Recognition Can Help Connect People to Your Values and Mission

When it comes to mission and values, there are two ends of the spectrum. On one hand, you might be thinking: “Of course I care about my company’s mission and values!” As an HR professional, this is music to my ears; our goal is to align employees with a company’s mission and values so we’re all marching “to the same beat of the drum,” so to speak.

On the other hand, you might be rolling your eyes. Maybe you believe that mission and values are nothing but corporate-speak. Perhaps you believe that this is exactly what touchy-feely HR people talk about because they have trouble discussing “real” business concerns.

If you’re on this end of the spectrum, it’s time to change your thinking. Make no mistake. Your company’s mission and values are real business concerns. When employees at all levels of your organization connect to your mission, when they truly understand and embody the values you stand for, your business is more likely to succeed. That is, when your employees understand the why behind your company, it has a very real impact on your bottom line.

Your people care, but don’t know

But don’t take my word for it. New research by my employer, Reward Gateway, an employee engagement platform, reveals that 98% of employers and 95% of employees — so, practically everyone — agree that personal alignment with a company’s mission is important.

That’s the good news. But — isn’t there always a but? —

less than half of employees actually know what their company’ mission and values areClick To Tweet. That should come as no surprise. Just ask your own colleagues — or even yourself — to recite your organization’s mission and values.

And even if your employees can recite your mission and values, the real problem is that they haven’t truly connected with them. They don’t understand how what they do aligns and supports them. So now what?

Culture of recognition

One of the best ways I’ve seen in my over 20 years as an HR professional to create this connection with your mission and values is by creating a culture of recognition. Recognition is critical in all businesses, regardless of size or industry. It fulfills a basic need to feel appreciated and fuels employee motivation. And, of course, it helps achieve goals based on behaviors described through your values to impact your company’s bottom line.

And sure enough, 80% of managers surveyed say that a culture of recognition already exists in their workplaces. What’s more, 9 in 10 senior decision-makers believe their organization is already doing enough to recognize people who demonstrate organizational values.

But — of course there’s another but! — employees feel otherwise. More than 60% think that their managers and leaders should be offering more thanks. And 70% say that their motivation and morale would improve as a result of greater recognition.

Lots more would improve — from engagement and trust to retention and performance. Truly, there are no limits to what a culture of recognition and a connection to mission and values can help you achieve.

Thank you is a start

“Thank you.” These two simple words can revolutionize your culture — because all of us need recognition. We all like to feel acknowledged for the work we do, and for the efforts we make.

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But real recognition is about more than just that. To get the most value out of it, you’ve got to connect it to larger goals of your company. That means praising people for engaging in behaviors that, as I previously mentioned, embody your organization’s values. You’ve got to inspire and enable not just managers but all employees to recognize each other often and specifically. Here are my four tips that I believe you MUST follow to get started and to get results:

  1. Create Meaning: Ensure that moments of recognition have real impact by making them meaningful. When you thank people, tell them exactly what they did that was terrific. Instead of saying “Thanks for your help,” say, “Thank you for working hard on that project. You’ve really embodied our value of going the extra mile.” That helps employees understand what they’ve done well, and what to aim for in the future.
  2. Make recognition Uniform: Acknowledging people for behaviors must be universal. Everyone in your organization should be able to offer and receive recognition. You can’t create the right culture if recognition occurs only in pockets of your company.
  3. Put it under the Spotlight: By celebrating an individual publicly (assuming they are comfortable with that), you not only encourage that person to engage in similar behavior, you show others what acting on company values looks like. It also completes the recognition moment, like the icing on a cake which adds the extra sweetness.
  4. Make it Timely: Don’t wait until tomorrow to recognize people. Praising colleagues in a more timely fashion with in-the-moment recognition tools will have far greater impact. Wait too  long and the moment and impact disappears.

In ending, let me suggest that you ask yourself: Can you afford to have more than half of your people not perform their best because they lack a connection to your mission and values? Can you afford to have 70% of your employees not performing at their best?  The answer is obvious. The solution, however, will require you to do things differently.

You can’t build a culture where everyone is aligned with your mission and values if the very employees you hope to inspire don’t understand them, don’t live them, and are not valued for them. It’s up to you to design a recognition program that does all of this by connecting the dots for your employees and your business.

Debra Corey

Debra brings 30 years experience in HR, with senior level roles at Fortune 500 companies including Gap, Quintiles, and Honeywell. An expert in global reward and employee communication, her teams have won numerous awards for their innovative solutions and she was named Employee Benefits Professional of the Year in 2012. Her first book, on Effective HR Communication, was published in 2015. She's also a teacher for WorldatWork and speaks at conferences worldwide on reward and company culture.