When it comes to vision-setting, have you ever been tempted to leave employees out of the loop for fear of what they might suggest? While not every idea \u2014 like \u201cbeer in the vending machine\u201d or \u201cfutons instead of office chairs\u201d \u2014 will help shape the future direction of your business, engaging staff in the process can make or break goal-setting. There\u2019s no one-size-fits-all way to ensure all employees share your organization\u2019s evolving vision, but there are many factors that can help, from hiring the right people to including them in the brainstorming process and empowering them to live your values every day on the job. Your Workplace\u2019s editorial board of seasoned experts in people management, leadership and change management share their insights into how organizations can maximize staff buy-in when transforming their vision, mission and values. FIND THE PERFECT MATCH A key part of the process happens long before your vision-setting does: recruiting talent that\u2019s the right fit for your organization is one of the most crucial factors in ensuring employees share your vision and, perhaps even more importantly, keeping them on board when things change. In defining what \u201cfit\u201d looks like, companies should already have a strong idea of the soft skills that they are looking for in an ideal candidate \u2014 whether that\u2019s empathy, agility or leadership. \u201cWhat we actually hire for is more that people value the same things that we do because they\u2019re going to succeed here,\u201d says Julie Einarson, Director of Culture and Communications at group insurance and workplace solutions provider Benefits by Design (BBD). \u201cFit doesn\u2019t mean that you\u2019re going to slap rabbit ears on at Easter and be the first person out doing the Easter egg hunt. Fit means that you\u2019re going to be curious, and you\u2019re always going to want to learn. Because adapting is one of our core principles, you\u2019re always going to be energized by change and want to throw yourself into it to explore possibilities,\u201d says Einarson, adding that HR professionals should be careful not to mistake \u201chiring for fit\u201d with hiring in their own image. Diversity and fit are not mutually exclusive. Communitech, an organization that helps tech start-ups launch and grow, has a detailed career page on its website that showcases its values to prospective talent to help them quickly gauge whether or not they\u2019re the right match. \u201cIn an environment where everyone goes all-in, you\u2019re always ready to roll up your sleeves; you look good in multiple hats (or at least you enjoy wearing them) and you don\u2019t take yourself too seriously; you embrace change and you don\u2019t see risk as a four-letter word; you have the right attitude and you put in the effort to back it up. You sound awesome.\u201d The page continues: \u201cWant a stuffy work environment with suits and fixed work hours? You\u2019re awesome too, but Communitech probably isn\u2019t the place for you.\u201d Communitech\u2019s Executive HR Strategist Nancy Buck says getting the right people is \u201cabsolutely critical\u201d \u2014 which is part of the reason why a member of the company\u2019s culture club sits in on each and every job interview. \u201cWe can look at our people and go, \u2018Wow, they really do fit,\u2019 \u201d she says. \u201cOur roles change all the time because of the nature of our work, so having people who are okay with ambiguity . If you\u2019re looking for a structured role, Communitech is not the place for you. We need people who are good with change, agility and flexibility.\u201d Sandra Carlton, Joint Vice-President and Chief Human Rights Officer of Kingston Health Sciences Centre and Providence Care, says that hiring the right people can ultimately help you avoid push back when your company changes tack. \u201cYou can train for skills; you can\u2019t train for fit,\u201d she says. \u201cI always believe people have decisions to make if the organization happens to go in a direction that doesn\u2019t feel aligned to them anymore. Then you have those open conversations about what that means for them. Do they fit anymore with the organization? If you\u2019ve hired right at the beginning, and you stay true to who you are as an organization, you can have those conversations throughout.\u201d PROMOTE PARTICIPATION Both of the healthcare organizations Carlton works with are currently in the throes of strategic planning. She says that their leaders are dedicated to ensuring that everyone \u2014 from employees to the governing board to external stakeholders \u2014 supports their future vision. They believe that consulting staff is \u201cabsolutely imperative,\u201d and so are using online surveys, focus groups and town halls to gather feedback \u2014 no small feat when there are 7,000 staff members working around the clock, seven days a week. \u201cI recognize not everybody will participate, but it\u2019s really important to me that everybody has the opportunity to participate, and to make that adaptable, flexible, nimble, and simple enough, and to remove any barriers for them to do that. If people participate, they\u2019re engaged in the process, they\u2019ve got some buy-in to it, so they can see themselves in the vision.\u201d While it may be tempting for the C-suite to commandeer the vision-setting process, all of our experts say that asking employees to contribute their ideas and perspectives will maximize their engagement and alignment around the vision as \u201cco-creators.\u201d Senior leaders may feel it\u2019s their responsibility to design the vision \u2014 or simply want to do it themselves \u2014 but that makes it \u201cvery difficult\u201d for staff to buy in, says leadership and organizational excellence expert Dr. Craig Dowden. \u201cIf you\u2019re being asked to do something that you have had no part in contributing to, well, that is a bit of a challenge. Those crucial conversations, and having those open discussions, are really important because if you create the vision and don\u2019t include people \u2026 they\u2019re either going to suffer in silence or they\u2019re going to be frustrated.\u201d He suggests that it\u2019s much better to include people early on, letting them know where you want to go and hearing some of their challenges, and then proceed from there. Sean Slater, Executive Vice-President of Sales and Marketing at Homewood Health, says even in organizations that feel a top-down approach is better for them, it\u2019s important to find ways to include staff. \u201cEven if they don\u2019t have an opportunity to contribute necessarily to the development of the vision itself, maybe there\u2019s the opportunity to contribute to how that vision comes to life inside the organization,\u201d he says. Slater is a fan of utilizing \u201cevangelists\u201d and early adopters to help communicate change and bring others along. He adds that even if HR feels frustrated by some staff digging their heels in, they should allow those staff to express their hesitations and concerns. \u201cDon\u2019t just park them or ignore them because they don\u2019t fit in, but bring them into the conversation, bring their questions or concerns into the conversation, and try and work through them,\u201d he says. Our experts agree that there are no wrong answers, only \u201clearning moments.\u201d \u201cIf there is a misalignment in terms of what an employee or employees think the vision of the future is and what the senior leadership thinks that it is, have a conversation. Figure out, \u2018So, what data points are they using to come up with their vision for the future? How can we maximize alignment? And what do we need to do as senior leaders in our company in order to ensure that ?\u2019\u201d Dowden says. TALK IT OVER Once the vision is set, clearly communicating it to your staff in a way that resonates with them, and regularly reinforcing that message, will ensure that they\u2019re clear on what they need to do every day on the job. \u201cSometimes organizations\u2019 vision statements are lofty and eloquent, and many employees just don\u2019t see where they fit in it. It\u2019s important that it really speaks to the minds and hearts of people they can really see how the work that they do contributes to that vision of the organization,\u201d Carlton says. Slater adds that leaders and HR must be open to feedback and keep answering questions as they pop up. \u201cBe prepared to continually communicate back against that original plan.\u201d And it\u2019s not a one-and-done, our experts say. For instance, at Communitech, staff meet every Tuesday just before lunch to showcase what they\u2019ve been working on, share information and hear from the CEO and other leaders. At BBD, employees use the company\u2019s tagline: \u201cto help working Canadians,\u201d whether in \u201cboast posts\u201d on the company intranet or in conversation, to reinforce the vision they\u2019re supporting, shares Einarson. \u201cWe actually don\u2019t have this stuff written on our walls. I know a lot of people advocate for \u2018put it on the wall,\u2019 but that feels static to us, so we keep a heartbeat to it, and an ongoing rhythm, by keeping it very visible where our employees are going and interacting and transacting as part of their employee experience,\u201d she says. Likewise, at Kingston Health Sciences Centre and Providence Care, you won\u2019t find any inspirational decals. \u201cWe don\u2019t want our mission, vision and values that somebody sticks on a wall, and people walk by, but no one really knows it or it integral in what they\u2019re doing,\u201d Carlton says. \u201cIt\u2019s a living document, it\u2019s a living mission. It\u2019s not just something posted on the walls, but it lives and breathes in the organization.\u201d To keep the momentum behind your mission, she suggests utilizing \u201ccascading goals\u201d \u2014 a process of translating goals from one level to the next to ensure alignment between organizational strategy and the activities and ambitions of individual employees. This can help staff see, and measure, how they\u2019re making a difference. And of course, knowing the \u201cwhy\u201d behind the \u201cwhat\u201d is critical. Dowden cautions that if staff don\u2019t know their purpose, they \u201cwill likely come up with their own whys \u2014 and chances are they may not be the most flattering,\u201d he adds with a laugh. \u201cYou can interpret a particular action in many different ways, and so I think communicating the why, and how the organization wants to live that why, is huge. We are meaning-driven creatures \u2014 we look for meaning in things, that\u2019s just how we\u2019re hardwired \u2014 so we need to have that connection to purpose in order to be maximally engaged,\u201d he says. Communicating the \u201cwhy\u201d is even more important as more millennials and Gen Z join the workforce, seeking out meaningful work where they can make a difference. \u201cWe know they don\u2019t want just a statement on the wall. They have to really have some meaning,\u201d Carlton says. Carlton adds that creating a workplace that employees want to come to every day is not always easy in a 24\/7 healthcare environment, but she adds she is a fan of always saying \u201cWhat can we do?\u201d rather than \u201cWe can\u2019t do that.\u201d BBD\u2019s vision \u2014 to help working Canadians \u2014 is continually reinforced: from its homepage to job interviews and throughout onboarding to ensure everyone comes in each day knowing what it is they\u2019re trying to achieve. \u201cWe don\u2019t want them coming to work saying, \u2018Oh, I\u2019m just working client service,\u2019 or coming to work saying, \u2018I\u2019m processing quotes today.\u2019 They walk through the door thinking, \u2018Here I am, helping working Canadians be healthy and financially secure,\u2019\u201d Einarson says. At Communitech, staff who attend conferences or meet with clients will bring their learnings back to the company to share with other staff, to \u201creally help them understand where we\u2019re trying to drive to and what we\u2019re trying to do,\u201d says Buck. \u201cPart of culture is really understanding the larger picture of \u2018why you need my work\u2019 and \u2018how my job really contributes to the overall vision of the organization\u2019 \u2014 that\u2019s what really gets people jazzed up.\u201d THE TAKEAWAY The future can be overwhelming. As the New Year unfolds, setting goals to achieve organizational vision will be front-of-mind for most managers and leaders. As you map out your plans for the coming year, don\u2019t forget to include the greatest champions of your organization in the process \u2014 your employees can be your best collaborators and most valuable assets. Our experts agree \u2014 if you want your people to share your vision you must hire for fit, actively engage employees to participate in the process and bake ongoing communication about your vision into your culture.