Are Your Employees on Board with Your Vision and Brand Direction?
This article was originally published at Forbes.com.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever sat through a strategic board meeting or spent countless hours identifying your organization’s vision or brand direction.
Now, raise your hand again if, nine months later, your entire organization can explain why those vision or brand statements are important to them.
We often see lots of hands for question 1. If you were not able to raise your hand for question 2, you are not alone. Our team at Paulsen has helped hundreds of organizations create clear, memorable language targeting customers and prospects. According to Inc. Magazine, more than 65% of strategic plans fail.
1. Gather employee feedback to build the brand or vision statement.
Part of your plan of attack for a new brand promise or vision statement should be to talk to internal stakeholders. Your employees are one of your most significant assets.
Leader Action: Through a survey, focus group, or casual conversations, ensure you’re hearing their feedback on why they get up and come to work every day and what inspires them. If all of your employees can see themselves in your brand messaging or strategic direction, it will be easier for them to buy in and be positive advocates.
2. Include your Human Resources team so that incentives, performance measurement and recruiting tools tie into the vision or brand promises.
Creating crystal-clear expectations increases employee engagement in a new vision or brand direction. If employees are incentivized by “widgets per hour” but your new brand promise is all about the customer experience, your employees will live in a constant state of conflict. It is important that your policies, procedures and expectations are consistent with your company’s direction.
Leader Action: Bring Human Resources into the process and ask for their help to ensure recruiting messaging matches the messaging your customers will be hearing. Your prospective employees and prospective customers are essentially the same target audience.
3. Once instituted, survey employees in order to benchmark awareness.
Once your new vision statement is ready for dissemination, it is time to take the organization’s pulse so you can measure awareness growth.
Leader Action: Following these Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) guidelines, we recommend building a simple survey to identify your employees’ understanding of your vision or brand promise. In six or nine months, distribute the same survey to determine growth and assess opportunities for improvement.
We recommend cross-tabulating these results so you can determine if a specific business department, geography or seniority level needs additional assistance in understanding and sharing the company vision or brand messaging.
4. Arm supervisors and mid-level managers with cascading messaging resources.
Many organizations focus on a top-down approach to communicating new vision or branding messaging. Senior managers or executives are often well-versed in sharing the company story and explaining the “why” behind the new messaging. In reality, mid-level managers are among the most important resources for ensuring the right messages further cascade. These are the folks setting daily expectations and directing day-to-day operations.
Leader Action: Consider bringing these folks in for special training or Q&A sessions so they are armed with concrete examples, new human resources tools and precise documentation of employee expectations and key performance indicators.
5. Communicate directly from the top to supplement supervisor communication.
While you may be counting on your mid-level managers to share your new, exciting messaging through the ranks, your senior leadership should consistently and frequently talk directly to all employees. According to McKinsey, company-wide change is 12.4 times more likely to succeed when senior managers communicate continually.
Leader Action: Leadership can share examples or stories in internal newsletter articles, all company emails or text messages or a series of video messages. When a frontline employee hears the same message from their manager and their CEO, it builds trust and engagement and increases their likelihood of using the messaging you’ve worked so hard to create.
6. Create opportunities for bottom-up communication.
As you invest in customer-facing direct email tactics, print advertising and public relations to share your new messaging with leads and prospects, it is vital to allow your frontline employees to share feedback back up the chain.
If your advertising messages are creating skepticism or a competitor is using them to their advantage, your customer-facing employees are the best resource to quickly bring it to your attention so you can assess and adjust as needed.
Leader Action: Ensure your employees understand the external marketing plan and know where to share feedback, whether good, bad or ugly.
The Key to ROI: Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Once aligned, now it's time to share, share, share your vision or brand message. Frequency and consistency are your allies. Senior leaders will undoubtedly be sick of talking about the same thing over and over. Still, your employees need to hear the consistent message for many weeks and months to create a valid return on your strategic messaging and branding investment.