Strategic Communication  

Communicating the Big Picture With Employees: The Impacts of CEO Vision Communication on Employee Engagement

Organizational leadership requires much more than a good head for business, knowledge of market trends or analyzing accounting spreadsheets. Important as those things may be to understanding your business, understanding employees, and how to get them to understand your business, is critical for success.

CEOs are in a unique position to define what an organization is, the values that it holds, the goals it should strive for, and the future it should embrace. Creating and communicating this type of organizational vision to employees is a vital part of effective, charismatic leadership. And fostering engagement – the ability for an employee to bring energy and feel connected to their work – is an equally important task for all leaders.

Researchers from the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications (UFCJC) and James Madison University (JMU) looked at the connection between vision communication and engagement. Yufan Sunny Qin, JMU assistant professor and UFCJC Ph.D. 2022, Marcia DiStaso, UFCJC associate dean for research and Public Relations professor, Alexis Bajalia Fitzsimmons, UFCJC Ph.D. 2022, and UFCJC doctoral student Eve Heffron conducted an online survey with 580 U.S. adults who were employed full-time across different industries. To study the link between CEO vision communication and engagement, participants were asked to self-report their views on how well they felt the CEOs of their organizations communicated a compelling vision, how meaningful they found their work, how closely they identified with their organization, and how engaged they felt in their roles.

Results from the survey suggested that effective vision communication from a CEO had a variety of positive effects on employees.

Vision communication was shown to work both directly and indirectly. Communicating organizational vision was able to increase levels of employee engagement with their work and a sense of both meaningfulness and organizational identification. When a believable, achievable plan for the future was articulated, employees were able to feel like their work was important and that they were significant in their organizations. While these are positive outcomes on their own, they also fed directly into employee engagement. The more meaningful they found their work and the more connected to the organization, the more engaged employees felt.

This study is notable because it provides evidence for both the impact of vision communication and also the mechanism through which these impacts occur. It is certainly worthwhile for organizations to know that appropriate vision communication can lead to greater employee engagement. Going a step further to show that vision communication increases engagement by also increasing work meaningfulness and identity for employees gives a more complete understanding of how effective leadership can help a workplace.

Armed with this knowledge, business leadership at all levels can use more directed strategies to improve employee engagement. Even if vision presentation itself is best handled by the CEO, there are many other facets of the workplace where others can step in to help create a sense of meaning and inclusion for employees, leading ultimately to more engaged work and better outcomes for all.

The original article, “Communicating the Big Picture With Employees: The Impacts of CEO Vision Communication on Employee Engagement,” was published online in the International Journal of Business Communication on July 27, 2023.

 Authors: Yufan Sunny Qin, Marcia DiStaso, Alexis Bajalia Fitzsimmons, Eve Heffron

 This research was summarized by Vaughan James, UFCJC Ph.D. 2022

Posted: October 18, 2023