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News Analysis

Mission statements: a pain or gain?

August 2012

GCC companies must help their employees make the ‘job-mission’ connection if they are to maximise performance and reduce costs

Across reception areas and hallways throughout the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), organisations proudly display their mission statements illuminating their identity and purpose. These core values, or guiding principles, are considered central to the essence of the organisation, especially from an internal standpoint for employees. These statements, often derived from senior corporate strategy, are seen as the uniting banner that seeks to engage employees and drive performance.

Such proclamations could be doing GCC-based organisations more harm than good, however. For example Gallup studies in the UAE highlight just under half of employees (49 per cent) feel the mission or purpose of their company makes them feel their job is important. This leaves the other half feeling their role and reason for being within their organisation does not fit into a “grand plan.” These employees feel they don’t matter or do not subscribe to the fundamental mission of their organisation.

When employees make the “job-mission” connection, the result is a boost, not just to morale but to performance as well. Research indicates that key performance indicators increase and detrimental everyday business costs decrease. It is no secret that the cost of hiring an expatriate worker within the GCC is sizeable. For senior positions, the cost includes not only the basic salary and benefits, but flight costs, housing, and school fees, as well as other unforeseen cost-of-living expenditures. Employees who feel a connection with the mission of their company are dramatically more likely to establish a long tenure with their employer, keeping top talent from escaping to a competitor.

Many organisations see the process of defining and communicating their company’s mission statement as a grandiose human resources or marketing/PR initiative, usually meant to outshine the competition. This outlook is damaging organisations across the GCC and beyond – especially when an organisation is unable to live its mission and purpose.

An organisation’s mission is not just a decorative plaque on the wall, but an active, living, breathing strand that contributes to every employee and function, from the most senior to the most junior. It is a guiding mantra by which decisions are made. Employees must be able to internalise and make sense of how their day-to-day roles connect with the broader purpose of the organisation. This symbiotic relationship between the organisation and its employees creates an emotionally binding connection. It inspires employees and creates a sense of collective stakeholding.

In an ever-challenging environment, being able to express and live by what your organisation actually stands for is often overlooked. Recent research in the United States reveals that one in every 14 customer-facing employees are unclear on what their company stands for or what differentiates it in the market. This can do great damage to an organisation’s financial and strategic standing.

When employees cannot connect with their organisation’s mission, they find themselves in a predictably compromising position when it comes to their customers and the wider community, not striving for the best possible outcomes. However, the unique situation that GCC organisations find themselves in (high level of local ownership and less stringent regulations than in other established regions) represents an opportunity to get ahead of this challenge. When it comes to mission creation, some organisations in the banking/finance, automotive, telecommunications, and hospitality sectors have been able to take the best global business practices and apply these locally on a highly customised level.

For example, long-existing family or locally-owned conglomerates in the GCC have been able to use the value provided by the “brand” proposition coupled with a nation-building process. Their reputations and prestige provide the foundation for a meaningful and tangible mission that best suits what the organisation stands for.

To capitalise on this, any statement must capture four common elements:

1.Purpose – the reason;

2.Core Values – the beliefs that solidify the organisation and its employees;

3.Future Goal – this needs to be aspirational and forward thinking;

4.Articulation – a statement that captures your intent, seeking to extract commitment.

As GCC-based organisations look to expand their footprint from the regional to the international sphere, they need to create, enshrine, and live by their mission. This is especially important when you consider the inherent risks associated with global expansion, especially brand dilution and service variance.

Organisations that are able to accomplish this will enhance how their employees connect with the spirit of their company, improving how these employees relay its mission to the customer and market.

Dr Ehssan Abdallah is a senior practice consultant ?at Gallup, Inc

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