End users are the key to good vision management

Christian Nyvang Qvick, Senior Consultant, LEAD
training in psychological work environment and well-being, consultant, inter-municipal training

It's not enough for leaders to tell employees what difference they make to the shared vision through their work. It needs to be demonstrated concretely, and that requires alliances with the organization's end users.

The living example

Imagine you work for a company that manufactures defibrillators. You're at the company's annual theme day, and this year's theme is "making a difference". Your CEO opens the day with a speech. She mentions that approximately 5000 Danes suffer a cardiac arrest every year. With pride in her voice, she points out that many of these Danes survive thanks to the defibrillators that you and your colleagues produce.

Specifically, she says that it is your day-to-day efforts in the production hall and the development department that first and foremost help realize the company's vision of "contributing to a future where as many Danes as possible are allowed to keep their lives when lightning strikes".

You briefly think that she's right that your work is meaningful, and you also feel a sense of pride in helping to save lives. But after that, you don't give the CEO's words any further thought.

Subsequently, the director points out that she knows that it may be difficult for you to imagine the tangible and concrete consequences of your daily work efforts when she talks about "5000 Danes who suffer from cardiac arrest every year" or the "many Danes who will keep their lives" mentioned in your vision. Because who exactly are you helping to make a difference for?

You agree with her. During your several years in the business, you have yet to meet a single Dane whose life has been saved by a defibrillator produced by your company. The group she's talking about seems like a distant and somewhat intangible mass that you have a hard time relating to.

At that moment, the director invites an unfamiliar face on stage. It turns out to be a 53-year-old family man and husband who was revived three months ago when he suddenly collapsed in the street. Clearly moved, he expresses gratitude for still being alive - and he explicitly mentions that the paramedics had said he wouldn't be here today if there hadn't been a defibrillator nearby when he collapsed. It turned out that the defibrillator that had revived him was a defibrillator from your company.

Suddenly, the company's vision of wanting to "contribute to a future where as many Danes as possible are allowed to keep their lives when lightning strikes" is not vague and distant - but rather present and tangible.

Meeting end users resulted in extraordinary performance

Several studies have pointed out that if you want to fuel your employees' motivation and performance engine with high-octane gasoline, you need to combine the practice of vision management with end-user contact, where you make sure your employees meet a real, live person who has benefited from their work.

One of these studies took place in an Italian hospital. Here, the nurses' task was to pack relief supplies that healthcare professionals would then use to strengthen the healthcare system in a humanitarian disaster area. Before the nurses started the packing task, they were divided into different groups. Here we focus on two of the groups. One group heard the hospital director tell stories about how successful surgeries had been carried out in the disaster area because of the availability of boxes of relief supplies that the hospital had previously sent there. The second group first heard the hospital director's speech, but then also met a former patient from the humanitarian disaster area. The patient said that the relief boxes had ensured his survival after he was severely injured by a roadside bomb.

During the nurses' subsequent workday, the average number of relief boxes packed by the nurses in each group was measured. In the first group, they packed an average of 42 relief boxes. In the second group, the figure was 64. The second group performed 50 percent better than the group that only heard the hospital director's speech.

Why is this the case?

In the research literature, there are three different explanations for why your employees perform better when they meet someone who has benefited from the work they've done.

The first explanation is about impact. Meeting an end-user makes it very clear to your employees how their work has an impact, and that in itself motivates them to go the extra mile - especially for those employees who are driven to make a difference for other people.

The second explanation revolves around empathy. When your employees meet end users who receive your organization's services, they can develop a greater understanding of the end users' problems and needs and become more committed to helping them.

The third explanation revolves around gratitude. Your employees will feel appreciated by end users. Even if your employees are aware on an intellectual level that their work contributes to making a difference to other people, the gratitude from actual end-users will serve as a strong reminder that employees should always do their best and deliver at the highest possible level.

Read the full article from MandagMorgen here.

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