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What if employees don’t buy-in to the mission?

From time to time, I get a question similar to this: “What do you do if someone doesn’t buy-in to the company mission or purpose and resists your attempts to link these ideals to their job responsibilities?”

It’s true that not every employee will buy-in to the organization’s mission, vision, purpose, and core values. Some will be cynical toward these higher ideals and view their jobs as “jobs”—a necessity to earn money to pay for things. This perspective is rooted in employees’ work experiences. It’s how most of us were socialized to work: You toil x number of hours, are paid x dollars, and you and the company are even at the end of each pay period. Our work lives have been centered on job functions: knowing WHAT to do and HOW to do it. Typically, no one has pulled us aside to explain WHY the work is being done.

Now, you may be in the camp that believes it’s still just a job and, by introducing concepts like mission, vision, purpose, and core values, you come across as “corporate” and out of touch with employees’ real world of work. I’ve felt that way, too—because these ideals are largely foreign to frontline employees. The last time they encountered them was during their onboarding event, when they watched a corporate video, reviewed the Employee Handbook, and received a koozie emblazoned with the core values.

The way to overcome this bias is to view corporate ideals as part of, rather than separate from, one’s job role.

Supervisors have performance expectations related to productivity, financial results, product and service quality, adherence to policies, procedures, and brand standards that are linked to job functions (i.e., knowing WHAT to do and HOW to do it). An effective supervisor will evaluate performance against these criteria and expectations—many of which are quantified as budgets, quotas, or key performance indicators (KPIs). But job functions represent only one aspect of a job role; the other is job essence: knowing WHY the work is being done the way it’s being done.

When I was in high school, I worked at a supermarket. Job essence was an unfamiliar concept then. There was a lot of conversation about WHAT to do and HOW to do it, but I don’t recall an emphasis on WHY the work was being done the way it was being done. I know enough about supermarkets to recognize that cleanliness and freshness are priorities. If I were a store supervisor today, I might link job essence to freshness by sharing the mantra: Make everything fresh!

With our store’s True North fixed on freshness, it answers the question of WHY a committed team member would refuse to ignore a spill, wear a soiled uniform, or improperly rotate perishables. Once this covenant is established with a respected supervisor, you’ll find that people will scrutinize the quality of their work and hold themselves to a higher standard. This mantra also supports your efforts to uphold expectations, share feedback/coach, and provides a touchstone for the team’s actions, behaviors, and decision-making.

When performance expectations are aligned with job functions and job essence team members will know WHY they’re doing WHAT they’re doing, in the way they’re doing it. And they will be prepared to consistently deliver purpose-driven product and service quality rather than robotically execute job assignments. Instead of having something to work on, they’ll have a purpose to work toward.

Image credit: Maha Mohtaseb

Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.
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