Pallavi Pinakin writes that clarity and purpose drive an organisation forward

Imagine being on board a ship that has no destination. The captain calls out instructions, the helmsman steers the wheel, the crew monitors the vessel; but no one knows where they’re headed. Sounds like a crazy scenario, doesn’t it?

Well an organisation without a vision and a set of core values is much the same. It’s simply trundling along, caught up in a haphazard array of day-to-day tasks without a big picture context or meaningful work. Employees often do not know what their company is all about, whether it stands for anything and what it hopes to achieve in the future.

In fact, in the absence of a clear long-term vision and key values, employees are bound to assume that the only real goal of the business is to make its owners rich – a perception that certainly doesn’t inspire a workforce! Motivation and loyalty take a big hit in the face of such organisational negligence.

Without a unified approach, the business is also likely to be plagued by confusion and ineffectiveness. Each division or manager comes up with goals and strategies that seem most suitable to them but may be at cross-purposes with another, and they tug the organisation in different directions. Moreover, without an overarching vision of the future, promising opportunities are likely to be missed since no one is looking out for them.

A vision is a statement that envisages where the organisation will be in the long term. A well thought out and specific vision statement offers a sense of clarity and purpose. A statement that simply claims it wants ‘to be the best company’ isn’t helpful. What does the company want to be the best at – and where? And what is its idea of success: to be the most profitable, provide value to customers, bring about social change or have the widest market base?

It is crucial to be specific because the vision ideally becomes the cornerstone of everything an organisation does or doesn’t do. With specificity comes clarity, enabling you to focus on objectives and actions that will take your business where you want it to go and avoid wasting time on things on the periphery.

A fine example of a concise, clear and inspiring vision statement is Amazon’s: “Our vision is to be Earth’s most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”

Once a robust vision is in place, each decision can be filtered through this lens to ensure that it is aligned with the company’s idea of true success – in other words, no more ad hoc plans and actions.

For instance, if your business aspires to be a leading national provider of affordable and ethically sourced garments, then everything – from source markets and contract agreements, to the types of fabrics and stores where products are retailed – should be guided by this vision.

Core values meanwhile, form the soul and essence of an organisation. What are its key beliefs? What does it stand for? Which principles are non-negotiable? From innovation to compassion, from passion to sustainability, there are thousands of qualities out there; and it’s important for a business to determine and communicate its own philosophy.

These values form an internal litmus test by which employees can weigh decisions and determine actions. For example, if customer commitment is at the heart of a company’s culture, then employees are aware that they’re expected to do everything they can to keep a promise to a customer or resolve unforeseen issues – even if it costs a little more time, effort or money.

If quality is a top priority, employees know that substandard products must not be allowed to find their way to the market, and quality checks assume added importance within the company.

Every organisation must make it a point to share its vision and values widely and continually with the entire workforce, ensuring that every single employee is intimately familiar with them. This knowledge helps infuse each workday with meaning, and has a massive impact on employee satisfaction, productivity and loyalty.

People understand how they fit into the bigger picture, the challenges and possibilities that lie ahead, and what they’re trying to achieve in a holistic sense – beyond weekly targets and quarterly goals.

Vision and values should also become an integral part of external corporate communications. Now more than ever, customers and stakeholders alike are paying attention to what a business stands for and seeks to accomplish.

These ‘softer’ aspects also offer a clear advantage when it comes to hiring new talent. Younger jobseekers in particular tend to research prospective employers, and choose companies with clearly defined purposes and values that are in sync with their own.