A CEO’s Guide to Make Employees Care about Strategy
Most CEO's and board members spend a lot of time and energy, not to mention money, in getting their corporate strategy messages across to their workforce. This can mean travelling to every office, talking about it in videos, and printing high-quality flyers about specific strategic initiatives. This is, of course, a great thing, and most employees appreciate a visit from the CEO or a board member, but a real discussion is hard to achieve in a formal, planned environment.
The Power of Social
What surprises me is how people under estimate the power of a platform like Sitrion Social to get these kinds of messages across. Next to the fact that it is extremely easy to talk about and get into discussions around corporate strategy with your workforce, social platforms enable CEOs, board members, and management to actually steer discussions through very simple and non-time consuming efforts. Literally less than the time it takes to write a short email, dozens of employees can be reached through a simple post, like, or comment – and by reacting to the daily work of your employees, you can start to change the culture to your desired environment.
Lately I have been doing a lot of research in the sociology field of symbolic interactionism, see my previous post, and it helps clarify how communication between people flows. One of the strongest quotes I have come across is: "Humans act toward things on the basis of the meanings they ascribe to things."
Now apply that scientifically-researched "fact" to a CEO speaking about the company’s strategy for the next three years while he or she is talking about it during a town hall meeting or such; most people will listen, nod, and understand. There will be a couple of questions by the brave, the critics, and the pleasers. Afterwards there will be drinks, some snacks, and a lot of chatter around the talk. Afterwards everybody will go about their personal lives, maybe think about the talk right before they fall asleep. The next morning, most of the momentum is gone, and I bet less than 5% will talk about yesterday's town hall or talk, at least not about the strategic content.
Strategy Isn’t an Everyday Issue
Strategy doesn't touch the daily lives of most of your workforce, and it isn’t as vital as all the practical problems needed to be solved or worked on in a day. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Strategy shouldn’t be part of everybody’s work; work needs to get done. But where does an employee go if he or she does have a question, an idea, or a comment about your corporate strategy? How is feedback gathered?
If you are reading this, you probably have invested in an enterprise social platform that enables you to foster talent, innovation, and cultural change. You are working hard to outsmart the competition, keep talent onboard, and drive innovation for your company’s next step. For you, I have come up with these three steps to help you reach your goals:
- Ask your communications, or IT, department to set up a community strictly dedicated to strategy and open it to everyone.
- Find a 10-minute window that you can plan every day (e.g., right before lunch or while opening your email client in the morning), and set yourself a goal to, for instance, like five posts and comment on two posts.
- Choose a digital buddy who can help you find relevant content and take a brief moment every week to go off the beaten track and interact on content you might have missed.
Be determined in your social interactions and soon you will find that most employees will appreciate your efforts, feel better informed, and will start talking about strategy. It will take a bit of trust to go out there when you are not sure about interacting through a social platform, and maybe you will be faced with critical questions. But in the long run you will find this form of communicating will allow your organization’s digital culture to flourish and reach its full potential.