Question: How can we better engage employees on our strategic initiatives?

We are a 1000 plus people IT services company, serving clients across many industries out of 2 locations. Being nimble is the key to success for us.

To make sure our employees "get" the slightest change in strategic direction, or the need for a new initiative we rely on 2 key methods (apart from normal communications via email, meetings, etc)

1) Monthly town hall style meetings, and special announcements led by a senior executives on need basis

2) Every manager is made responsible to contextualize, and percolate down, the implications of change for individual members, on his or her team

Our efforts still fall short in terms of end goal of our employees shifting gears to sync with changes. A small minority of employees are quickly on board with the executives, while most take time to even understand it.

Is there a way for us to communicate such changes for a more uniform effect?

8 Expert Insights

Don't tell.   Ask...... and listen.

Is there a possibility to use those who get on board quickly to be your additional communicators?  Are there those in your organization who have already internalized the changes and are benefiting from those changes?  Do they have a compelling story to tell?  If so, how about recording their stories in a podcast and adding a link to your company intranet (which I am sure you have)?   I find that it is always better to communicate changes, initiatives, WIIFMs through identifiable colleagues.  So calling upon the peer-to-peer network, you might want to enroll your change agents to be your communicators.   Initiate some "grass roots" forums, perhaps.

These are some random thoughts that might start the "buzz" within your company.  Hope this helps.

Good luck!


Hmmm.  I wonder if you're asking the wrong question.

Maybe rather than focusing on how to push the message out more effectively, I'd want to understand what's getting in the way of (most) employees wanting to get it.  And also, what differentiates the ones who do from the ones who don't.

Also, what you're doing sounds kind of exhausting to me.  Are you maybe communicating too much too frequently to too many people?

This might just be a wordier version of Michele's suggestion:  "ask, don't tell."  But perhaps the additional questions will help you know more what to ask.

Good luck.

What you are saying is that you want to engage employees in your strategic initiative but it seems you want employees to go along with your strategic initiatives.

To get the employees to be engaged requires a different process than to have the employees understand and accept your strategic initiative. The most important thing for you to do is to be very clear with your employees what you expect of them.

The key to engagement is emotion rather than logic.  Therefore, in order to get employees engaged, you need to provide a compelling "why" and not just the what and how.

In a phrase, "percolate up."  (This is another version of Michele Dunn's "Ask … and listen."). Percolate down is about leadership. Percolate up is about engagement. Both are important–in proper balance.

So if employee engagement is the issue and the desired outcome –which is almost always a good outcome –then getting employees ideas and input will more likely lead to their  buy in.  Start at the top. Engage your executive team in the solution to the strategic challenge. Hear their ideas and perspective. Once you decided (as leader) what to do, in the spirit of collaboration, ask for their commitment. You will more likely get it. Model this for the other leader/managers who can do this with their teams. Hopefully as a result you will have a more engaged workforce.

The reason engaged employees have such an impact on business performance is that they care about their work and about their organization. Engaged employees see alignment between their personal mission and the mission of the organization - the answer to the question, "Why are we here?"

The reason the vast majority of workers are not engaged is that they see themselves as order takers. No matter how effectively the orders are communicated, from the workers' perspective they're just being told what to do. People are much more likely to get engaged when business challenges are shared and they're asked to contribute to the generation of a strategic response.

Strategic decisions must be a leadership responsibility, but input should be sought across the entire organization. People really get engaged when you care what they think.

Okay, try this: Pretend you're a DB Analyst, a Project Lead, or a Network Engineer, etc., for your company and ask yourself:

"What does knowing the company's current strategic direction mean for me in terms of how I should be doing my job differently than I currently am or was under the company's prior strategic direction?"

Then identify, for each job, some specific ways of doing things that, while "right" under the old strategy,  are now "wrong" under this new strategy. And vice versa -- some specific ways of doing things that, while "wrong" before and now "right."

If it's hard for you to do this, knowing the company's strategic direction as intimately as you do, it's likely impossible for those actually in the positions mentioned.

If it's easy for you to do this, it's likely still impossible for them! Why? Because it is.

So share these specific differences you identified with those actually in the positions mentioned to help jump-start their own thinking...and doing.

For example, if their job is to write code, tell them specifically how they should, and now can, write the code differently based on this new strategy. If their job is to answer calls at the service desk, tell them specifically how they should, and now are allowed to, handle complaints differently based on this new strategy. If their job is get something else done, tell them specifically how they should, and now have the authority to, do it differently based on this new strategy. Specifically how.

See what I mean?

You see the problem is likely far less about their "buy in" and far more about them just not understanding what this new strategic direction means in terms of the things they do and the choices they make on a daily, if not hourly, basis. They don't know how to connect the dots in any other way than they currently do.

If you'd like, I'd be happy to talk with you about this in more depth.