There is a huge difference between a goal and a vision. A goal is simply a measure: you either achieve it or you don't. But a vision is a culture, an ongoing daily practice from everyone involved. Unfortunately, most companies misuse the word "vision" for merely a goal. They hold team meetings and spout off successes for the company, all the while missing the real vision that is going to excite someone to show up to work every day and pour eight hours (or usually more) of their daily lives into your business.
The reason most employees become unmotivated in the workplace isn't because the company is failing, or they don't like the work they're doing, or even who they're doing it with.
Here are three critical reasons employees become unmotivated--and if you can solve for these issues, you will ultimately build a better culture, and a better business.
1. They don't feel connected to the successes of the company.
If you hold team meetings and say, "We signed another big client! This is a big win for everyone here," and yet everyone sitting in on that meeting won't even be working on that client, they don't care. I know you want them to care, and you think they should care, but they don't. Their daily work isn't tied to it, so they have trouble relating to it and understanding it.
People become unmotivated when things other than their work are validated, meanwhile their actual work is rarely acknowledged. Especially if you're a big company, you have to work hard to educate even your most entry-level employees why the work they are doing is a crucial part of the business, and help them understand their impact within the company. This speaks directly to all the employers who don't understand why they can't motivate their Millennial employees--who are literally saying, "We feel like we're not making an impact."
2. They aren't given the opportunity to discover.
Do you know why children hate school? Because school doesn't really allow you to discover the answers on your own. It tells you how things should be done, and then demands that you parrot that method back for the reward of a high letter grade and nod of approval.
Employees react the same way to tasks that provide little to no discovery. There is a reason why innovative companies like Google implement time for employees to work on side projects. They want to nurture a habit of thinking, a culture of explorers.
I realize not every company needs to be, or even should be an "innovation" company. But there also needs to be a balance. You can't expect a human being made up of emotions to show up every single day and perform the same monotonous task over and over again like a robot. At least, not if you want to build a truly successful culture and company.
3. They don't see the value.
Every single person who works for you is a representative of your business, your product, and/or your service. Regardless of whether they work in sales, or HR, or IT, or management, it doesn't matter. They show up to your office. The people in their lives know about you, the company, and what you stand for. They wear your tag on their LinkedIn profile, their Facebook profile. They represent everything you are and do.
You can't sell something you don't believe in. And on that same note, you can't expect someone to pour their heart and soul into your company if they don't personally see the value. That's the real fit an employer should be looking for. It's not about finding someone with an impressive GPA or a lengthy resumé of after-school activities. It's not about finding an industry veteran who has just walked through the motions for the past ten years. It's about finding the people that truly see the value of what your company offers, and are excited to be part of it. That excitement will always last longer and deliver more value than any impressive resumé ever could.
As an employer, your job is to run a profitable business. And in order to do that, you need to have a firm sense of what is going to motivate your employees over the long term. Otherwise, you're going to spend more time putting out internal fires than you will be able to spend quality time building your business.