A company vision is a long-term, inspiring goal that sets the direction for a business. A well-crafted vision statement can also be a powerful tool for attracting and retaining top talent. This article sets out how to define and create a company vision statement that makes you a destination employer.
How important is a corporate vision for company culture and employee engagement? Very.
According to Forbes, employees who do not find their company’s vision to be meaningful have average engagement scores of just around 16%.
One of the problems here is a lack of articulation and communication. Many companies do not spend time defining vision statements for internal purposes, and some set a company vision but do not communicate it well.
Around 63% of workers don’t understand their company vision at all. Not only is this bad for engagement but if an employee doesn’t understand the company vision, they likely don’t understand specific goals either. This makes it almost impossible to align their work with company culture and values.
Creating a vision for any company comes from understanding where you are and stating how you want the business to impact the world.
What a company vision is not
Part of clearly defining your vision is defining what “vision” means in the first place.
Vision is not your company’s mission. The mission is what is already grounded in the day-to-day activities of the organization, and is not as forward thinking. The mission summarizes all the concrete goals that employees are already working to meet.
A corporate vision is also not a strategy. Vision is a where and a what, while strategy is a how. Strategy explains what deliverables drive the company toward its vision. It is the gears and mechanisms that make a vehicle move, as well as the physics behind those. Vision is the destination you are driving to.
How to create a company vision statement
All three – mission, strategy, and vision – are indispensable. Missing any single piece leaves you without a holistically complete business. So, how do you define a vision and communicate it to an organization? The answer is by using a vision statement. Vision statements may be lofty and future-based, but they still need to be grounded enough to be actionable and understood by a wide audience.
Company vision examples that inspire
This is Coca Cola’s vision statement.
“Our vision is to craft the brands and choice of drinks that people love, to refresh them in body & spirit. And done in ways that create a more sustainable business and better shared future that makes a difference in people’s lives, communities and our planet.”
Why does it work
You might argue that soft drinks aren’t going to change the world. Coca Cola disagrees. The company sets high goals though, aiming to refresh people in “body & spirit”.
This seems to work because it taps into the idea that food and drink are an essential part of human life and culture. From picnics with friends to family dinners, all of our rituals and activities revolve around nourishment.
Nike’s vision statement is:
“We see a world where everybody is an athlete — united in the joy of movement. Driven by our passion for sport and our instinct for innovation, we aim to bring inspiration to every athlete in the world and to make sport a daily habit.”
Why does it work
As with Coca Cola, Nike’s company vision is global and inclusive. One especially clever thing about the sporting giant’s vision is that it also helps employees to define who they are by what they want to do. This vision definition includes the phrase “our passion for sport,” which acts as a call out to all employees, bringing them together as one.
Amazon’s company vision statement is as follows:
“Our vision is to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavours to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.”
Why does it work
Not content with “globe” or “world,” the online retailer wants to be “Earth’s most customer-centric company” – presumably Mars will be next. Earth is an interesting word choice, not only because of its inclusivity, but also because it ties the company to an idea of sustainability.
This vision statement is also unique because it focuses on value.
Each statement is different then, and highly dependent on the organization’s shared values, business mission, and company strategy. This is what the vision does, brings together disparate ideas into one progressive, totalizing goal.
How can you create a vision statement to guide everyone
These 7 simple steps will help define your company vision.
1. Know your goals
Setting appropriate goals is an art. Anyone who has done it successfully will tell you that goal setting helps them accomplish more than they even realized was possible.
Setting goals includes not only where you plan to end up but the steps that will get you there. If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice that including those steps was defined earlier as “strategy,” not vision. Strategy and vision are connected though, and in constructing a company’s vision, consider its goals. In the case of Nike’s vision statement, the company suggests it wants to help everyone make sport a daily habit. This is actually close to a goal because it is an actionable objective. This goal is not a strategy, however, because it has a global aim rather than specific steps.
2. Consider values in your company vision
Every organization has company values, and it’s important to consider them within a business’s vision.
These can be words, such as “innovation” or “communication”. Or, they can be phrases, for example, “access to education for all” or “commitment to customer service excellence”.
You may discover that what you want your company’s values to be are not what they are in the current moment. This type of self-discovery is important and factors into creating your vision.
When you have defined the values by which you conduct business or hope to conduct business, lay them out side by side with your goals. Understand how these categories interact and what you can create from the sum of their parts.
3. Building on a mission statement for a great company vision
Obviously if you run a law firm, your vision won’t be to transform the company into a restaurant chain. This is a silly and extreme example, but the point it makes is that a vision is an extension of what you already do successfully.
How to construct a mission statement and define your company’s mission is a topic for another article entirely, but you should look to your mission statement as a jumping off point for your vision. Write out your mission if a mission statement doesn’t already exist, and again lie this side by side with the goals and values you have already established. These three ingredients together are what you will consider in building your vision.
Beyond these, the rest of the steps in defining your company vision deal with refining and solidifying it.
Fastcompany.com offers an insight on how to write a great mission statement for your business.
4. A simple company vision is key
As we saw in the company vision examples above, simplicity is important. Keeping your vision simple serves a twofold purpose.
On one hand, employees must understand and support the vision. No one can accomplish this if the statement is overly complicated and has too many layers.
Additionally, keeping your vision simple makes it more likely you will meet your goals and turn your vision into a reality. A complicated vision is a sign that it is reaching in too many directions, which will limit the quality of each in the end. All of this will keep you from concentrating your energy in the direction where it will go furthest. Carefully consider what parts of your vision are absolutely necessary and dispose of the chaff with the knowledge that you’re guaranteeing a quality final product.
5. Don’t be ambiguous
This step can be difficult as you’re building a list of desires that aren’t based in what you’re actively accomplishing on a day-to-day basis, but specificity is key.
While lofty, your vision still needs to be so clear that you can show it to five independent observers and they can all come up with the exact same interpretation.
Here are two practices that promote specificity:
- Write the vision down and say it aloud. Just thinking about a statement may allow more ambiguity to creep in, but writing and speaking force the creator (or team) to put the statement in concrete terms and share it with others.
- Follow this up with editing, not only immediately after, but a week or a month after it’s initially agreed. Perspective and distance can help to define vision also.
6. Think about the future
This has been implied in previous steps that focused on building your vision based on your mission. However, it’s worth reiterating that your vision should be forward looking.
This means thinking of how your industry’s landscape will look in the future. It also means considering how to keep your vision sustainable and scalable. A vision that cannot sustain rapid growth always runs the risk of holding back your business. Consider how to carry your business on for years to come. This brings us to our final step in defining your company vision.
7. Don’t be constrained by time
Although many inspiring company vision statement examples talk about “the future,” many understand that the job is never over.
When choosing words to include in a company vision, think about verbs that describe an ongoing state rather than reaching an endpoint. This can especially suit larger organizations that have already achieved market recognition.
Microsoft’s company vision is:
“We strive to create local opportunity, growth, and impact in every country around the world.”
The statement works because it describes how the organization is continuously engaged in changing the world. The company would appear very different if the same statement was:
“We will be the company that creates local opportunity, growth, and impact in every country around the world.”
A company with this second statement could be characterized as a tech startup aiming to grow their own market position. By assuming that it is already changing the world, Microsoft asserts its own status too.
Another good example of this is Dunkin’ Donuts, which has the company vision statement:
“To be always the desired place for great coffee beverages and delicious complementary doughnuts & bakery products to enjoy with family and friends.”
This is subtly different from saying:
“To be the desired place for great coffee beverages and delicious complementary doughnuts & bakery products to enjoy with family and friends.”
Dunkin’ is saying to its staff and customers that it is already the number one place and wants to stay there.
Don’t forget to communicate
A company vision statement is important not just as a branding exercise or because it sets long-term goals, but because it has the power to make work more meaningful for employees.
For people to be inspired, however, the vision needs to be visible. If your company’s principles are locked away in a PowerPoint presentation that nobody looks at, what’s the point? Create a space on your intranet, use prominent signage on your office walls, make the vision the brightest part of your recruitment process. If you inspire them they will come (and hopefully stay).