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Why Many Leaders Struggle with Sharing a Corporate Strategy

pointing the wayJIM DALY
HNI Minnesota President

It's the season for putting the finishing touches on strategic plans and annual budgets. In one of our recent blog posts, we made a case for sharing your corporate strategy with your employees and how to do it. Like many things, the theory is easy — but actually putting it into practice in your organization is tough stuff.

When it comes to communicating company performance and future objectives, many leaders are reluctant to share. Let’s unpack some common objections and fears:

“Employees don’t care about all of this corporate mumbo jumbo.”

That can very well be true — many times they don’t. Especially if your corporate plan is jam packed with business jargon and you need to be a CPA to unravel the financial goals.

Make your corporate goals matter to them. Paint a picture of the upside of achieving your objectives.

Show that growth means opportunity for them to advance in their careers. To have stability, earn a better living, and get benefits that matter to their families. To grow professionally, and learn something new. What speaks to each person will be a little bit different — so find a way to make it resonate and bring it back to what matters most to them.

“This is private information that they shouldn’t know.”

While every organization is different, we recommend erring on the side of oversharing and going for the highest level of transparency possible. Transparency empowers employees to help move the needle toward your goals. How do you make progress if you don’t have clarity on the end in mind?

Today, top talent wants to grow within an organization and know how and where they can bring value. The call for transparency is a shift from “business as usual” that is being accelerated by the newer generations entering the workforce. Millennials — who have grown up sharing their innermost thoughts via social media — are joining our organizations expecting (even demanding) this from their leaders.

The open sharing of information can be scary, but we have to ask ourselves what really and truly needs to be private in our company. What’s at risk by being more open? Is it bigger than the risk of driving talent away (or failing to fully engage it)?

“I don’t want them to think that a good year just means that the owners got rich.”

The best corporate strategies align individual metrics for performance with the company’s success — so when we win, we all celebrate together.

Corporate goals should trickle down to smaller goals, so each person has a concrete, actionable objective to relate back to the big picture. If you can tie it to their compensation, even better.

For example, if we want to grow by 20 percent at year end, individual goals could be:

Customer service: Help the organization achieve growth by identifying three customers who we could offer additional products or services.

Sales: Help the organization achieve growth by selling $100,000 in new business.

Accounting: Help the organization achieve growth by improving processes in Accounts Receivable. 

When each individual executes his piece of the larger goal, success is almost assured. Tying compensation, bonuses, or decisions to reinvest in the business (like purchasing new equipment, rolling out new software, etc.) to this can be very impactful.

“Not everything went as planned. I don’t want them to worry.”

Information is power. Having a realistic outlook on the future and an idea of where we’re falling short allows employees to approach their work in a more purposeful way. When companies give employees more transparency about what's going on, they can come up with transformative, innovative ideas and work to implement them.

Even in the most difficult of situations — impending layoffs or major dips in performance — some communication is better than no communication. It builds trust and confidence — and employees will respect the fact that you gave it to them straight.

“I’m not good at this communication stuff.”

You don’t need to be Steve Jobs. Sharing information with employees doesn’t need to be surrounded by fanfare. In fact, there’s a lot value in keeping it simple and authentic vs. trying to “overproduce” your communication.

If this is new stuff for you, it’s OK to start small and just share bits and pieces of your results or company strategy. Pick a channel that feels most comfortable to you. Here are some ideas to get started:

Record a voiceover video talking through your plan

Hold a meeting

Put it in the company newsletter

Write a blog post

Put together bullet points and share in a PowerPoint deck

Ask a team member to “interview” you and write it up

Frame it up as an FAQ document

Start big, start small, but just start! As the year goes on, keep the message alive by refreshing and reinforcing it on an ongoing basis.

What else stands in the way?

Do you have any roadblocks or fears that we didn’t address? What would help you “take the leap” in communicating your strategy? What’s worked well for you in the past? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Related Posts:

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Busting Corporate Strategy Out of the Boardroom

Introducing a Game-Changing Duo: Our New Directors of Benefits and People

What to Expect in Business Insurance in 2015


Image by Curtis Alan Jackson via Flickr

Topics: Construction Transportation Leadership / Strategy Manufacturing