Strategic Plans Motivate Employees

LINKING  STRATEGY TO INDIVIDUAL CONTRIBUTIONS

Link your strategic plan to the contributions of individual employees.

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Has your organization joined the many that are embarking on a strategic plan? Public sector organizations are turning to strategic plans en masse with the hope of defining a better future. Beautiful documents are being created to represent visions of the community on the future. In a recent poll of public agencies, we found that nearly 80% of organizations said they had some kind of a strategic plan. Interestingly, the majority of respondents said the plan is used primarily for budgeting purposes. Most said the plan was something for which “management” was responsible. Fifteen percent said strategic planning resulted in a pretty document that sits on a shelf.

With so much energy and attention being devoted to strategic planning, it’s a shame the effort doesn’t always lead to engaged employees. But the opportunities for leveraging the plan to motivate employees are endless. A well “worked” strategic plan has the potential to engage employees at all levels, focus energy, and enhance organizational effectiveness. Here are a few ideas for putting your strategic plan to work with your employees:

Regularly review the strategic plan at staff meetings – For a plan to come to life, it must be reviewed, revised, and reiterated on a frequent basis. A quarterly or at least semi-annual review of the plan with your staff keeps them focused on the top priorities. At each review you have the opportunity to reaffirm the plan, revise the plan based on environmental shifts, or refocus the plan based on major changes. Regardless of what happens at the regular review, the plan will remain meaningful to your employees only if it is current and visible.

Translate the plan to individual employee efforts – The strategic plan is only as good as the staff support it receives. Another way to leverage strategic planning efforts is to cascade the plan throughout the organization, aligning individual employee efforts to specific plan elements. Incorporating the plan into the employee performance evaluation process is one way to create a line of sight between the organization’s goals and the employee’s day-to-day focus.

Discuss the strategic plan frequently with employees – When employee performance goals are aligned with the organization’s strategic direction, conversations with employees about their performance expand beyond the mundane. A well-aligned strategic plan allows managers to have regular conversations with individual employees about their contributions while reinforcing big picture goals.

Update the plan on regular intervals – It truly is a VUCA world – volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Because reality is changing rapidly, it’s critical to make revisions to the strategic plan on a regular basis. While a quarterly or semi-annual review allows the staff to reaffirm the plan, a thoughtful, comprehensive revision allows for necessary course corrections to respond to a rapidly shifting environment. An annual update and a five year re-do allows the planning effort to sustain momentum.

A strategic plan is a great way to create an ennobling future, one which everyone can get behind.

But what if your organization doesn’t have a strategic plan?

Even if your organization has not developed a wide-reaching, forward-thinking plan for the future, you can create a mini-plan that encompasses the scope and mission of your work group. Even without a top-down plan, work unit leaders can engage employees in conversations about the future. Team conversations about where your work group is headed can be engaging and encouraging, giving employees the energy to tackle their daily work. Even if your policy makers have not embarked on a planning process, you can do it yourself by posing a few simple questions to your team:

  • How will our work be different in the future?
  • What will our customers expect from us in the future?
  • Imagine we are winning awards and accolades from our peers. What are we doing to earn such recognition?
  • What tools will we be using in the future that will help us achieve a new level of performance?
  • What will others say about us in the future?
  • If we are seen by others in the organization as the “go to” department, why are they coming to us? What have we done to earn their respect?

Strategic planning is best driven from the top of the organization. Yet, even without top-down momentum, any leader can use the concepts of strategic planning to create a focal point around which employees can rally.

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