Do your employees understand your business strategy?


Before we talk about whether your employees understand your strategy, it’s probably worth reflecting on what business ‘strategy’ actually is – and how it links to your own leadership. Because strategy and leadership are intrinsically connected – the success of one depends on the success of the other.

Defining strategy

Your strategy is made up from the choices you make as a business about where you are going. What it is you want to achieve and how. It is all about deciding how and where you will create value for your customers – where your priorities lie, and where you will allocate resources. So, it’s fundamental to the way you lead – but it’s also important that, as a leader, you bring other people along with you. And to do this, they need to understand your strategy and what it means for them. Only then will everyone be pulling together in the same direction, engaged, motivated, and fully focused on your goals.

Making it relevant

For this to happen, there must be an understanding of your business strategy at every level – not just among your management. Each business unit needs to be able to see clearly how their daily work translates in terms of creating value for your customers and clients. Thinking about it in this way – in terms of value, rather than profit – shows how everyone within your organisation can contribute to your company’s success – even those who don’t necessarily have a direct impact on profitability.

A competitive advantage

But let’s take a step back – is it really so important that everyone within your business has a firm grip of what your strategy means? The evidence strongly suggests that it is – and that it is fundamentally tied to your success as a business. A 2013 Gallup survey supports this – finding that the top 25 per cent of companies for employee engagement were getting 10 per cent higher customer ratings and 22 per cent higher profitability.

So, there is a huge opportunity here – especially when you consider another piece of research that shows how just how badly some companies are doing at engaging their people. This survey – by Right Management Consultants – revealed that two-thirds of employees either don’t know or don’t understand their company’s strategy, and that only a third felt fully engaged, either with their jobs and their company.

This represents an opportunity for you to get an edge over the competition – if you can just crack the thorny issue of engaging your teams in your business strategy.

Engagement matters

Employee engagement effects everything, including how employees think about their job and how to do it better, whether they feel positively about doing a good job and whether they actively take opportunities to discuss work-related improvements with colleagues.

A 2014 report – the Towers Watson 2014 Global Workforce Study – showed that only just over a quarter of Hong Kong employees are highly engaged (compared to 40 per cent worldwide) while 61 per cent are either completely disengaged or detached. This represents a huge loss of potential. So, everything you can do as a leader to bridge this gap will put your business at an advantage. But how do you do this?

Time to talk

The logical first step is an employee engagement survey – sitting down and talking with your teams to find out just how engaged they really feel with the aims of the business, and how much they buy in to the way you’re doing things. Do they really understand how what they do contributes to the business’s success? And more importantly, do they care? It’s critical to find out the full picture before you try to change anything. Now is your chance.

Getting the message across

Once you do have a clearer picture, the challenge is to help more people to get to grips with your strategy – and this will most likely come through an overhaul of your internal communications.

Think hard about the range of people who you need to engage with internally – everyone from new starters to longer term employees who may have seen plenty of different strategies come and go over the years. You’ll need to address the needs of everyone and reach them in ways that they engage with and understand.

Keep it simple

So, keep your strategic message simple, meaningful and relevant to what people actually do. It’s important here to also always make the link between your strategy and your purpose as an organisation – by doing so you’re inspiring people to see how everything they do ties into a higher ambition for the company. Having a purpose and a vision matters – for example being told to work hard to make new kinds of batteries is much less inspiring than understanding that the batteries you’re developing are part of a bigger dream to create affordable electric cars that will one day transform personal transportation.

Ultimately, knowing whether your employees understand your strategy is critical to your success – because they are the ones who will be living and breathing that plan every day. Their passion and commitment will define whether you’ll achieve everything you’ve set out to do together – and if you will be successful as a leader.

– Robert Weider

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