Job responsibilities can shift dramatically in the course of a few years as a result of industry changes, technology advances, or increased efficiency. Most of us can look back to a time when we started in a job and were surprised by the difference between our day-to-day tasks and what we read in the original job posting. Individual tasks can (and should) shift over time. However, the overall goal of a specific position should generally remain constant.

Helping employees craft a personal mission statement can have significant benefits for your organization. Ideally, the mission statement should be one sentence and should distill the core purpose of the role. For example, a graphic designer's mission is not to create brochures or web banners; their mission is to visually represent the company's brand in the most accessible, appealing way.

It may seem obvious to leaders that roles change and evolve with time and that employees should be dedicated enough to automatically adjust the tasks they take on as a result. But how many times have we heard the phrase "that's not my job" around the office? Here's how to implement individual mission statements for your employees to make "that's not my job" a thing of the past.

Set clear expectations during hiring.

When looking for the perfect candidate to fill a role, make the mission statement a highlight of the listing. You can still list the current responsibilities and tasks below, but highlighting it up front will help set expectations with inquiring candidates and give you a firm basis for reviewing cover letters and resumes. During the interview process, ask questions that demonstrate the candidate's flexibility and understanding of their roles within larger organizations. Some questions might include:

  • Have your previous roles generally stayed the same, or did your responsibilities change?
  • Tell me your understanding of the responsibilities of this role.
  • What about the job posting made you decide to apply?

Make sure that their answers demonstrate their willingness to adopt their mission statement and take ownership over their position going forward.

Incorporate the mission statement into objectives.

No matter the position, identifying objectives is critical, whether it's something as simple as completing professional development courses or as complex as launching a major company initiative. When working with employees to set annual or monthly goals, ground those goals in the key purpose of the position.

For example, it may be your instinct to say no when a sales rep asks to take Spanish classes. At a glance, it may seem unrelated to the core role. However, if they've been seeing steady sales growth in Latin America and their mission is to generate revenue for the company, it may not be so off-base after all. It's important to help employees understand that those requests will be more likely to be approved if presented in the context of serving the role's mission.

Center constructive feedback around the mission statement, too.

In an ideal world, all of your employees would be like the Spanish-learning sales rep, leading the conversation about his or her role. However, it could easily go in another direction. Perhaps the sales rep has been consistently missing his numbers and seems to be at a loss for how to improve. The first impulse of many employees would be to work longer hours, make more phone calls, and generally double-down on the work that they have already been doing.

It is imperative to provide critical feedback in times like this and help them change course. Focusing that conversation on the mission statement rather than the disappointing performance helps employees focus on the skill or strategy gap instead of feeling attacked without a path forward. They may not always be able to come up with ideas for how to change course, but an employee will be more likely to embrace change when they are empowered and encouraged to find a path towards their mission

Not everyone will initially embrace the idea of a personal mission statement, but with clear hiring expectations and consistent reinforcement in regular one-to-one meetings, you will see an increase in engagement and forward-thinking ideas.