Like every element of your brand, your vision and values are tools. They’re not just there to sound nice in the annual report; they’re designed to be used. Use them right, and they can improve organisational efficiency, customer experience and employee engagement.
An organisation’s vision and values are usually defined along with the rest of the brand, when the brand is first created or as part of a rebrand. When we carry out a brand definition project, we aim to agree the vision and values with the client at an early stage, so they can inform other elements like the brand’s visual identity and tone of voice. But that’s not all your vision and values are useful for.
Your vision is a brief statement of what your organisation aspires to achieve. You can think of it as expressing why your organisation exists.
For example, the Alzheimer’s Association’s vision is simply “A world without Alzheimer’s disease”. The Association exists to create that world. On the consumer side of things, Ikea’s vision is “To create a better everyday life for many people”.
A clear vision, and one that genuinely sums up the organisation’s reason for being, can do wonders for strategy and efficient decision-making.
The vision provides an end goal to focus strategic thinking. Short, medium and long-term goals can all be thought of as steps on the way to the ultimate goal of achieving the vision. It’s a constant reference point you can use to check that different parts of the strategy are all working together to steer the organisation in the same direction.
It can also help to simplify complex decisions. When you’re deep in the weeds of budgets, resources, risk assessments and other granular factors, having trouble identifying the right way forward, it helps to simplify the decision to “which option gets us closer to our vision?”
These are the uses we have in mind when we define visions for our clients. For example, Ghanaian investment bank GFX Prime’s vision is “To promote growth and sustainability for Ghana’s market, to achieve global recognition of its status and value”. And the Government Office for Science’s vision is “Government empowered by scientific evidence, policymaking that stands the test of time”.
A clear vision, can do wonders for strategy
and efficient decision-making
Values-based recruitment improves employee retention
Your values indicate what matters to you as an organisation. They’re principles that inform how every member of staff approaches everything they do at work. Naturally this means they inform your external audience’s experience of your organisation as well.
Good values set expectations. They let potential new employees know what to expect, and inform all employees what’s expected of them. Not all brands use their values in external communications, but they can also let customers and stakeholders know what to expect from their relationship with the organisation.
Values can do for your organisational culture what your vision does for your strategy. Values-based recruitment improves employee retention by making sure new employees are a good cultural fit for the teams they’re joining.
And values provide a starting point and a framework for resolving disagreements and conflicts. In our work for University College London Hospitals, staff told us that it was easier to open up about difficult topics like workplace bullying when they could frame the issue as “the way I was treated was not in line with our values”.
To make sure your values can be used in these ways, it’s important to define and communicate what living up to your values looks like in practice. Ideally, for each value, you should give two or three specific examples of everyday things employees can do to uphold that value, in their interactions with each other and with your external audience.
Clear and specific
If you want to be able to put your vision and values to use in these ways, it’s important that they’re clear, specific, and based on true insight into your organisation. Vague visions and values can’t inform decision-making or help anyone understand what’s expected of them.
But invest in getting your vision and values right, and they’ll be reliable tools – ones that will pay back that investment in efficient strategic decision-making and a strong employee culture.