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Mind the Strategy Knowledge Gap

Written by Jeremy Harvey on Wednesday, 13 November 2019. Posted in Leadership, People

The importance of getting your business strategy right isn’t a surprise to anyone, but the power that comes with communicating it correctly to your employees might be.

Mind the Strategy Knowledge Gap

The importance of getting your business strategy right isn’t a surprise to anyone, but the power that comes with communicating it correctly to your employees might be.

We’re living in an age of disruption. It’s all around us, and it’s effecting the day-to-day operations of all types of businesses across industries. Organisations are being provoked into action as a result, leading to new business strategies being created and existing ones refreshed. Of course that’s important, but really, it’s just the first step in a much longer journey. Unless businesses bring employees along for the ride, the mission will be doomed to failure.

Getting everyone on board means communicating with them in the right way, at the right time and with the right message. Internal communications holds the key to successfully disseminating your strategy. It’s no longer enough to paste posters around the workplace or bombard staff with newsletters and hope the message seeps through. A more constructive and contextualised conversation is needed.

We wanted to explore the extent to which corporate strategy is, or isn’t, being communicated internally by UK businesses, so we polled 1,000 UK-based full time and part time staff. We asked about their understanding of their employer’s strategy; their ability to comment on – and contribute – towards it; how engaged they feel, why they should care; and how that translates into their daily roles. We also spoke to internal communications experts working at blue-chip brands for their take on the situation.

Startlingly only 14% of employees said they understood the strategy of the organisation they work for. This must be viewed as a communications fail. And one that appears to have wider reaching implications than you might imagine. For example, 55% of respondents said poor internal communications could be a catalyst for them quitting; rising to 68% of employees aged 16 to 24.

The lack of alignment with a strong company strategy is affecting motivation levels. A fifth of respondents claimed they “never hear anything” from senior management, while 24% said they didn’t feel their company’s communications were honest. And while 28% of those feeling a level of disengagement suggested it was the result of ‘not having a voice’ within the business, in contrast, 76% believed good internal communications should, in an ideal world, be the root of employee engagement and happiness.

Strategy isn’t being contextualised for most employees. Even amongst the most engaged, only 28% said they understood their own role in the strategy, and just 22% were certain how they could contribute. How then can they give feedback on the organisation’s direction of travel? How can they align with the goals of the business? A strong, well-executed strategy should permeate to all levels of an organisation, so that everyone can play their part in bringing it to life, both internally and externally.

These statistics might make for uncomfortable reading, but there are steps you can take to tackle these issues. Firstly, investment. Part of the problem is that often the strategy doesn’t find its way out of the boardroom door. Proper internal communications functions ensure that doesn’t happen. Second, connections. Businesses need to communicate with their employees like they do with their customers. To achieve that, internal communications need to be viewed alongside marketing strategies, not as being secondary to them.

Thirdly, engagement. Whether that means creating a new internal network specifically for this purpose or doing something as simple as updates on a more regular basis. Fourthly, explain. Being open about these things matters. 44% of the employees we surveyed claimed their organisation’s leaders kept the strategy a secret. That’s crazy.

Finally – converse. Give them the opportunity to feed into the strategy itself and know how they are performing in relation to it. Recognising and rewarding employees who adopt new behaviours and approaches to their role that exemplify the strategy can be an enabler of harmony and change. The goal is to have a strategy that acts as a business-wide manifesto, a call to arms for all employees to be proud of and strive to implement.

About the Author

Jeremy Harvey

Jeremy Harvey

Jeremy Harvey is the Creative Partner at Clarity, a marketing communications agency.

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