Turnover is a problem for most companies in and around Silicon Valley, but not at companies with a strong vision.
Case in point: Two of Elon Musk’s businesses, SpaceX and Tesla Motors, according to a partner at Founder's Fund. Both companies have something in common: an incredible vision, which extends almost irrationally beyond the products they sell.
For the few entrepreneurs who do not already worship these businesses, Tesla is an electric car company, and SpaceX is a rocket company, but the people who work at them have something completely different in mind when they go to work everyday. At the car company, they believe they are saving the planet, and at the rocket company, they believe in giving the inhabitants of this world a second chance on another planet if this one gets messed up.
This is leadership. This is vision that makes great companies. In practical terms, great vision is flypaper to the very best talent in the world. Once that talent is working, vision sustains them, reduces turnover and produces a disproportionate effort from every employee in the firm.
Two weeks ago, when Musk released his patents to the world, he unveiled the rest of the vision equation: vision begets talent begets competitive advantage.
He basically told every other competing car company: My vision allows me to hire and retain better people than you will ever be able to hire for any amount of money. They will be smarter, they will work harder and they will stay longer. Therefore, you can have my ideas because my people will always put me a step ahead.
By releasing those patents, he released himself from all other false idols of competitive protection and doubled down on vision, betting that vision would continue to draw in better and better talent.
So let’s talk about how to establish a company vision and what it can do for each stage of a talent strategy to attract and retain the very best people.
1. Develop the vision. Think 20 to 30 years out and really, really big. Think of the biggest possibility, then think bigger. Write it down and put it on the organization’s website, not on the homepage, but the careers page.
2. Incorporate the vision into recruiting. Make sure everyone hired understands what the organization stand for. Talk a lot less about what the role is and a lot more about the vision and goals that will make the company successful. Then make sure the candidate understands how those goals ladder up.
3. Keep the vision in mind when evaluating performance. Every person at the company must understand how their goals are aligned to the vision. If they are getting reviewed on goals not aligned to that vision, that is the CEO’s fault, not the employee’s.
4. Align learning with organizational goals. Ensure all learning programs are directed to aligned goals. Goals are properly aligned when visible throughout the organization so the entire workforce clearly understands them. If learning doesn’t ladder up to the vision, get rid of it.
Vision matters more than anything else that can be designed, produced, manufactured or invented. It is the essence of competitive advantage because it attracts talent, and talent is the only currency that matters in today’s market. If the organization is not focused on vision to produce talent, everything must be rethought.