D uring a visit to the NASA space center in 1962, President John F. Kennedy noticed a janitor who was deeply concentrated on his work. He interrupted his tour, walked over to the man and asked him what he was doing that he was soconcentrated on his work. "Well, Mr. President," the janitor responded, "I'm helping put a man on the moon.”
The story may be apocryphal, but it perfectly describes the ideal of having engaged workers who are passionate about their workplace. But in this age of office kegs and ping–pong tables, people often confuse good perks for company passion. Instead, company passion comes from having a united team behind a strong company vision.
Perks Aren’t Passion
There’s a booming table tennis market in Silicon Valley. In today’s world, where Bay Area Startups are a dime a dozen, companies are trying to outdo each other with company perks to attract new talent. These perks may initially draw talent to your company, but unless your company is trying to build the best ping–pong table in California, having these perks doesn’t immediately equate to more engaged employees. Having the greatest workplace diversions are great, but passion for your work must from the work itself.
Company Vision Drives Passion
NASA’s mission statement is “to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery, and aeronautics research.” Pretty close to what the janitor told the president.
Plenty of companies today have mission statements that focus their company vision on something bigger than the basic products they sell. Life is Good, the Boston–based apparel company, has a mission of “Spreading the power of optimism.” IKEA, the Swedish furniture company, claims “We make everyday life better for our customers.” Google states that its mission is “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
If your company’s vision calls its employees to a higher purpose than just building a better selling iPhone app, employee engagement follows naturally.”
Knowing Your Team Helps
Finally, a company with a strong vision needs a united team behind it. Knowing your team means knowing who have the skills you need to fill different project roles. A team that knows itself has fewer miscommunications and more aligned expectations. Having a united, passionate team behind a purpose–driven company vision is a recipe for employee engagement. And if you can get your employees engaged behind the company vision, your workplace culture is already amazing. And maybe, next time someone asks your new office intern what he’s doing, he’ll reply “I’m helping the greatest company build a better world.” That’s a story worth repeating.