Finding Meaning

You’ve worked hard on your company’s mission statement. You believe in it. You live by it. But this will do you little good because, after all, you alone are not the company. Your employees also have to believe in the mission statement. They have to live by it. They have to follow through.

Building employee follow through on the mission statement is a struggle every business has to face. Some businesses try extra money. Some try inspirational videos. However, many businesses find these methods fruitless.

Why? Because they’re not helping employees see the meaning in the work they do. If employees don’t feel like the work they do matters, your company becomes nothing but a place they come to for 8 hours a day to make money. Employee follow through and customer experience take a backseat. However, if you show them meaning, they develop a sense of personal ownership and become more committed to the job your team is trying to accomplish.

While some businesses have struggled to find their footing, others have become icons of inspiring values, committed employees, and flawless customer service.

“Shades of Green”

Sweetgreen specializes in providing customers with the freshest food in casual dining. Their mission to “inspire healthier communities” can be felt by every employee through the company’s “Shades of Green” employee recognition program. For every year an employee is with the company, they’re given a new green shirt. The longer they’re with the company, the darker shade of green their shirt becomes.

The shirts’ colors aren’t the only things changing. Executives at the company have noticed the sizes of the shirts grow smaller as their shades grow darker. Sweetgreen employees get free salads every shift, allowing them to experience the healthy culture the company is working to promote. They’re buying into the brand through the first-hand experience of its benefits.

The Shoe Drop

For every pair of TOMS that are bought, a pair is donated to an impoverished child. Since the company’s founding, over one million pairs of shoes have been given to children all over the world.

When an employee is with the company for a year, he or she gets to attend a shoe drop with CEO Blake Mycoskie. Instantly, their perception of what they do changes. They’re no longer just selling shoes. They’re putting shoes on the feet of millions of children in need, from Argentina to Ethiopia.

Flying Above and Beyond

The airline industry usually isn’t the first thing you think of when picturing happy employees. But Southwest Airlines may just be the exception.

Southwest Airlines has long used the motto “Employees first, customers second, and shareholders third.” Recently, employees had the opportunity to design their own uniforms. This was a unique way for them to show corporate how they themselves perceive the brand.

Like customers, employees want to be listened to. They want to be recognized. Like Southwest founder Herb Kelleher said: “The things you can’t buy are dedication, devotion, loyalty—the feeling that you are participating in a crusade.” That feeling has to be earned. And Southwest has earned that from employees.

Meanwhile, Southwest doesn’t have to tell employees to put the customer first. Employees believe in the mission statement so firmly, they know how to give customers the experience they desire

Making Them Believe

When it comes to improving employee follow through, it’s not enough to give your employees a handbook with the mission statement hidden somewhere between the lines. That will never make employees believe in the mission statement or the value your business is capable of providing.

Instead, allow your customers to experience your company’s values firsthand. Hand them the reins and trust them to do what’s right. Listen to their opinions and value their words. Give them the chance to make a difference and let them see the impact they make.