Strategic impact — Employees who know your strategy perform better

In Business Class, Connecting to Communicate on February 16, 2010 at 3:38 pm

If your organization is “typical,” how many of your employees understand your strategy? 80 percent? 65 percent? 50 percent?

How about “None of the above?” According to a Right Management Consultants survey, only about one-third of all employees in a typical organization understand their organization’s strategy.

Why does it matter? Because it has a direct impact on profitability. Employees who don’t understand the strategy disengage. Disengaged employees are more likely to leave an organization; their performance levels are low; investments in their training and development are wasted, and they’re drags on workplace morale.

Why don’t these people know the strategy? Poor communication. The worst part? Sometimes this information gap is intentional – 28 percent of the surveyed organizations only share strategy with leadership teams. In other cases, it’s a lack of effort or understanding – almost a quarter of respondents say they simply haven’t gotten around to communicating strategy to employees, and 15 percent say they don’t know how to communicate the strategies.

None of those are good excuses. Communicating strategy to employees is essential and easy. Here are a few basic guidelines: 

  •  Make it simple. Boil down your strategy to a few simple, numbered statements. Don’t bury the strategy in flowery mission statements or jargon-filled white papers. The added bonus here? Forced to crystallize its meaning, the leadership team will better understand and agree on the strategy.
  •  Be overt. Once you develop a concise statement of strategy, get it out to the people. Hold special meetings, or make it an agenda item at regular meetings. Send out special e-messages, post in on the Intranet. Distribute and post the strategy for all to see.
  • Repeat yourself. The most common lament among execs when asked why their people don’t the strategy? “They should … I told them in an email earlier this year.” Don’t communicate the strategy once and assume everybody got it or gets it. Repeat it. Find excuses to send it out again. Make it the focus of stories on your Intranet, in newsletters … everywhere.
  • Create a dialogue. Invite comment or criticisms from employees. Ask them questions and invite them to ask you questions.
  • Create alignment. As part of your employee review process (you do have an employee review process, right?), challenge employees to align their goals for the coming year with the organization’s goals. Help them see how they connect to the bigger picture.
  • Get managers on board. Managers are key information sources for employees. If the bosses don’t know or understand your strategy, they certainly can’t communicate it.
  • Report on progress. Let everyone know how you’re doing in striving for your goals and objectives, and be prepared to report on strengths and weaknesses in the strategy.
  • Hire for communications ability. Join a growing trend – about 60 percent of organizations report they are seeking executives who can communicate strategically and interpersonally.
  •  Re-visit and reconfigure. A strategy should be reconsidered regularly to make sure it still fits with the organization and marketplace realties. And once it is reconsidered, any changes should be communicated quickly and clearly.

Studies have shown that employees who understand the big picture that surrounds the “small picture” of their jobs are more productive and dedicated employees. Make it a point to successfully communicate your strategy to your entire workforce, from top to bottom, and everyone will benefit.


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