How do you engage your employees in business strategy? By Kate Smith
Almost every business leader will tell you it’s important to engage employees in the strategy of a business, but how often do we actually do this?
Having a happy, healthy and engaged workforce is obviously ideal and anyone who has led a team is aware that providing clear direction and guidance for a team, regardless of its size, is extremely important. But exactly how do you engage employees in something like your company’s strategy? What approaches have you taken? After all, we’ve all got different talents and ideas and, as business leaders, we’ve got to ensure that our strategy is delivered.
When we launched our new corporate strategy last year, we decided to take quite a different approach and, after its revision this year to ensure that it’s still meeting our needs, we’ve kept to a simple yet effective couple of steps.
To begin with, we looked at the operational environment we have to work in and decided to take a simple and direct approach. Gone is the long document lasting three years that lays out definitive targets, tasks and numbers we’ve got to reach. Instead, we flipped our strategy on its head and identified the five big challenges we face now. We then highlighted the steps we would take to meet these challenges, resulting in a simple, cohesive, single page document – a far cry from the tome we’d previously produced! This made it fast and easy for all of our employees to read and digest.
The executive team used a cascade communication method to launch the new strategy, presenting it in person alongside other managers. Many employees from across the business had been involved in its development, but by briefing all of our direct reports, who then pass on the messages to their teams and so on down the management line, we were able to ensure that everyone got the same message and understood where this new strategy was coming from. Talking with people is not rocket science but, ultimately, it was an effective method.
To really engage staff we’re now looking at a couple of key ideas. Later this year we’ll link our annual appraisal system to the corporate strategic objectives so everyone can see how their work directly contributes. While it might seem an obvious thing to do, I am always surprised at how few organisations actually manage to do this.
We’ve identified a range of case studies, which we’re promoting throughout the business, of examples where teams have already successfully delivered work that meets our corporate strategy. Everything we do, achieve and publicise will also be linked back to one of the five challenges listed in the corporate strategy.
Finally, we’re asking team members to identify their own examples to encourage people to look at how their work can contribute to delivering the strategy. This makes the strategy real for people as it encourages them to link their individual tasks to the strategy, especially as we’re asking people to meet all five challenges we’ve highlighted. So far the signs are positive and it seems to work.
All of these steps have meant that there’s a greater awareness and understanding of our corporate strategy itself and how employees’ everyday work contributes to it. Yes, it required a lot of engagement and encouragement – and a bit of recognition and reward – but this work is paying off.