you understand your business vision and communicate it to your employees – please join our mailing list, or contact us for further guidance.
Jill Aburrow runs an HR strategic consultancy business – JMA HR . She provides strategic HR advice and support to businesses who want to improve loyalty, growth and profit. Jill has been a professional strategic HR advisor for over two decades. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (FCIPD) and has a Post Graduate Certificate in Employment Law.