How much do your employees know about your business? Are they familiar with the competitive landscape? Do they have a sense of where you expect the company to be in three to five years? How much do they understand about your industry in general?
Developing Thought Processes for Your Employees
In far too many businesses, leaders fail to educate their workforce on the big picture. Employees have a particular job to do, and as long as they do it, they’re left alone. But this is much too narrow a view and it misses out on a key competitive advantage. When employees are encouraged to think strategically – that is, beyond day-to-day operations – they become more engaged and feel they have a stake in where the business is going. It’s a win-win all the way around.
How do you involve employees throughout the company in the strategic planning process?
Share key information
Employees don’t need to know everything you know, but they should absolutely be able to answer some or most of the questions above. They need to understand how their individual efforts contribute to the overall strategic plan, so they understand the larger ramifications of daily operations and their effect on the bottom line.
Emphasize the mission
When was the last time you spoke to employees about the company’s mission and vision? In order for these critical areas to have any meaning, they should be included as part of your ongoing communications with different departments and individuals. Let people understand that following the mission is an integral part of the planning process and affects the kinds of goals a strategic plan lays out.
Communicate with, not to employees
Because of their front-line experience, the people who work for you probably know your target audience better than you. It’s always possible to schedule an hour-long meeting with employees and take up most of the time talking to them. Imagine how much more profitable that hour would be if employees felt free to offer their own fresh perspectives on the challenges and obstacles you face! If you’ve hired well, there are some talented and experienced individuals in the business. Encourage them to speak up and share their ideas.
Educate employees on thinking strategically
While it may take some time and manpower away from business operations, there are significant long-term benefits to giving employees the tools to think about the future. One option is enlisting a skilled person in one area to talk to employees in other areas about what they do and their role in moving the business forward. (Why shouldn’t your IT people gain a better understanding of what marketing people are up to?) Another option is sharing the nuts-and-bolts of your strategic planning process at all levels of the organization. A lot of employees don’t know what’s involved in strategic planning simply because no one’s ever bothered to inform them. Once they get a grasp of the process, they’ll feel more comfortable speaking up.
Look at planning as an ongoing process
Some organizations only get involved in strategic planning once a year – though by now, most business leaders should know that a year is practically a lifetime in terms of changes in the marketplace, advances in technology, etc. Consider holding planning sessions once each quarter, with employee input. This gets people thinking strategically on a regular basis, plus it’s an effective way to monitor progress toward a stated goal.
And it’s not necessary to involve every single employee each quarter. Have teams of different individuals participate at different times of the year. This way, everyone eventually plays a role in the planning process and they’ll be thinking about the big picture during the times between planning sessions.
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