Strategy without an engaged workforce has no momentum. Engagement without strategy has momentum with nowhere to go.
Most organizations have come to recognize the value of employee engagement. Engaged employees are more loyal and productive. However, not all engagement is created equal. The energy of engaged employees must be focused in a way that creates a competitive advantage for the organization. In other words, the enthusiasm and commitment of engaged employees must be targeted on strategic organizational goals.
For example, if your organization is focused on delivering an exceptional customer experience, then employees need to be engaged in delivering service excellence. If your competitive differentiator is to be the leader in delivering high quality products, then employees need to be engaged in meeting and exceeding quality standards. While there are common engagement principles that apply to any organization, the key to accelerating your organization’s mission is to channel engagement toward its strategic goals.
Consider the two sides of this coin at an organization in which innovation is a strategic priority.
Scenario 1: The workforce is engaged, but employees are not focused on the innovation strategy.
Why might this happen? Often times the work environment is not aligned with the strategy. For example, let’s imagine that employees are rewarded for adhering to processes and procedures that historically helped the organization to be more efficient. This encourages employees to follow the status quo and stick to what has always been done. In this case, employees are working hard, but not on the right things that will drive the strategy.
Scenario 2: The workforce is focused on strategy, but employees are not engaged.
Scenario 2 happens when barriers get in the way of executing strategy. For example, let’s say employees have a clear understanding of the innovation strategy, and as a result they speak up with new ideas. However, leaders do not provide the support, time or resources to explore these new ideas. The result is that employees get frustrated and stop using their time to be creative or share new ways of doing things. In the end, the organization is no closer to achieving its strategy because otherwise engaged employees are discouraged by barriers.
The key to accelerating a strategy is to clearly communicate it, ensure that leaders, the environment, and processes support that vision, and then empower employees to make it happen. Only through this balance of strategic engagement can organizations be successful.
Written by Dr. Leanne Buehler, VP Consulting Services, Newmeasures