Author: Nancy S. Ahlrichs, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Tens of thousands of dollars are spent to develop new strategic plans only to have them fizzle. After the pandemic, your organization will not survive another cycle of “announce the plan--then nothing changes.” Remember what Drucker said: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” It still does! If culture is values, processes, procedures, and what employees do when no one is looking, then your employee engagement survey data is where you must start in order to make changes that will enable your strategic plan to succeed.

According to multiple employee surveys, the Top 10 barriers to productivity and engagement in the workplace are (in no particular order):

  1. Technical issues with software and other tools
  2. Interruptions and disruptions from Slack instant messaging, emails and noisy office environments
  3. Poor communication from management/lack of training and information
  4. Disorganized and time-wasting systems and processes
  5. Misguided decisions from management/bad leadership
  6. Lack of flexibility/no opportunities to work from home
  7. Overworked/under-resourced team
  8. Office politics/favoritism
  9. Difficult customers
  10. Too many meetings

Now is the time to focus on replacing the top “sacred cows” (“We’ve always done it that way”) that your employees have repeatedly identified as barriers to their productivity. Solutions and cultural changes must support the new strategic direction. Communicate to all employees that your leadership team is listening and wants the best alternatives to the issues within your organization.

A fresh outside perspective—perhaps the consultant who guided your strategic planning efforts—will have the clear-eyed vision needed to help prioritize the mountain of engagement data and identify the top three to five barriers most likely to become strategy enablers.

Even the best Consultant cannot succeed acting alone. A Consultant needs to work with a framework that builds on your current culture in order to credibly make changes. This framework should include:

  1. An Executive Sponsor to team with the consultant and communicate back and forth with the Executive Team.
  2. A Solutions Team made up of 8-10 leaders from throughout the organization.  
  3. A Charter with a purpose and scope that keeps the team on track.
  4. An agreement about how decisions will be made.
  5. A communication plan for every phase of this project that keeps every employee informed about who is working on the Solutions Team, what issues they are tackling, and by when you expect solutions. Include a feedback mechanism for employees to respond and ask questions, and plan how information will cascade throughout the organization.
  6. A celebration once the main processes and procedures have been implemented to recognize everyone’s participation. Plan to have mini celebrations within the Solutions Team as project milestones are met.
  7. An expectation that tweaks will be needed after implementation and testing of the changes. Change never really stops.  

This is a culture-changing project! It is proof that senior leaders are listening and want to partner with employees to successfully implement the new strategic plan. That collaboration, guided by a Consultant, will result in increased employee engagement and productivity. Productivity determines the bottom line.

About the Author:

Nancy S. Ahlrichs, SPHR, SHRM-SCP works with Progression Partners, a national leadership development and management consulting firm, as an Organization Development Advisor for change and talent management strategies.

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