Do Your Employees Know Your Mission Statement?

by Chris Young

Shocked_businessman I nearly had to pick my jaw up off of the floor after reading the Institute for Corporate Productivity's (I4CP) latest research study on employee recall of their organization's mission statement.

The survey, done in conjunction with, reports an astonishingly low prevalence of employees that are familiar enough with their organization's mission statement to recall it if asked. 

The numbers look like this:

  • 84% of organizations have a mission statement
  • 62% of these organizations reported that less than half of their employees would be able to recall their mission statement if asked
  • 20% of organizations with a mission statement said that only 10% of their employees could recall their mission statement if asked.

By deductive reasoning this means that only 20% of organizations with mission statements have a majority of their workforce that is able to recall this critical manifestation of why an organization is in business.

Scary to say the least. 

So what does all this mean for you? 

First off, if your organization has a mission statement (highly recommended) it is a statistical probability that the majority of its team members wouldn't be able to tell you what that mission is.  Take a quick poll at your organization and ask ten or so team members from different departments if they can tell you what your company's mission statement is.  The results might surprise or even shock you.

Secondly, take a good hard look at your mission statement and ask yourself if it truly reflects your organization's purpose and reason for being in business.  If it is convoluted or out of date, there is a good chance that your team members don't full grasp their purpose for coming to work each day. 

The good news is that there is always room for improvement.  If awareness of your organization's mission statement is low and your team members lack a common sense of purpose and direction, there are a few things you can do to improve the situation:

  • Ensure that departmental and organizational goals are aligned with and reinforce your organization's mission.  There are few things more frustrating or stressful to employees than working for an organization that talks out of both sides of its mouth and forces one to choose between conflicting goals or objectives.
  • Help team members see the connection between their position and how it contributes value to the organization's stated mission.  If you can't make this connection, you may need to evaluate the necessity of this position.
  • Remind everyone of your mission statement often.  Repetition is the motor of learning. If an employees isn't frequently reminded of why his or her employer is in business it can be easy to forget and stray off course. 
  • Incorporate your organization's  mission statement into email signatures, memos, flyers, and other company collateral.  This point builds off the last one - repetition is the motor of learning.  The more an employee sees your mission, the more likely he or she will have a clear sense of purpose of what they are working towards.

Beacon Your mission statement is much more than a marketing slogan or PR pitch.  It is a critical piece of organizational dogma and should succinctly communicate why the business exists. 

It is imperative that all members of an organization are cognizant of the mission statement and embrace its meaning and importance at all times.  When communicated effectively, an organization's mission statement stands as a guiding beacon to team members to ensure that everyone is rowing in the same direction. 

Important questions to ask yourself... Is your mission statement serving a clear purpose?  Are your team members aware of your mission statement and using it to guide their daily actions at work?  What can you do to improve awareness of your organization's mission and purpose? 

Just for fun, here are a few mission statements of Fortune 500 companies that I found particularly effective at providing a clear sense of purpose:

  • Bristol-Meyers Squibb: To extend and enhance human life by providing the highest quality pharmaceutical and health care related products.
  • Conoco Phillips: To use our pioneering spirit to responsibly deliver energy to the world.
  • Microsoft: To help people and businesses throughout the world realize their full potential.
  • Nike: To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.
  • Southwest Airlines: Dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit.

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