Nearly 75% Don’t Know What You Need from Them to Succeed

As we launch 2010, I’m sure your strategic objectives for the year are top of mind for you, as they are for me. Let me ask you, have you clearly communicated those objectives to your employees? Are you sure? If pressed, could they tell you what those objectives are? I don’t mean can they repeat verbatim the top three to five objectives for the company. I mean, can they tell you how they, personally, in their individual jobs, will contribute to achieving those objectives?

If you cannot answer a strong “yes” to these questions, then you have an alignment problem. I would hazard that alignment is the most pressing challenge for business leadership today. A UK survey, conducted by YouGov, would agree:
“Employers are failing to communicate their business plans properly to their staff and are missing out on engagement as a result. … Only 24 per cent said that their employer had clearly articulated their 2010 objectives to the workforce, while a third (32 per cent) even doubted there was a plan for their business at all. Perhaps as a result of this, only 27 per cent of people said they were fully prepared for the challenges they would face at work in the year ahead.

“Said David MacLeod: ‘This is just one example of how poor employee engagement can put the brakes on improved business performance. If leaders don't explain where the business is going and what it's seeking to achieve, how can people be motivated or know what they're meant to contribute? Clear goals are a key ingredient for achieving performance and productivity - but worryingly this research suggests many employers haven't yet grasped this for 2010.’”

32% doubt there is even a plan for their business? 27% know how to face the challenges of 2010? At your next meeting, look around – immediately discount 75% of the people in the room. Look at the remaining 25% -- that’s all you have to work with to achieve your objectives in 2010. Do you think you’ll make it?

One of the strongest, most positive, and most effective ways of communicating your objectives to all employees is through the work. What do I mean? Sure, you need to tell your employees what your objectives are, but to get real alignment, you must go a deeper. You must reinforce for employees in their daily tasks when they help achieve your strategic objectives while demonstrating your company values. Achieving this level of alignment must rely on senior leadership at the officer level. HR is a partner in delivering the plan, but the impetus for alignment must come from the top.

What are you doing to communicate your business strategies and create alignment at all levels in your organization?

4 comment(s):

At January 11, 2010 9:17 AM, working girl said...

If I were kidding around, I'd say, 'It depends on which 25%.' But seriously: I agree that the impulse must come from the top but the manager is the only person that can work with individual employees to reinforce company objectives through their work. I'm beginning to think all roads lead to the manager.

At January 11, 2010 9:20 AM, Derek Irvine said...

Working girl, I'd say all roads lead THROUGH the manager. The top executives must set the tone for culture and actively sponsor that which they want to see, but the managers are the ones that must deliver on that promise and initiative every day. That's why proper training and consistent communications are so critical to success.

At January 11, 2010 10:07 PM, blank said...

Hi Derek,

What hope and opportunities lies ahead for MANAGERS, if they themselves are just as ignorant or doubtful as to what the business objectives are.

I would still say "the fish rots form the head". The only way HR is ever going to impress the allignment and engagement agenda is by holding the TOP leadership ACCOUNTABLE for the cascading effect. You reap what you sow. If the top takes a hand-off abdication role on this, you will get failure in strategic implementation and underperformance.

I am also compelled to think, there is a flawed following out there who may hold that the 25%is all that is needed to get through. I am speaking of some idiots interpretation in applying Pareto's 20/80 rule. I have heard managers say, "80% of the business results are contributed by 20% of the workforce. Hence, Working Gril's kidding may just be true because we are remindered of how people are categorised as "key employees". As much as I disagree, you do have such "selective" human capital models adopted by leadership. This is more so the case where people are categorised for the economic value rather than their human capital value. It is in such places where HR is displaced on the fringes of significance to hear the endless debate on who deserves higher bonus/increment between Sales, production, Finance, Quality, service, etc.

All the more reason why training and communcation is necessary to get the "fish" to listen more in understanding the dynamics of human nature and why they need to walk the extra mile, in validating if the everyone are on the same page. There are tools available to measure progress but are they ready to hear the painful outcome?. I cannot deny that all roads lead through the Managers, but they must first know it, to begin with. If the managers are not delivering, then they should be trained, coached and/or replaced. A lot has to be in place - vision, mision and values, objectives, resources, priorities, standards, incentives, development,etc.

At January 12, 2010 9:21 AM, Derek Irvine said...

Excellent points all, blank. Indeed, top leadership must be held accountable. In fact, that is one of the five tenets for strategic recognition that we strongly advocate. More on that specifically in this post: http://globoforce.blogspot.com/2008/03/common-mistake-1-no-executive-buy-in.html. A couple examples of executives that get this right are discussed in this post: http://globoforce.blogspot.com/2009/09/learning-from-corner-office-yum-brands.html.

You also raise an interesting point of discussion in the 80/20 rule. You are right that many misinterpret this. I prefer to think about the possibilities of what you could accomplish if you could encourage that 80% to perform at the level of the 20% -- that's the goal of employee engagement efforts, one of the most effective being strategic recognition.

And you are right as well about the importance of training, but that does not lessen their responsibility as managers. More on that here: http://globoforce.blogspot.com/2009/09/want-engagement-hold-your-managers.html.