So often companies hire strategic planning consultants to work with company leaders and managers to create a plan.
Then the plan is pushed down to employees to execute.
When employees aren’t actively involved in the planning process they don’t buy-in to it. If they don’t buy-in they don’t commit. If they don’t commit they don’t deliver, and successful execution of the plan fails.
The business planning process can’t be created in a vacuum without employee input. It is important to have employees involved in the strategic work so that they can better align their work with the company’s vision and goals.
This requires sharing with employees what is happening in the economy, the market, the competition, and the company’s industry, so they have a deeper understanding of what they can do to help the company succeed.
People support what they help create. When ongoing employee ideas and input are collected on what is working, and what can be improved, this gives everyone much more insight to make better decision and actions.
Getting employees involved in the business planning process also leads to increased engagement and strengthens company culture.
An Employee Meeting "As Usual"
But it can take years to get to the point of having an effective system and planning process that includes input from everyone in the company.
Later on, in this article I’ll share how you can get started. First, allow me to me illustrate what a typical "sales update" all-employee meeting looks like before employees are involved in a High Involvement Planning practice:
Employees file in to the meeting space and take a seat. There’s a skeptical mood in the air: another meeting with more bad news. Everyone knows there isn’t enough work to keep everyone busy. One guy leans up against the wall, his arms folded across his chest, his jaw set. It was as if he already didn’t like what he was about to hear.
The general manager begins to speak and delivers the lackluster sales news. “Not enough orders. We’re being beaten down on price. We may have to cut some of your hours.”
After more talk about what the sales and marketing department is going to do to turn things around the general manager asks if there are any questions: there aren't. Everyone is sent back to their work stations to carry on with their work ... only now they are feeling scared about keeping their jobs.
Then the b-ing, moaning and finger pointing begins: "The sales and marketing department isn’t 'working hard enough' and 'doesn’t know what they are doing.' Heard they’re working overtime at So-And-So Company.”
And so it goes ...
High Involvement Planning transforms traditional planning by involving, educating, and informing everyone in the company about the company’s strategic goals and realities. When your employees have a voice, they “buy in", and come up with ideas about how to help you and other teams "move the needle”.
Get Started with a Sales and Marketing Review
What can you do to get everyone more involved now?
My recommendation is start with a “smaller bite” by getting everyone involved in a twice-a-year High Involvement Planning "sales and marketing review".
The reason this is a great place to start is because everyone's job depends on how well sales and marketing does its job. Naturally, employees are interested in what's happening in sales so why not involve them?
By delving deeper into supporting facts and numbers with them you provide more information that they can analyze for themselves, be able to ask questions, and spark new ideas.
In the review a presentation is given to all employees that includes:
- overall state of the economy
- market analysis
- competitive data: where are we weak compared to our competitors?
- financial benchmarking analysis
- results of the most recent customer survey
- mid-year actual and year-end sales forecasts
- marketing budget vs. plan
- sales budget vs. plan
- strategy and activities to make forecasts happen
- contingency plan
At the conclusion of the presentation employees get the chance to:
- ask questions
- request clarifications
- take a quick “confidence” survey
See how different this meeting format is from the before and "as usual" employee meeting?
By making employees part of the process you foster engagement and buy-in for the plan. If there's no buy-in this process allows for the input of their ideas and an opportunity to change.
When everyone has a chance to review, and vote on their confidence in the plan, it creates a collective sense of responsibility for making the plan successfully happen.
The results of the confidence survey are collected and tabulated to gauge how confident employees feel about the forecasts, and plan to achieve the sales goal.
When an organization gets a “low confidence” score it means the employees are screaming for a change. Getting their input and buy-in is critical to identifying necessary actions that will help to get better results.
By being as transparent as possible about where the numbers are coming from encourages employee input because information silos have been eliminated. Employees better understand “what” is happening, the “why” behind the numbers, and come up with ideas “how” to make improvements.
They also will see differences between the performance of their organization, and competitors, and begin to ask why.
Shining a light on the business in this way may initially be uncomfortable to leaders who are used to keeping this type of information under wraps.
Yet increasing transparency can create a desire in your team to improve areas of the business that are under-performing, as well as increase accountability.
Your employees are the ones who have to execute your plan. It is critical that they believe in it to help make it happen.