confused employee

Do Your Employees Really Understand the Business Strategy?

Talking about communication--in a sense, talking about talking--can be a frustrating topic for many people. Communication is one of those topics that somehow manages to be simplistic and maddeningly complex at the same time. Take some recent survey results as an example:

i4cp's most recent business strategy execution study revealed that high-performance organizations are 3x more likely than low-performance organizations to regularly communicate progress to employees. Good to know. But the numbers (54% to 17%, respectively) show something else--the 46% of high-performing companies that aren't regularly communicating goal progress to their employees. How important is this? Regularly communicating progress and using a wide variety of communication channels are two practices that are highly correlated to overall market performance, that's how important.

Any time communication is brought up in a business setting, it's a lot like having an engine stop working in your car--it's an easy problem to diagnose, but a hard problem to fix. Poor organizational communication can be a similar issue. Nearly everyone wants their goal progress to be communicated transparently and regularly, yet the survey data suggests that this isn't always done.

However, the number of organizations that are not regularly talking about their business strategy, and making sure it is understood by their employees remains an issue. In the i4cp webinar, "Keys to Improving Strategy Execution," part of a series on building high-performance organizations, five strategies were suggested for improving employee knowledge of the overall business strategy:

Talk about the strategy at every possible event

Fairly self-evident, but helps draw the employee connection between the stated importance and the actual importance of the strategy. If the business strategy is said to be a major initiative, and then isn't brought up again until the employee's annual review, that's a failure to send the right, clear message.

Conduct alignment meetings

Making sure the goals of the organization are translated down to the departmental and individual employee is the responsibility of management. Employees need to be able to understand how their actions directly impact the business, which leads us to...

Identify the linkages

It can be difficult to explain to a volt-meter tester how her contributions are directly tied to the organization's ability to move to a more directly customer-facing market position, but the more that goals are aligned throughout all levels of the organization, the easier and more meaningful those conversations will be. Showing how a regional departmental goal impacts the next level up, all the way to the top, can be a very powerful instructive exercise for everyone.

Agree on accountability, dependencies and expectations

For a business strategy to succeed, there will have to be a change in action at some point. If everything remains the same, it's hard to imagine talk alone creating change. Actual systems that reinforce, recognize, and reward the actions that are creating the necessary change must be in place. These systems are themselves a form of communication, showing employees that your organization is taking the campaign seriously.

Revisit regularly

Don't assume that because it's been communicated, it's understood. This is not a question of fault on the part of either the person doing the communicating or the person being communicated to--it's simply a function of the human brain that we all take in information in different ways, at different times, and in different contexts. Understanding this and using the powerful communication tools available to create blog posts, videos, infographics, how-to guides, and anything else that will help explain the business strategy, is critical. No one has ever failed by over-communicating.

The findings from i4cp's recent research were covered in detail at the aforementioned webinar, part one of a series of five, all of which will elaborate on research in one of five key areas: strategy, leadership, market, culture, and talent. The next webinar in the Building a High-Performance Organization series will be The 5 Cultural Values that Drive Organizational Agility, Thursday, May 22 at noon ET (9 a.m. PT).