According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), “[No] company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the [firm's] mission and understand how to achieve it.”
In short, successful businesses are really good at ensuring that their employees both know what they’re trying to achieve, and are motivated to do so.
One of the most pivotal moments for business leaders to communicate their plans and capture said motivation is during year-end. It marks a point where employees are willing and able to take stock of what’s been achieved, what’s not been achieved, and to look to the future with (if managed properly) positivity and enthusiasm.
Conversely, it’s also a time where, if you get it wrong, you stand to damage the potential of all of your hard work. After all, even the best year-end strategy in the world isn’t going to work without having the people who’ll be effecting it behind it.
The first step in ensuring that your people are engaged with your strategy is being proactive. Demonstrating your enthusiasm for setting out a path for the year ahead will go a long way to getting the same enthusiasm from others. The second step is effectively communicating your plan, so that everyone knows what’s expected of them.
Unfortunately however, we see these two vital steps disappear amongst the frenzy of the busy year-end period all too often. In fact, according to Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton (who co-wrote the book The Strategy-Focused Organization), “a mere 7% of employees today fully understand their company's business strategies and what's expected of them in order to help achieve company goals."
But it’s not as time-intensive as you might think.
Employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work. - FORBES
In this blog we’ve detailed the three most common roadblocks to effective year-end planning that we see, and how to avoid them. This will help you to establish what you’re trying to achieve (one of the vital ingredients in a successful business, as previously mentioned).
We’ve also included tips for obtaining buy-in from employees that will simultaneously keep them motivated and happy (the second vital ingredient for success)—information which will equip you with the insight you need to ensure that this year’s year-end is the reason you’ll be celebrating the next one.
Common roadblock to effective planning #1
An unrealistic or shallow view of your environment—a strategy that is built on incorrect information is doomed to fail. This seems a fairly obvious statement, yet it is one of the most common failure points we identify in businesses that haven’t achieved their objectives.
Instead you should…
Ensure that you have a clear understanding of your current state—this includes everything from external factors like competitor capabilities, customer needs, emerging social and technological trends, and potential new entrants, to internal factors like talent and skills gaps, and efficiency leakages.
Common roadblock to effective planning #2
Unrealistic goals—stating you want to execute 50 new projects when your track record is closer to 10 is only going to demoralize people (and make them question your sanity).
Instead you should…
Use your knowledge of your current state to determine a realistic future state—as the adage goes, knowing where you’re coming from means knowing where you’re going. Using your current state as an anchor point, dream up a future state where you have everything you want and more. Then look at factors like the time, money, and people you can commit to helping you achieve this state and adjust accordingly.
Common roadblock to effective planning #3
Poor communication—people can’t execute a plan if they don’t know what it is or what’s expected of them. Moreover, those who need to execute day-to-day are unlikely to buy in to that plan if they haven’t had any input. Again, this might seem obvious, but time and time again it’s poor communication that sits at the root of most strategy fails.
Instead you should…
Involve employees from the planning stage—ensuring that employees have insight into a big-picture perspective of the business by involving them in the planning stages, means they are better able to recognize ways of working to achieve goals, as well as being able to point out potential issues that could prevent the company from reaching its objectives.
Tips for obtaining buy-in and keeping people happy:
- Include quick wins: HBR describes the power of small wins when they say “[of] all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work. And the more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run.” By providing and communicating opportunities for quick wins to employees, you’ll drastically improve engagement and motivation.
- Ask for feedback: According to Forbes, “Employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.” By opening a channel of communication for employees to express their ideas/concerns at this early stage, you’re making them feel heard and setting the precedent that they will continue to be heard.
Good leaders know that they can’t do it all alone. If year-end planning and communication is an area in which you feel you need support, we can help. Alongside the bank of knowledge and experience we have in strategic realization, we are a consultancy that understands that it’s people who drive change. This means we’ll work to ensure every member of your team feels heard, supported, and ready for the challenge ahead.
If you would like to know more, contact me, Austin Srejma (Sr. Director, Operations) at firstname.lastname@example.org.