How Recognition Can Help Reinforce Your Changing Company Strategy

Does your organization operate under a 3-5 year strategic plan? Do you or your leadership team periodically sit through days-long meetings to update your strategic plan? Are you tasked with communicating changes to the strategy to employees in a way that makes sense to them?

Does any of this frustrate you?

If it does, you’re not alone. Booz & Company released the results of a survey of global executives on their strategic initiatives. Key findings from 2,350 responses so far:

  • 53 percent don’t feel their company’s strategy will lead to success;
  • 67 percent  say their company’s capabilities do not fully support the company’s strategy and the way it creates value in the market; and,
  • Only 21 percent think their company as a “right to win” in all the markets it competes in.

Employees aren’t as productive as they can be

The article cites reasons for these findings including the ever accelerating speed of change, the inability of the traditional 3-5 year strategic planning cycle to keep up, and the addition of too many new strategies without eliminating obsolete ones.

The recent global recession proved the need for organizations to be able to quickly adapt to changing market needs.

“Simply put, almost two-thirds of all employees are 33 percent as productive as they can be because they don’t understand what they are now asked to do.”

According to the executives in the Booz & Company report, little progress has been made. What can you do? Few are able to move the ship quickly enough to target new objectives. How can you refocus hundreds to thousands to hundreds of thousands of employees on new objectives at the speed of today’s business world?

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Critically, even if your employees do know the new objectives, do they understand how that change in direction may also affect what they should be doing in their everyday work?

How responsibility progresses

There is a clear progression in responsibility:

  • Senior executives set the strategy: The Booz & Company report highlights one challenge of strategy today is what I call “compound strategy” – adding another strategic objective to address a new challenge without evaluating the overall strategic picture. Soon, too many strategies pile up, overlap and even contradict each other. In such an environment, no average employee can be expected to perform at peak productivity. Senior executives must first rigorously adapt and alter strategy to meet rapidly changing organization and market needs, but keep it focused. Senior executives then have the responsibility of ensuring this focus is being properly communicated and executed through the ranks. They must set the example by asking employees at all levels throughout the organization to spot when the objectives are being achieved in line with the company values, calling those moments out for celebration.
  • Direct managers translate and communicate the strategy to employees: One of the strongest, most positive, and most effective ways of communicating strategic objectives to all employees is through their work. Managers can help employees focus on those tasks and priorities that most contribute to achieving strategic objectives through frequent, positive and very specific recognition of employees when they perform in a way to contributes to the strategy. This reinforces for employees in their daily tasks when they help achieve changed strategic objectives while demonstrating company values.
  • Employees prioritize work that advances the strategy: Now with clear direction and an understanding of expectations, employees are better able and more willing to prioritize their workload to focus on strategic objectives. A corollary to this step – employees also encourage each other to remain focused as a team on changing strategy by pausing in their work to praise and appreciate the efforts of their peers. It’s everyone’s responsibility – not just management – to reinforce the strategy and, indeed, the company culture through appropriate recognition.

How effectively are changing strategic objectives communicated throughout your organization? What methods are used today? What methods do you think should be added for greater effectiveness?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at irvine@globoforce.com.

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