Mission, vision and values: three words with big meaning. While often used interchangeably, these concepts each serve a distinct purpose and are a vital part of an organization’s foundation. Read on to learn the difference between the three, the role HR professionals play in developing what a company stands for and how to communicate the mission, vision and values to the organization.

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What Are the Mission, Vision and Values of a Company? How Are They Different?

You may see a company’s mission, vision and values on a website or social media page or hear about them on a TV commercial. But what do these terms really mean? Mission, vision and values are important foundational concepts but commonly misunderstood.

We’ll first define these key terms and then explore real examples from Ulta Beauty to bring these concepts to life. You’ll see in these examples how mission, vision and values can — and should — go hand in hand.


Mission is a company’s reason for being, the purpose it serves and the value it provides to its audience or stakeholders. It also articulates why the company is different and how it positions itself in the market.

Example 1: Mission

Let’s look at Ulta Beauty’s mission statement:

Every day, we use the power of beauty to bring to life the possibilities that lie within each of us — inspiring every guest and enabling each associate to build a fulfilling career.

This statement explains Ulta Beauty’s reason for existence and who its audiences are. It describes what the company does today and who it serves. In this case, Ulta’s not limiting their stakeholders to its customers (i.e., guests). They’re also harnessing the power of beauty to provide value to their employees in their careers.


Vision is what a company strives to be in the future, not where it is today. This is an aspirational, broader, future statement. Vision is intended to be motivating, inspirational, and forward-thinking and may even evoke emotion.

Example 2: Vision

Continuing with our example, Ulta Beauty’s vision is:
To be the most loved beauty destination of our guests and the most admired retailer by our Ulta Beauty associates, communities, partners and investors.
Here, Ulta Beauty is looking ahead to the company they want to be and how they wish to be perceived by their stakeholders.

Core Values

Core values are the most important principles to an organization, a compass that guides the way. Values are a company’s current and future ethics and expected behaviors.

Think about brands you like. For example, is there a particular hotel chain you prefer over others? Consider why that is. It may be because of the quality of accommodations, but perhaps it’s because of the positive service experience provided to you each time you visit. If that’s the case, it’s most likely because of the core values instilled in the company’s employees that results in an outstanding experience for you, the consumer.

Example 3: Values

Finally, concluding with our example, Ulta Beauty’s values are the following:

We work toward our vision and mission with our values at the heart of everything we do.

Give wow experiences, improve always, win together, love what you do/own what you do, do what’s right, and champion diversity.

Ulta’s values define expectations for their associates’ behaviors and culture, but there’s an element of the future here, too, which ties into their vision.

Why You Need To Define Your Company’s Mission, Vision and Values

Defining a company’s mission, vision and values informs the strategic planning process. Mission, vision and values embody who a company is and what it stands for. These foundational attributes are at the heart of the organization — defining its purpose, charting its direction for the future and describing expectations for ethics and behavior. The best statements are unique and concise. They should be clear statements, not paragraphs.

Once a company defines their mission, vision, and values, then they can determine their strategic objectives and goals in pursuit of the mission. Strategic imperatives and objectives should always be tied to an organization’s mission and aligned with its vision and values to ensure the company is focused on the right business activities.

How To Decide What Your Company Stands For

When defining mission, vision and values, here are a few questions that companies may ask themselves:

  • Mission: What do we do today? Where have we been as a company? What product or service do we offer? How do we offer our products or services? What value do we create? Who do we serve (i.e., who are our stakeholders)? How are we different from our competitors?
  • Vision: Who do we want to be in the future? What does our business look like 10, 50 or 100 years from now? Who are our key stakeholders? What kind of image do we wish to have? How aggressive are our goals?
  • Values: What principles are most important to us when running our business? How do we wish to treat our customers, employees and shareholders? What behaviors and/or ethics are nonnegotiables for us and should always be upheld?

HR’s Role in Mission, Vision and Values

HR plays a significant role in mission, vision and values in three ways: development, communication and leading by example.

Role 1: Development

Due to HR’s role and pulse on the organization, HR will most likely be part of the core team along with senior leadership who develops and defines a company’s mission, vision and values. The team will do this by seeking input from employees, customers and other key stakeholders. HR may also be involved in refreshing these concepts, as mission, vision and values could be reviewed as companies evolve and set new goals to achieve.

Role 2: Communication

HR is tasked with ensuring employees understand and can articulate the company’s mission, vision and values through clear employee communication. Read the section below for tips on how to accomplish this.

Role 3: Leading by Example

HR professionals should lead by example by demonstrating ethical actions and behaviors on how to live out the mission, seek the vision and, most importantly, model core values for their peers.

Tips for Sharing the Mission, Vision and Values With the Rest of the Company

Since HR professionals are responsible for communicating a company’s mission, vision and values within your organization and beyond, here are a few tips to help you through this process.

  • Develop an internal communication plan. Work with your corporate communications, corporate strategy and marketing teams to develop communication goals and straightforward key messages.
  • Determine which communication methods are best for your organization. Examples of communication methods include emails, all-employee meetings, staff and team meetings, company intranet, videos of employees talking about what the mission, vision and values mean to them, social media, blogs, lobby TV slides, posters and more.
  • Don’t forget about your external audiences. Be sure to incorporate mission, vision and values messaging into your hiring processes and channels such as the company’s careers webpage. What a company stands for is a major part of its employer brand. This is a prime opportunity to make a positive first impression on your candidates and showcase what your company is about, which can be a factor in attracting top talent.

Questions You’ve Asked Us About Mission, Vision and Values

Mission comes first. Mission establishes an organization’s purpose and reason for being. Vision usually comes next, then values.
No! They are only outdated if they are ignored. Mission and vision statements should be reviewed annually during the planning process and reinforced to the company on an ongoing basis.

Lesley is a marketing and HR leader at an independent insurance wholesale broker and managing general agent. Lesley has 15+ years of insurance experience. She holds a master’s degree in business management and is SHRM-CP certified.

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