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Consultant’s blog: Is your organisation’s strategy regularly referred to from the top?

Opinion piece by one of Insync’s Research Project Managers

Australian financial institutions are in relatively good shape although conditions are diverse across the broader sectors of the economy; probably as no surprise, according to the central bank, the number of business failures and debt defaults is now above the norm (autumn 2012).

Holbus & Broussard (2005) indicated that nearly half of employees surveyed about organisational success cited “clear communication from senior management to frontline employees as one of the most important tools for success.”

The majority says “No”

Do your employees really understand how your organisation expects to achieve its overall aims? A quick poll of my non-business owning or director-level friends revealed that most of them had an understanding ranging from”sort of”to at worst “clueless”.

Insync’s Alignment and Engagement Survey, an employee survey, measures the statement “the head of our organisation regularly refers to our organisation’s overall strategies” and found around half of employees did NOT agree. (Source: Insync Surveys database, sample size 69,239, across industries).

This employee survey statement is linked to how well an organisation achieves its overall aims. It contributes to a factor of “Long term direction” which is one of the nine factors that, combined with employee engagement, can contribute to high performance in organisations.

Surely changing interest rates, availability of skilled workers due to recruitment & immigration policies, knock on effects from the Eurozone, changes in IT and purchaser behaviour are forcing CEOs to evolve their internal processes at a faster pace than at any other time in recent economic history. Their job is not to communicate every piece of information to frontline staff, but to regularly refer to overarching strategies. If an employee hears the organisational strategies referred to frequently from the organisational head, they get a better sense of how important and central strategies are to their day-to-day operations. This can empower staff to act in line with your organisation’s best strategic interests.

Referring to your organisation’s strategy empowers employees

Take the anecdotal example of department stores in Europe struggling not only with the Euro debt crisis but the fiercely competitive prices of online vendors, explanation of the fact that customer service would set them apart (a priority now for Myer) enabled staff to rise to the challenge and empowered them to maximise selling opportunities.

One shopfloor worker said “I had a customer who wanted a complete outfit for a wedding but only had a budget of 200GBP. The hat and shoes she liked came to 215GBP. The day before our Director of Sales had explained that to survive we had to maximise the volume of sales. With this in mind I offered a 15GBP discount knowing full well that our mid-year sale would reduce prices the next week anyway. The customer bought both as they were now within her budget! If we hadn’t had the briefing the day before I would never have made a spur of the moment decision to make the offer and the customer would have shopped elsewhere.

Let us all learn from this employee to maximise organisational performance and keep jobs alive. If we are not the CEOs responsible for spreading the word then let’s listen out for what they say and put it into practice!

Other employee survey resources:

Source: Holbus, J., & Broussard, M. (2005). Team effort.Electric Perspectives, 30(5), 40-46.

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