A game of push and pull: how to engage your employees in your vision

Engaging employees with a compelling and inspiring vision is crucial for retaining talent, particularly among younger workers who highly value a sense of purpose in their work.

Research indicates that employees are more committed and less likely to leave when they find their work meaningful and aligned with their values.

Companies with a clear and compelling vision experience higher engagement levels and lower turnover costs, making this alignment with employees' values not just desirable but a strategic imperative.

But how exactly does 'visioning' contribute to employee retention, and what are the best practices for involving employees in creating and realising a compelling vision?

Having a shared vision saved our organisation

First, recognise that having a vision is not enough; it must resonate with every member of your organisation.

By doing so, you can develop a workforce that is not only committed and engaged but also less likely to leave, contributing to sustained success.

A compelling vision creates a directed passion towards a common goal, clarifies the company's direction, and unites employees under a shared purpose, significantly enhancing engagement and reducing turnover.

Understand, too, that vision in business isn't merely about promoting lofty dreams; it's about defining a tangible, achievable future state that is inspiring and aligns with the organisation's mission, objectives and strategy.

As Jack Welch famously stated: “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own it and relentlessly drive it to completion.”

Effective leaders understand that their role in visioning extends beyond creation.

They must embody the vision, making decisions and taking actions that align with it. This involves directing resources towards the vision and ensuring that corporate strategies and policies reinforce it.

Read more: Six tips to increase employee engagement in times of change

Above all, recognise that visioning is a strategic discipline. Specifically, it involves looking forward and then working backward to define the path ahead. You visualise a desirable future state and then work backward to determine what it will take to get there.

Communication is key. Involving employees in shaping the vision can significantly increase their commitment to it. This co-creation process ensures that the vision is not just a top-down directive but a shared aspiration that resonates with the entire organisation.

However, keep in mind that visioning has its pitfalls. Unrealistic or grandiose visions can lead to disengagement and scepticism among employees and stakeholders. Leaders must balance ambition with realism, ensuring the vision is challenging yet attainable.

Read more: What makes the perfect leader?

As an HR executive, how can you facilitate and support your leaders in developing and communicating a vision that resonates with and engages employees?

  • Create leadership development programmes focused on vision creation, offering tools and training to refine leaders' abilities to envision and articulate compelling futures.
  • Assist in realising the vision by integrating it into all the HR systems that impact the employee experience, such as recruitment, performance management, and reward systems, ensuring that every aspect of the employee lifecycle contributes to and reinforces the shared vision.
  • Help to create platforms for communication and dialogue where leaders can share their visions and receive feedback, ensuring alignment and co-creation with employees at all levels.
  • Strive to architect a culture that breathes life into these visions, making them a lived reality within the organisation.

By actively supporting the visioning process, you can empower your leaders and cultivate an environment where every employee feels connected to and motivated by the shared future of the company.


Michael Watkins is professor of leadership at the International Institute for Management Development Business School and the author of 'The Six Disciplines of Strategic Thinking'