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employee engagement

A tale of year-end lists: managers should put the wishes of employees on their to do lists


Photo by katrha/CC BY

In a guest post on Sean Williams’ CommunicationsAMMO blog near the end of 2012, I advised management to be on their best behavior and improve employee engagement.

Putting Management on the Nice List

It’s the time of year when we’re all making our lists and checking them twice. A recent stop at the rental car counter gave me a peek at what me employees have on their wish lists.

While waiting for my keys, I overhead a customer point out that a policy was being implemented differently at another branch. The employees didn’t argue the point; instead they were eager to comply, but also quick to lament that management hadn’t shared the information with them. From the sounds of the conversation, this wasn’t the first time management had failed to convey a policy change.

The employees seemed disappointed, frustrated and a little embarrassed. They were earnestly trying to provide excellent customer service, but they felt doomed to fall short of a standard set by the leadership.

The rental car company is far from alone. “Tell us what you’re doing, so we know what we should be doing,” is a cry from employees that doesn’t get heard at the highest levels of many organizations.

Employees want to be a part of the solution, but if they don’t know the reasons for policies, procedures and initiatives, their hands are tied when it comes to execution. Employees need to know the why so they can have confidence in their role.

Management can give employees what they really want by making a list of its own. Instead of a wish list, it’s a to-do list that will make the business strategy the guide for of every person in every corner of the organization.

• Share the rationale for the strategy – don’t shield employees from harsh realities.
• Personalize the strategy for individuals, teams, regions, business units and functional areas.
• Put measurements in place and celebrate progress.
• Tell stories of all types of employees demonstrating the model behaviors.
• Encourage employees to contribute ideas within the framework of the strategy, and then implement them.

Your business strategy is powerful. It can motivate, inspire and guide everyone in the organization. Used correctly, the strategy can help management build trust, remove barriers, and protect the brand. When employees understand the strategy, they will be empowered to set priorities and execute consistently.

What else should be on management’s to-do list to make employees’ wishes list come true?

The Dotted Line: Strategic Planning and Purpose

206210de6355a3eb04e463b2_280x186The October 2013 issue of The Dotted Line features news + resources for planning your strategy and communicating your purpose. A full version is available online. Subscribe to receive future issues in your inbox.

Linking Plans to Purpose
It’s strategic planning season and you’re up to your eyeballs in forecasts, trend reports and competitive analyses. Once the planning is done, the 2014 kick-offs come in quick succession, then it’s time to execute.

Looping employees into strategic planning will help make their wishes come true and will keep you on the nice list.

But plans, vision and strategy aren’t enough. Clarity is essential because “if the intent of these plans isn’t aligned with the communication, people may be impressed, but deep down inside, they will not believe in those plans or act on them.”

If you’re sick of working on your 2014 plans, Mental Floss is always good for a break. Relax by taking a moment to consider your Halloween giveaway strategy. (Kids who hike up my steep driveway will be rewarded with glow sticks and full-sized chocolate bars.)

Personal Purpose
You don’t have to wait until your next life to find purpose and meaning for your career and business. Just listen to the Trappist monks and this successful entrepreneur.

No Purpose? That’s a Problem.
An organization without a defined purpose is funny, but only if it’s the fictional Dunder Mifflin.

A Deloitte study demonstrates that companies with a strong sense of purpose find more success, while those without purpose are directionless and apathetic.

Putting it Together
During planning season, a Connected Strategy:

– inspires, motivates and guides behavior all year
– fulfills the brand promise
– reminds everyone of the higher purpose

We can help you Connect the DOTs.

The Dotted Line: Communicating Strategy

248c015219d72dfe8bb22672_299x169The July 2013 issue of The Dotted Line features news + resources for creating a culture of innovation. A full version is available online. Subscribe to receive future issues in your inbox.

Communicating Strategy
When everyone knows and understands their role in your strategy, it’s easier to unite every stakeholder behind a common cause. The knowing is achieved when leaders consistently communicate. The understanding is achieved when managers listen to direct reports and appeal to their personal interests.
Although strategy usually comes from the top, it’s possible to create a shared vision with your team.
Regardless of where the strategy originates, the best leaders genuinely care about employees’ individuals goals. Corporate magic happens when everyone’s hopes and wishes are aligned. Fast Company says it pays to help your employees dream big.Throw a Theme Party

Think of your strategy as a theme party. Whether applying it to your supply chain or any other business area, the strategy helps you prioritize and organize seemingly disparate initiatives.Strategy During Crisis
To rally the troops during tough times, DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman patiently repeated the business strategy. She admitted this was her least favorite part of the job, but also the most effective way to drive performance.

Consistent messaging was key, she explains in this short video from Fortune.

Putting it Together
For your stakeholders, a Connected Strategy:
– is the theme for your most important initiatives
– provides a solid foundation amidst uncertainty
– points everyone in the same direction

We can help you Connect the DOTs.

The Dotted Line: Leading Change

64903e1e3c57356e63a26491_306x229The June 2013 issue of The Dotted Line features news + resources for leading change. A full version is available online. Subscribe to receive future issues in your inbox.

Want real change? The first thing to shift is the way you lead and manage it.
The CEO of Samsung kicked off a major change initiative by taking hammers and a bonfire to $50 million worth of products. The employees cried, but then they helped transform the company from a maker of cheap electronics to that of an innovation powerhouse that develops curved TVs and cuts “genius” deals with Jay-Z.

You might not need to be as dramatic as the Samsung executives, but recognize how the change is viewed from different perspectives and realize that we’ve been complaining about how fast everything moves for at least 140 years.

Leading Change
Change occurs when many individuals  regularly act in a new way.

As this excerpt from Leading Successful Change: 8 Keys to Making Change Work, by Gregory P. Shea and Cassie A. Solomon explains, focus on behaviors and the environment.

Change Avoidance
Change is always optional. Ask the company that produced the first color movies in 1922 (if you’ve never seen this footage, it’s a must-watch).

Ninety years later, Kodak filed for bankruptcy. Going from innovative leader to complacent follower was ultimately a failure to change when the company needed it most.

When initiating change, a Connected Strategy:
– unites actions with purpose
– provides a solid foundation amidst uncertainty
– reassures stakeholders

and more…

The Dotted Line: Government Relations and Engagement

dot gov - government internet domainThis issue of The Dotted Line features news + resources for creating a government relations program that increases employee engagement.  A full version is available online. Subscribe to receive future issues in your inbox.

Government Relations
State and federal policies that impact your business also personally affect your employees (but they might not know it). The tools of government relations – education, advocacy, political action committees (PACs) and thought leadership – can be leveraged to increase employee engagement.
At a time when voters feel more disconnected from their elected officials than ever, why not create a government relations program that engages employees in the political process and in the issues that matter most to the company?

Employees aren’t just your best brand ambassadors, they are also your best advocates. This study from Melcrum details how some of the smartest companies empower employees to be both.

Assess the degree of engagement present in your organization with this short quiz.

A connected government relations program could help you boost the score.

Exemplary Public Affairs
The best practice, exhibited by Shell, is to start with a clearly defined legislative agenda,  then find a variety of ways for employees to participate.

Reputation, legislative impact and employment engagement collide in this robust program.

When interacting with government officials, a Connected Strategy:
– puts a face on your business concerns
– empowers employees to become advocates
– aligns internal and external messages

and more…

The Dotted Line: Culture and Innovation

24e26d039d32b6d194102a79_280x279The May 2013 issue of The Dotted Line features news + resources for creating a culture of innovation. A full version is available online. Subscribe to receive future issues in your inbox.

It’s not enough for innovation to be a part of your strategy. It’s also not enough to have a few people in the R&D department, or a C-level innovation officer, who are solely tasked with innovating.
Culture trumps strategy when it comes to ensuring that new ideas continuously flow and are diligently implemented in your organization.  Therefore, create a culture of innovation that involves everyone and uncovers the best ideas in your organization.

Just because your entire team is innovating, doesn’t mean added complexity. After all, less is best in innovation.

Leaders don’t necessarily need to be innovators. Instead, they just should get out of the way. Avoid these seven innovation killers.

Exemplary Culture
USAA is known for exceptional customer service, and CEO Joe Robels credits the company’s culture for the success.

If your culture isn’t as renowned as USAA’s, shifting to the culture you want starts at the top of the organization.

If innovation is key to your buiness strategy, then a Connected Strategy will:
– create trust
– inspire ideas
– establish links to the larger goals
and more…

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