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By Matt Daigle, founder and CEO of Rise

It’s happening. Your team members just aren’t as engaged as you thought they were. And after all this time, too. Fortunately, all hope is not lost. Here’s a look at one common problem that’s often behind declining workplace morale, and what you can do to fix it.

When things go south, it’s easy to blame your team.

You know the drill: “It’s not me, it’s you.” Even if everyone on your team is leaving in droves or suffering from low morale.

They weren’t motivated enough or perhaps didn’t try hard enough. Maybe they had poor attendance or didn’t seem that enthusiastic last month.

The truth, though, is that when it comes to employee motivation, and subsequent performance at work, the problem could be … you.

We’re often quick to pass the blame and tend to look at cases of low morale as isolated incidents. But if you’re noticing a consistent dip in engagement across the board or realizing that your employee turnover rates are higher than average, it may be time to start looking for the source of the problems. And there’s a good chance that it’s something a bit closer to home.

One of the main problems that’s often a driving factor behind declining workplace morale is none other than a lack of vision.

Low Morale? How’s Your Vision?

When you start talking about company vision, people’s eyes tend to glaze over.

Vision is often seen as a buzzword. Something to tack onto your brand guide, or an addition that can help your company look good on paper. Yawn. Snore. And all the rest.

But while the word may often be overused, vision could be more pivotal to your company’s success than you might think.

Think vision doesn’t matter? Think again. Picture this. Your company is growing, thriving. Everyone is working under the same values, toward similar big-picture goals. There’s a uniting sense of purpose that keeps everyone together and headed the same direction.

This ideal is obtainable and is how many world-class organizations operate today.

The benefits of an engaged workforce are clear. More productivity, lower absenteeism, improved company loyalty, better customer service—the list goes on and on.

And it turns out, employee engagement is one important and direct benefit of having a clear vision.

Consider this:

When employees feel they are working toward a good cause, it can increase their productivity by up to 30%.

What’s more, companies with clearly defined mission and purpose statements that are growth-oriented and clearly communicated to their team have been shown to outperform those who do not.

Ideally, you want your entire team on board with your company ethos or you’re going to risk having a disengaged workforce, with people never really fully buying in. Sure, they might show up on time for a while or hit important deadlines most of the time, but the fact is their performance will soon start to decline. Eventually, they’ll stop being on time. They’ll start calling in sick a lot more. And those deadlines might get met, but the results just won’t be there.

Tragically, though, the latest research indicates that only 49% of employees are engaged at work.

Rise is part of the community of Certified B Corporations. Learn more about this growing movement of people using business as a force for good, and sign up to receive the B The Change Weekly newsletter for more stories like this one, delivered straight to your inbox once a week.

So what can employers do? How can we ensure that we’re building a viable product and scaling our business while also ensuring that our workforce is happy and engaged?

Fortunately, the two don’t have to be disconnected. Building a great company and giving your team a clear vision can actually be one and the same thing. When you work to build authenticity and ensure that it’s done in everything you do, your team, as well as your customers, will be happy to get on board.

I know because I’ve done this myself with Rise. When we started, we were built out of an ethos, an idea. The concept that clean, healthy building and renovation projects shouldn’t be difficult to achieve. We worked to scale our company with this driving force at the center, and soon it started gaining momentum. Like a giant snowball, the effect was accumulative. It turns out good people are drawn to good ideas and good workplaces. In fact, research shows that mission-driven workers are 54% more likely to stay for five years at a company and 30% more likely to mature into high performers than those who are only motivated by a paycheck.

You may think that it’ll be a struggle to ensure that your values are aligned with your team’s. But the truth is it’s not as hard as you might think. Start with a vision, start with a tangible idea, and others will be drawn to that. Sometimes, you might even find that exceptional talent that perfectly aligns with your company culture walks right through the door.

The hard part is determining what you stand for in the first place and working to build on that. But in a world where pretense is everywhere, people are increasingly drawn to authenticity. It’s becoming more and more challenging to operate without a clear vision. And as you continue to scale your company, you’ll find that it’s nice to have that solid ground that you can build upon.

The Value of a Vision

To show you what I mean, I’d like to call to your attention a few companies that are doing wonders in the values department.

Take a look at these vision statements. Then ask yourself, how well are these companies exemplifying their vision?

  • Patagonia: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”
  • IKEA: “To create a better everyday life for many people.”
  • Nike: “Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world. (*If you have a body, you are an athlete).
  • Zappos: “Delivering happiness to customers, employees, and vendors.” And the mission statement is to “provide the best customer service possible. Deliver WOW through service.” (Interestingly, some 33% of employees say that the main reason they stay at Zappos is because of its company mission!)

Pretty good, if you ask me.

All Talk, No Action

Remember how I said, “It’s not them, it’s you?”

I meant it.

Part of establishing credibility involves setting an example yourself. This means that your actions need to align with your vision from day one. After all, they set a precedent for your team to follow. You’re going to want to show them that it’s not just about talking the talk; it’s about putting into practice what you believe. This should emanate from everything you do. For instance, there’s no point in saying that you “care about others,” if you’re not even paying your team a livable wage.

“Make people understand that you care about them more than you want them to care about you,” says Gary Vanynerchuck. That’s a good way to put it.

At Rise, we’ve gone on to obtain B Corp certification, which involves an assessment of how a company impacts its workers, community, environment, and customers. I’m pleased to share that our highest score was in the Workers section. We believe in taking care of our team and doing everything we can to make the workplace a positive place to be. In return, I hope that our team feels more motivated and engaged; happy to come to work the next day.

You build anything more by your actions than words. Putting your vision into action by living it yourself will have a powerful impact. Remember, few things will frustrate your employees more than inauthenticity. Live it, do it, be it. It’s down to you.

Engaged Employees: Functioning At Their Best

So how can you get your employees on board and functioning at their best? Forget what you think you know about carrot-and-stick incentives; engagement at its core is a series of self-actualization steps.

(Don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as it sounds!)

Similar to the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs, employee engagement can be thought of as something that continues to develop once certain needs are met.

Take a look at some research by Bain & Company as they described the ultimate level of “inspired employees.”

At the base level, employees:

  • Have a safe work environment.
  • Have the training and resources to do their jobs well.
  • Can get their jobs done efficiency without excessive bureaucracy.
  • Are valued and rewarded fairly.

At the next level, employees:

  • Are part of an extraordinary team.
  • Have autonomy to do their jobs.
  • Are able to learn and grow every day.
  • Can make a difference and make an impact.

Finally, at the top, employees:

  • Draw meaning and inspiration from their company’s vision and mission.
  • Are inspired by the leaders at their company.

Note that only once employees’ basic needs are met, they start to derive meaning from the company’s vision and mission. In other words, first and foremost, make sure they’re being paid enough, and given opportunities to thrive. Then, and only then, will they’ll be able to start embodying the values that your vision statement outlines.

Once your team members are fully on board and aligned with your mission statement, they’ll be excited to come to work. They’ll look forward to Mondays and start contributing to your company in a meaningful way—helping to shape the very thread work that gives your organization identity.

Listen to Your Team

Finally, it has to be said: A good vision should be ongoing. A clear mission will drive you to prioritize things that matter most to your team, and customers too. It’ll help you to continue to improve; a driving factor of long-term success.

(Don’t be like Dilbert’s boss.)

It’s not just about measuring; it’s about learning and improving as you go along. At its core, your company mission should be fluid and dynamic. Your mission statement might be crafted by you, but it’s personified by your team. Keep it central, make sure it’s clear, and build your company on it.

Remember how I said low staff morale is your fault? The good news is the inverse is also true: You have the power to transform your workplace and improve employee engagement levels.

A lack of vision makes it difficult for your employees to come on board. They won’t have any idea of how they fit into the bigger picture, and will slowly start to become disillusioned with your company. Eventually, they’ll leave. But with a clear vision statement, your team will have something to rally behind. They’ll be able to get involved and excited about the future.

Give them something to work toward and a reason to put forth the effort.

And in return, they will.

Do you have a vision statement for your company? Let’s hear it in the response section below!

B the Change gathers and shares the voices from within the movement of people using business as a force for good and the community of Certified B Corporations. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the nonprofit B Lab.


Declining Employee Morale: It’s Not Them, It’s You was originally published in B The Change on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Originally posted on B The Change - Medium by Rise.


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