According to a recent report from author and consultant William Schiemann, only 14% of employees have a good understanding of their company’s strategy and direction. Another poll from Gallup indicated that only 26% of employees are “engaged.”Hands together

No matter how you slice the numbers, many of your employees don’t care or don’t understand your strategic plan. You know, that document you spend hours talking about and producing. The one that defines your differentiation and drives your success.

Let’s be honest: if your employees don’t “get” your strategic plan, it is doomed to failure. So how do you get your employees to understand your strategy? Here’s a hint: it’s not by going branch to branch and telling them your strategy after the planning session—it takes much more effort. Here are four tips to increase employee interaction when it comes to the strategic planning process.

1)      Involve employees—From the very beginning, get employees talking about your strategic plan and what your credit union should do. You can survey the staff, hold town hall type meetings or just chat informally with individual employees. We often involve managers (and that’s a good thing) in the planning process. But to truly gain staff buy-in we need to take that involvement to everyone in the organization. Questions to ask the staff include, “what should we accomplish next year,” “how can we improve,” “what new products should we offer,” and “if you were the credit union king/queen what would you do?” 

2)      Engage employees—It’s not enough just to ask employees questions; we need to actually engage them in the process. You might want to include a front-line staff or two in the planning session (someone young with a lot of ambition). Doing so means they have a voice. You could also conduct mini-planning sessions for each department. Another idea is to give each strategic initiative to a group of employees and have them brainstorm the tactics for achieving the goal. You can even have them perform a skit or make a video to illustrate how to live it. 

3)      Challenge employees—A good coach will sometimes get in a star player’s face and challenge them to live up to their talents. Don’t assume the worst of your employees; assume the best.  Let them know you’ve set stretch goals for the year. Let them know you have high expectations. And while challenging them, go deep with the strategic plan. Don’t just lay it out and say this is it: tell them this is the mountain we are going to climb and we want you to go with us. People are smart and the more you communicate the plan the more likely it is they will understand it. 

4)      Train employees—Most credit unions use an outside facilitator to help them with their strategic plans. And a lot of these facilitators are also speakers who could motivate your staff. You might be able to get a discount from a speaker if you use them for your planning session and for a training event. I’ve even had some clients dovetail a strategic planning session with a training session (where I do one day of on-site staff training and then facilitate the strategic planning session the next day). This maximizes the credit union’s resources.

As the report said, “No organization can perform at its best with only 14% of its people rowing in the same direction.” Do you want your employees rowing in the same direction with your strategic plan? Then involve them, engage them, challenge them and train them.

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