That sinking feeling. When you get passed a lengthy, complex strategy and get asked to communicate it to the masses as soon as possible. Familiar? How would it feel if you were part of the strategic planning process, and you helped make it relevant and inspiring for your colleagues?
Here are nine tips on how to make that happen.
1. Get in there early.
Try not be to given the strategy as ’a fait accompli’. The best situation is to have a relationship with leaders and be involved in the strategic planning early enough to influence it. This isn’t something that can be achieved overnight – it involves having a regular dialogue with your leaders, asking them what’s coming up, and ideally, having a regular slot on internal communication at leadership meetings. All of this will get you in there early.
2. Focus on the audience.
If the strategy is shaping up to be complex and hard to grasp, bring the focus back to the audience. Often those writing the strategy can be too immersed in it to see if from the employees’ point of view. Step into employees’ shoes. How will it land? What questions will they have? How will it impact them? It will only be achieved if employees can understand it and relate to it.
3. Make it memorable.
How many strategic goals do you think employees can remember? Are the strategic goals long, wordy sentences or pithy, memorable statements? Distill it down. Be clear on the core messages and reinforce them across a range of channels and tactics. A visual is a great way to make it memorable. It could be a creative illustration giving a ‘big picture’ view of the strategy or it could be a simple flow diagram showing the strategy ‘at a glance’.
4. Share employee voices.
Hopefully, employees have informed the strategy in some shape or form. Perhaps there has been a recent employee survey, or employee focus groups highlighting challenges that need addressing. Make it clear how employees’ voices have been heard. Explain what mechanisms you’ve used to listen and how this has influenced the strategic goals and plan.
5. Take it from the top.
Leaders have a crucial role in inspiring employees about the strategy. They need to role model it, repeat it, and refer to it often. Leaders need to launch the strategy, showing how they’re all behind it. Don’t let it begin and end here. Provide a communication outline with core points and an ‘elevator pitch’ for them to have as a quick reference. It’ll help them stay aligned and deliver consistent messages, wherever they may be – in team meetings, blogs, site visits and more.
6. Empower managers.
Pre-launch, bring senior managers together for a special briefing on the strategy – for instance via face to face meeting, teleconference or webinar with the CEO. Give them plenty of room to ask questions, so they can fully understand what it means for their team. Provide them with easy-to-use resources for engaging their teams. Discussion guides work well – helping managers generate debate, new ideas and team-specific responses on what the strategy means for them.
7. Ignite conversations.
To really embed the strategy, create opportunities for dialogue. For example, through online Q&A sessions on social media, small functional group discussions, and face to face meetings with leadership. Address questions and concerns in a central Q&A and through follow up communications. Conversation is crucial to help employees feel ownership and to understand how to implement it in their day-to-day roles.
8. Bring it to life.
What does the strategy really mean for different teams or individuals? Intersperse strategy communications with employee quotes, photos and quick videos explaining what the strategy means to them. Whether they are finance people, IT service desk workers, or those on the shop floor – get employees from varied areas of the business to explain it from their point of view. Keep sharing stories and examples of strategy in action. This process alone will make employees natural advocates for the strategy, and help others understand.
9. Feel it, don’t just think it.
How do you want employees to feel after they’ve received the strategy? Inspired, excited, like they belong? Strategy can often be perceived as boring and staff can be turned off by the very idea of it. Have in mind constantly how you want employees to feel. Use motivating language. Paint a vision for success. Be clear that no matter where they sit – it can only be achieved by employees working together. Communicate progress and thank them for their vital role in making it happen.
I’d love to hear what’s worked for you too – what approach do you take?