As flawless as a strategy may be, if employees are unaware of it, its execution will be misguided. Here at Peakon, we’ve seen employees unable to answer whether or not they agree with their company’s strategy simply because they don’t know what that strategy is.
The Harvard Business Review hints at the gravity of the situation, finding that 70% of employees are unable to identify their company’s strategy given a choice of six options. This makes communication essential to strategic planning.
There are three facets of effective communication:
- Clarity and alignment
- Engagement of employees
- Reinforcement of strategy
Clarity and alignment
This pyramid shows how strategy fits in with other business planning processes
A strategy can only be communicated effectively if it is first clearly and explicitly defined. The strategy should be aligned with both its vision, mission statement and core values.
Attainable and measurable tactics and action plans should be set throughout the strategic planning process, so that employees understand how their work contributes to the overall strategy.
The different questions answered at each stage might be as follows:
Questions to be answered
Where are we going?
A vibrant rural economy driven by value-added agriculture.
Why do we exist?
Who do we serve?
How do we bring value?
To create and facilitate the development of value-added agricultural businesses.
What do we stand for?
Sustainable production, empowerment of smallholders
What are we trying to achieve?
Use local farmer leaders with business development skills to develop the businesses.
How are we going to progress?
Create a membership of twenty farmers by February 1.
What do we need to do?
Form a membership committee to recruit local farmer leaders. Identify forty farm leaders in the area. List their qualifications. Contact them individually with the expectation that half of them will join.
How will we do it?
Who will take responsibility for each action?
Example adapted from: [Source]
When employees are engaged in the strategic planning process, they become energized. You should allow employees to voice their opinions in a safe environment and communicating at every stage of the process. This might be done at a regular meeting or through an online collaborative forum.
When Zappos set out its core values, it sent a company-wide email to seek employees’ personal opinions, then sent around drafts to all employees asking for feedback and suggestions for revisions. As strategy changes all the time, continuous engagement ensures that employees are up-to-date, and that innovation can enter the strategic planning process. We have released our own report on engagement and why employees leave.
Leaders within the company should keep on educating and inspiring employees with the strategy. You can use traditional methods like company meetings and email newsletters, while also embracing new technologies such as social media. Messaging should remind employees of their role in the strategy and evoke the mission statement.
Communication around strategy should be more than one-way, top-down correspondence. It should be a byproduct of the planning process, which engages stakeholders and employees from the start. Strategy is the roadmap for which values are the compass, and so company culture should be developed to reinforce the values underlining the strategy.