As businesses set their strategic goals for the year ahead, leaders are focused on aligning employees to these goals, knowing that the environment remains highly uncertain. Strategies will keep shifting to meet the changing needs in which businesses currently operate. Leaders are continuously working to inform employees of changes, major shifts in organisational goals, introducing new services and products, organisational culture changes and operational transformation. At the core of successfully leading a business towards its strategic objectives is communication. Without effective open communication, no strategy can be realised.
It comes as little surprise that leaders are finding it challenging to communicate the strategy to employees effectively to ensure alignment with the organisation’s strategic goals. The question is, therefore, how do leaders communicate the strategy in such a way that employees will connect with it and align their actions accordingly? The three-step employee strategy-learning journey will set you up for success when communicating your strategy to your team.
- Market context is an important but sometimes overlooked part when the strategy is communicated to staff. Leaders often assume employees already know and understand the external factors influencing the business strategy. They may feel employees don’t need to know the market context based on the scope of most employees’ day-to-day responsibilities. This, however, is a major pitfall. Market context is a necessary and important backdrop for employees to understand the WHY behind changes and the direction they will have to align to. By increasing transparency around the potential variations of the external environment, a company’s corresponding strategic changes will make more sense to employees.
- Organisational purpose and business strategy: Employees’ understanding of the corporate strategy should include a clarification of how the new strategy is different from what was done before. Clearly communicating how your organisation’s purpose and business strategy fits with shifting market trends will help you make the connection between market context and strategy-aligned behaviours for employees.
- Strategy-aligned employee behaviours: This is the step where employees finally see and understand what it means to them and what they should be doing about it. On top of the strategic changes in an uncertain environment, leaders are communicating messages to a largely remote and highly spread workforce. This means personalisation in the way the strategy is communicated should increase significantly. Some ideas include creating manager communication guides that provide contextualisation and prioritisation of the high-level strategic information. Consider including questions such as “what should I (as the employee) stop doing” and “what should I start doing” to make the strategy actionable. Leaders can also leverage employee stories to showcase strategy-aligned behaviours in action.
Communicate during times of uncertainty
The COVID-19 pandemic has been the crisis of recent times, but we all know it won’t be the last. Future pandemics, economic downturns, political unrest, and severe climate events are likely to occur. Every leader knows that communication during a crisis is essential.
During a crisis, an employee’s most trusted source of information is often their employer. For this reason, a leader’s words and behaviours can have a significant impact on the well-being of those they manage.
Leaders also experience infinitely complicated challenges during a crisis and are usually left with no easy answers. Often, leaders need to communicate complex issues to diverse audiences during difficult times. Here are fundamental tools of effective communication:
- Be Communicating with urgency will encourage employees to make quick decisions that will mitigate harm.
- Share as much information as reasonably possible. Transparency will build trust and shows respect for employees by implicitly recognising them as capable of coping with what is being shared.
- Show empathy by creating opportunities for dialogue. Listen to your stakeholders to understand their perspectives and challenges.
- Increase information over time. A crisis limits people’s capacity to absorb information in the early days. Focus on keeping employees safe and healthy. Convey crucial information to employees in short, simple, and actionable messages. You can increase the depth of information and shift to a long-term focus as the crisis progresses.
- Revitalise resilience. Accentuate the positive by sharing stories of hope and creating uplifting moments to reignite resilient spirits.
- Distil meaning from chaos. The crisis will end. Help people make sense of all that has happened and acknowledge how they learned, grew and overcame their challenges.
- Abigail Blair. (2021). Communicating Corporate Strategy to Employees in 2021. Gartner. Retrieved from: https://blogs.gartner.com/abigail-blair/communicating-corporate-strategy-to-employees-in-2021/
- Ana Mendy, Mary Lass Stewart, Kate VanAkin. (2020). How to communicate effectively in times of uncertainty. Retrieved from: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/the-organization-blog/how-to-communicate-effectively-in-times-of-uncertainty
- Brooks Holtom, Amy C Edmondson, David Niu. (2020). 5 Tips for Communicating with Employees During a Crisis. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved form: https://hbr.org/2020/07/5-tips-for-communicating-with-employees-during-a-crisis
- Paul Jackson. (n.d.). Get to the point. Retrieved from: https://www.academia.edu/8780295/Article_Get_to_the_point
- Sanika Tamhane. (2021). Three Communication Mistakes Hybrid Teams Must Avoid. Retrieved from: https://www.turing.com/blog/three-communication-mistakes-hybrid-teams-must-avoid/
- Tonya Brewer. What is Effective Business Communication? Retrieved from: https://study.com/academy/lesson/what-is-effective-business-communication.html
- Wits Language School. (2017). Effective Communication Means Business Success. Retrieved form: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/330960