As a business leader, you want your company vision to be embedded in your culture and accepted by every team member. This helps ensure that employees’ day-to-day behavior supports your ongoing competitive objectives.
A recent Harvard Business Review study analyzed more than 60,000 confidential responses to an employee satisfaction survey by a global corporation that operates more than 300 companies. Not surprisingly, the results showed that higher level employees, those happy with their compensation and work/life balance and those whose overall view of their employer was positive were more likely to understand and support the corporate vision.
However, the Harvard study did unearth some surprises, namely, that not all long-term team members are in alignment with strategies and vision. This may be because they’ve seen more changes that required shifts in their mindsets.
Regardless of length of service, employees listed these factors as the most important in ensuring that they believed in their organization’s vision:
- Job conditions.
- Training opportunities.
- Career development paths.
- Top management.
The final factor – top management – means literally that. By contrast, supervisors were not listed as playing a direct role in buy-in. They may, however, have an indirect effect as they shape employee’s tasks, teamwork and development opportunities.
Bring Senior Management Closer to the Workforce
This and related research support the theory that in order to effectively communicate your vision, you need to bring top management closer to the rank-and-file workforce. The concept of “management by walking around” rings true. For example, Danny Wegman, CEO of Wegmans Food Markets – consistently ranked one of the top companies in America to work for – is not in the office on Thursdays or Fridays. He’s out in the stores talking to employees and asking them what they’ve done that day to enhance the customer experience.
Make Sure Employees “Get It”
It’s no longer – and probably never was – enough to simply present your corporate case to employees and tell them what to do. It’s your job to keep them engaged and motivated. Help them to clearly understand their role in the company’s success and what that vision means to them. Otherwise, they may lose their edge and with it goes your competitive advantage.
- Inform, inspire and engage. Clearly communicate your company’s direction so employees develop a sense of direction and focus. Inspire them by explaining why that destination is so important. Engage them by illustrating what winning looks like and using metrics to which they can relate. They may not connect with concepts such as EBITDA or operating margins, but those that relate to their daily tasks – such as speeding up delivery time or reducing product waste – will be more defining.
- Keep your message points simple. You won’t get anywhere by handing out copies of your strategic plan. Instead, pull out the salient points and provide a clear summary. Use language your workforce will understand and media that they can easily access. On that note, if you’re not using social platforms, you’ve missed the boat.
- Be real. Avoid “corporate speak” by having your leadership personally deliver authentic messages. Make sure the messenger is a visible, well-regarded member of your senior team to whom employees naturally relate. They should humanize the message by telling stories and asking team members to share theirs. Collectively, these accounts will be a positive influence on culture-building behavior.
- Dialogue at the grassroots level. Employees are more likely to accept what their leaders say – and change their behavior accordingly – when they hear similar arguments from their peers. Designate a team of employees to be communications ambassadors and get others involved in supporting your vision.
- Repeat same. People initially retain only about 25 percent of what they hear and this percentage drops as time passes. To truly ingrain strategic messaging requires repetition in different media and formats.
The workforce development consultants at BrainWorks can partner with you to develop, implement and effectively articulate your vision and strategy. Contact us today to learn more.