Most companies communicate strategy as a set of aspirations and platitudes. But aspirations aren’t strategy, and that mode of communication leaves employees in the dark. Strategy is a set of hard-to-reverse choices and explaining what these choices are and why they were made is what strategy communication should be.
Most companies communicate strategy as a set of aspirations or good sounding platitudes. For example, a major European multinational had this to say in its annual report: “The key elements of our strategy are to continue our focus on delivering operational excellence, leverage the benefits of our integrated model, reinforce our technological leadership and make intelligent and disciplined investments.” In a similar vein, a U.S. global operator declared that: “Our strategy is based on four pillars: winning with our customers, leading with our culture, expanding our network and maximizing our performance.”
But these grand claims provide no guidance to employees on their company’s direction. No wonder that employees in many companies claim to have little knowledge or understanding of their organization’s strategy. One recent academic study reported that even in high-performing companies with clearly articulated strategies, only 29% of their employees knew what their company’s strategy was. Similarly, in a survey that I undertook in five European companies in 2019, only 35% of the employees claimed to know their company’s strategy and fewer than 20% said that they understood why they were following the strategy that had been communicated to them.
Strategy is not aspirations, objectives or wishful thinking. It is a set of hard-to-reverse choices and explaining what these choices are and why they were made is what strategy communication should be. A good example is provided by the new strategy adopted in response to the digital disruption of the early 2000s by DPG Media Group, the leading media company in Belgium and the Netherlands. At the time, the market for newspapers and other traditional print and broadcast media was being overwhelmed by digital giants such as Google and Facebook and customers as well as advertisers were moving to digital offerings in droves. The cover story of The Economist in August 2006, headlined “Who killed the newspaper?,” was representative of the mood at the time.
In that context, the then CEO and now Chairman of the Group, Christian Van Thillo, organized an offside with his top 10 managers and editors to develop the company’s new strategy. According to Van Thillo, the starting point of strategy is to first decide what business the company is or should be in, a point also made by Professor Derek Abel more than 40 years ago. It was essential, therefore, for DPG Media to decide whether it wanted to stay in professional journalism or exit the business altogether.
According to Van Thillo, this meant answering the question: “Is there a future for high-quality, professional journalism? Do we believe that in the digital age, people will continue to want to be informed, entertained, and inspired by professional media or is the market moving to citizen journalism, blogs, and influencers?” The team answered this question in the affirmative which immediately set DPG Media down the path of focusing and investing its resources in professional journalism and reinventing it for the digital age rather than exit it as many of its competitors were doing at the time.
According to Van Thillo, this was the most important decision the company had made in its entire history. At the time, it represented a huge gamble. Ever since, he always uses this decision as the starting point to explain why the company exists and why it’s taking the strategic decisions that employees see it taking every day.
Once the decision was made to focus on professional journalism, the question that arose was: “what do we need to do to succeed in professional journalism in these digital times?” The answer was that size will matter a lot. According to Van Thillo:
“We never talked about size before because we used to compete with local competitors. Now, all of a sudden, we had to compete with Google and Facebook. We therefore needed to be big enough so that advertisers as well as consumers would have us at the top of their mind, like they did with Google and Facebook. That implied that we had to be the local multimedia undisputed leader so that people will think of doing business with Google and Facebook and then us.”
The need for size led DPG Media to two other key choices. First, what countries to compete in. Given its limited resources, it could not be big in too many markets. And given its size, it had to avoid big markets where giants like Google would operate. They therefore decided to focus on just two geographic markets, Belgium and the Netherlands. Second, they decided to engage in acquisitions to grow to critical size quickly. This was, again, something new for the company. Traditionally they grew organically whereas now acquisitions became a necessity for them. But given their emphasis on quality journalism where consumers would be expected to pay a subscription price to access this journalism, their acquisition targets were media companies that relied more on subscription rather than advertising for their revenues. According to Van Thillo, “If the potential acquisition target depended on advertising for its revenue, I would walk away.”
The need for size and the focus on subscription revenue led the company to another choice: focus on market-leading brands (or power brands as they call them) and disinvest in or sell laggard brands. The brands that remained in the portfolio were reinvented for the digital age — newspapers and magazines were transformed into news media, television developed streaming, radio built up podcasts — and new online services that were complementary to the media business, such as platforms for jobs and cars, were built. Any time a decision had to me made on whether to offer a new product or not, the choice was made by asking whether the addition of the new product will support the company’s new mission, which was to become the local, multimedia champion in the countries it chose to compete.
The final choice to be made was how to do all this. The company opted to operate with two business models. For their premium brands, they targeted affluent customers, offering them ad-free content on a subscription model. For their mass-market brands, they opted for a freemium model that relied mostly on advertising revenue. In addition, they chose to adopt a dual transformation strategy: continue to build on their size by undertaking only acquisitions that had the potential to impact their market power in the local market while reinventing the core for the digital age and developing new digital services.
The hard-to-reverse choices that DPG Media had to make revolved around three issues: why do we exist, what do we do, and how do we do it? These may not be an exhaustive list of choices that need to be made but making these three will go a long way towards defining the organization’s strategy. The real problem that most organizations face is not whether they need to make three or four or five choices but how to get their senior managers to make any choices at all! The biggest strategic mistake that organizations make is not that they miss one or two choices in their decision-making; it is that they do not make choices at all, something that Michael Porter alluded to long time ago.
For any organization to succeed, it must first make the difficult choices that strategy requires and then communicate these choices to employees in an effective way. Unfortunately, if we go by what companies communicate in their annual reports or by what CEOs say at company conferences, the bulk of the communication is focused on the organization’s goals and aspirations rather than its choices. This mode of communication leaves employees in the dark and limits their emotional connection to their organization. A little bit more effort in improving our communication of strategy can lead to major benefits in how employees execute our strategy.
Four Effective Tips to Improve Labor Management in Companies
Businesses worldwide are always on the hunt for ways to improve their processes and add more efficiency to day-to-day functions. Of course, labor management is one of the major aspects of every company that demands continuous attention and improvement.
Every business understands that effective labor management is essential when it comes to increasing the productivity, safety, and efficiency of every project. The managers bear all burden to ensure that the labor is working effectively to meet the needs of supply and demand chains.
Here are some effective ways to improve labor management in your company for the best of your business.
1. Use Standardized KPIs
It can be hard to hold someone accountable for their performance when there is no evidence to back up the claims. In such circumstances, the labor deserving of praise may be left out, and those who need improvement may continue to waste company time and resources. Of course, such practices can cost you a lot of time and money in the long run.
Hence, smart companies worldwide are using Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) as a tool for worker motivation and accountability. These indicators help them better understand why certain standardized goals exist and their role in making the company succeed.
2. Incorporate a Software
Managers have a lot on their shoulders in addition to managing the workforce. A few people cannot keep an eye on everyone throughout the day. They need Kaizen Software to find the best solution for labor management. This way, the managers can find time to pay attention to many more important matters.
Efficient management software is being used worldwide due to its countless benefits. They offer security, better communication, and enhanced tracking to make your business more efficient. Hence, your business will have a better opportunity to grow and bloom.
3. Ensure Safety at the Workplace
Every workspace has its own challenges. However, everyone can agree that industrial workers have more challenges when it comes to safety. After all, they are surrounded by heavy machinery and face increased chances of accidents, injuries, and even fatalities. Hence, it must be a top priority to make your workplace safer.
You can start by looking into the hazards in your workspace and minimizing them one by one. In addition, it is also important to ensure that all your workers have access to safety gear at all times. Caution can save more lives than building an elaborate regime to care for injured workers.
4. Keep Workers Posted
Whether a construction site or a chemical industry, there can be new hazards and precautions for workers every day. A little negligence in the workplace can lead to a regrettable accident. Hence, it is always a good idea to keep your workers informed about current events.
Knowledge about company procedures and safety rules can reduce insecurity among workers and increase their efficiency. It is best to let your workers know that all their questions will be answered. This way, they can feel more comfortable seeking your guidance instead of finding out by trial and error.
10 Key Strategies for Managing and Engaging your Employees
Effective employee management and engagement are crucial for small businesses to foster a positive work environment, maximize productivity, and retain top talent. Small business owners need to prioritize their employees’ well-being, provide growth opportunities, and create a culture that promotes engagement and collaboration.
Here, we will explore ten strategies and practices for employee management and engagement in small businesses.
1. Clear Communication and Expectations
Clear communication is vital to set expectations and ensure alignment between the business and its employees. Regularly communicate goals, priorities, and performance expectations to your team. Provide feedback and recognition for their achievements and address any concerns or issues promptly. Encourage an open-door policy and create channels for open dialogue and feedback.
2. Training and Development Opportunities
Investing in training and development opportunities for your employees demonstrates your commitment to their growth and success. Identify areas where employees can benefit from additional skills or knowledge and provide relevant training programs. This can include workshops, conferences, online courses, or mentoring programs. Encourage a culture of continuous learning and support employees’ professional development.
3. Employee Recognition and Rewards
Recognizing and rewarding employee contributions is essential for fostering motivation and engagement. Implement a recognition program that acknowledges outstanding performance, teamwork, and achievements. This can include verbal praise, written appreciation, or tangible rewards such as bonuses or incentives. Regularly celebrate milestones and accomplishments to show appreciation for your employees’ hard work.
4. Work-Life Balance and Well-being
Promote a healthy work-life balance and prioritize employee well-being. Offer flexible work arrangements when possible, such as remote work options or flexible scheduling. Encourage breaks and time off to prevent burnout. Provide resources and support for physical and mental well-being, such as access to wellness programs or employee assistance programs. Show genuine care and support for your employees’ overall well-being.
5. Foster a Collaborative and Inclusive Culture
Create a collaborative and inclusive culture that values diversity and fosters teamwork. Encourage open communication, idea sharing, and collaboration among employees. Foster an environment where everyone feels valued, respected, and included. Embrace diverse perspectives and leverage the unique strengths of your team members to drive innovation and growth.
6. Performance Management and Feedback
Establish a robust performance management system to set clear goals, provide regular feedback, and evaluate employee performance. Implement regular performance reviews to discuss progress, identify development areas, and set new objectives. Provide constructive feedback that focuses on both strengths and areas for improvement to support employee growth.
7. Empowerment and Autonomy
Encourage autonomy and empower employees to take ownership of their work. Delegate responsibilities and provide them with the necessary resources and authority to make decisions. Encourage innovation and creativity by allowing employees to explore new ideas and approaches. Trust their expertise and provide guidance when needed.
8. Career Growth and Advancement
Support your employees’ career growth and advancement within the organization. Provide opportunities for skill development, such as stretch assignments or cross-functional projects. Offer mentorship programs or coaching to help employees navigate their career paths. Create a clear path for advancement and communicate the potential growth opportunities available to them.
9. Team Building and Social Activities
Organize team-building activities and social events to foster strong relationships among your employees. This can include off-site retreats, team lunches, or recreational activities. Encourage team bonding and camaraderie to enhance collaboration and create a positive work culture.
10. Continuous Improvement
Establish a culture of continuous feedback and improvement. Encourage regular check-ins between managers and employees to discuss progress, challenges, and goals. Solicit feedback from employees on processes, policies, and workplace initiatives. Actively listen to their suggestions and make necessary improvements to enhance the work environment.
Effective employee management and engagement are critical for small businesses to thrive. By prioritizing clear communication, providing training and development opportunities, recognizing and rewarding employee contributions, promoting work-life balance and well-being, fostering a collaborative and inclusive culture, and implementing additional strategies such as performance management, empowerment, career growth, team building, and continuous feedback, small business owners can create a positive and engaging work environment.
Investing in your employees’ success and happiness not only benefits them individually but also contributes to the overall success and growth of your small business.
Build a Strong Learning Culture on Your Team
When Kendra Grant’s team was charged with designing and delivering learning experiences for 90,000 Walmart Canada associates, she knew as a senior learning-and-design director that the landscape of corporate learning needs was constantly changing. “Over time,” says Grant, now the principal of her own L&D practice, “we acknowledged that many of the problems we saw such as lack of engagement and lack of retention were a result of the design process and not the fault of the learners.”
If you are in a leadership role in your organization, you more than likely share this problem. Technology and society are driving changes faster than your people can adapt. According to the OECD, 1.1 billion jobs will be disrupted in the next five years. Employees the world over require upskilling (learning to improve current work) and reskilling (learning to do new types of work). Some organizations are heeding the signs and investing heavily in learning and development: Walmart, for example, is investing $1 billion into reskilling its workforce, and McDonald’s has spent $165 million over the past eight years to prepare 72,000 employees for upward mobility. The Association for Talent Development’s most recent study found the average organization spends almost $1,300 per employee on professional learning. Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, exhorts everyone to be a “learn-it-all.”
Workers of today need to prepare for what they’ll be doing tomorrow. But how can they adapt effectively if their work is changing in real time? What skills can they learn now that will support them in the face of a volatile and ambiguous future? And how can their employers support them?
There’s a simple but not easy answer to all of these questions. Employers have to help employees become expert learners — people with the will to learn, the skill to do it effectively, and the ability to apply that learning in ways that positively impact their performance and that of their teams.
Still Wearing Blinders
Traditionally, learning within organizations has been driven by a single department. In a general attempt to motivate and support employee development, the learning-and-development team — which sometimes consists of just one person — acts as an order filler for operations managers and leadership, providing formal learning support, such as classroom training and online modules. Frequently, these efforts are augmented by tuition assistance for degree and certificate programs at institutes of higher education. In recent years, companies have created digital “learning-management systems” or “learning-experience platforms” that offer a Netflix-style menu of learning content that employees can access on-demand and at their own pace.
Unfortunately, however, these approaches to employee learning are not up today’s challenge, for a few reasons:
A day late and a dollar short. Content creation lags significantly behind the need for that content, making the content available less relevant to current needs. Also, when an employee needs new knowledge and skills now, a course next month isn’t helpful.
One-size-fits-none. Every learner is unique, with varied strengths, experiences, and challenges. Every learner works in different contexts, thus requiring greater personalization to support meaningful learning and improvement.
A lack of support for application. Pushing out content can impart new information, but developing effective skills requires coaching, reinforcement, and opportunities for safe, authentic practice.
A cultural disconnect. Leaders can say they value learning, but according to Deloitte, workers actually have less than 1% of their time available for learning. Further, learning can be messy, because it requires that people try new things and make mistakes. If an organization punishes people for those mistakes, as some do, people will shy away from learning.
Learner experience and identity. Not everyone thinks of themselves as a lifelong learner, nor do they all have the skills to learn and apply learning effectively. Further, biases in development programs may reinforce the notion that only some people are capable of learning and therefore worth the investment. This bias is communicated to workers.
There Is a Solution
We need to address these barriers to learning in order to meet the challenges of today and the future. Learning, after all, is what enables people to adapt to change and even become drivers of change. But, as Matthew Daniel has recently noted on the Chief Learning Officer website, even if people want to learn they may not know what to learn — or how to learn.
Expert learning requires two key conditions. The first is context. People need the time and space to learn. They need timely, actionable feedback; opportunities for collaboration; and just-in-time support to convert new knowledge and skills into measurable performance improvement. Then there’s capacity. Each person has talents, strengths, interests, challenges, and experiences that influence how they engage with, make sense of, and apply new knowledge and skills. We can’t assume everyone has developed the requisite learning skills and behaviors, and we can’t effectively gauge learning capacity in advance. However, we can help all people become expert learners, by providing them with options to learn and apply key learning behaviors rooted in a framework known as the Universal Design for Learning.
UDL, as it’s often called, was first devised in the 1990s by researchers and clinicians at the nonprofit learning organization CAST, Inc., under the direction of the neuropsychologist David Rose, of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Today it’s endorsed in federal education legislation as a means for supporting inclusive, impactful learning for all learners. That includes workforce preparation and training. In essence, UDL helps us embrace the differences between learners — their variability in strengths, interests, attitudes, cultures, and more — by setting firm, challenging goals and allowing for flexible pathways to meet those goals.
When employing UDL in creating learning experiences, you’re encouraged to think of learning as a set of behaviors and skills that exist on a continuum from novice to expert. Novice learning is primarily guided by external forces: Novices learn what they’re told, when they’re told, for the reasons given to them. They are the type of learners whom top-down, one-size-fits-all training was meant to serve. A distinct step above the novice level is self-directed learning, where learners take the initiative for their own learning, making decisions about what, when, and how to learn.
Expert learning takes things to another level, by adding in specific learning skills and a focus on strategic performance improvement. Expert learners have the will and skill to learn, can identify ways to leverage that learning into impact, and are always looking for new challenges and ways to improve their skills. They are the learners best able to adapt to the rapidly changing modern workplace.
How Expert Learners Improve Outcomes
Building a strong learning culture that focuses on capacity and context can give companies a strategic advantage. Let’s consider why.
First, employees who are skilled learners can more readily innovate, for what is innovation if not the learning how to solve a problem in a new way? A person focused on continuous improvement rarely settles for “We’ve always done it this way.” Expert learners can identify emerging knowledge and skill needs and generate new knowledge to meet those needs.
Next, learning fuels employee engagement. Employer-supported learning is a key driver of retention, particularly when learning is visibly linked to employee development — that is, upward mobility. Creating a culture that supports people to learn and own their improvement makes improvement a common cause between the employees and the organization. Further, a visible emphasis on learning can be key to attracting new talent, with Gen Z and Millennial workers citing learning and upward mobility as key motivators in selecting job opportunities.
Finally, investing in learning is just that: an investment. According to Gallup, companies that invest in employee development increase profitability by 11%.
Building a Culture of Expert Learners
Building a culture of expert learning is a complex undertaking. There are, however, some foundational practices, aligned with UDL, that leaders and teams can engage in as they work to develop support an expert learning culture.
Adopt a learning philosophy and stick to it.
A learning philosophy is a codification of what the organization believes about learning, including its value, the responsibilities of each person related to learning, and the methods by which the organization will support its employees to learn and improve.
Consider the philosophy of the United States Marine Corps, where learning is literally a survival skill. In 2020, the USMC published Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication 7: Learning, or the MCDP 7, which tells all Marines, from the lowest-ranking enlisted member to the commandant, that they have a professional responsibility to learn. It also lays out the necessary conditions for learning, requiring each Marine to contribute to and leverage those conditions. All Marines are told they can’t rely on a training department of some sort but instead have to define and own their roles as learners. “Continuous learning is essential,” USMC Commandant Gen. D.H. Berger writes in the MCDP-7, “… because it enables Marines to quickly recognize changing conditions in the battlespace, adapt, and make timely decisions against a thinking enemy.”
Audit your culture for barriers to learning.
With your learning philosophy in place, make sure the collective behaviors, practices, and systems of your organization — and particularly the behaviors of your leaders — model and support the tenets of that philosophy. Examine what learning currently looks like in your organization and begin addressing common barriers. Provide time and resources for learning and regularly reinforcing the value of learning. Incentivize experimentation, collaboration, and knowledge-sharing. Promote team learning over individual knowledge-hoarding. Link learning to development by creating clear pathways for skill development and promotion. And enlist frontline employees and managers to more quickly identify learning needs and potential solutions.
To act like expert learners, particularly in selecting and strategically applying learning, people need flexibility in when and how they learn. New approaches, such as learner-cluster design and the modern-learning–ecosystem framework, acknowledge variability among learners, providing them options that best suit their learning needs, and close the gap between formal learning and where learning happens most — on the job.
* * *
Change is constant, and the need for adaptability extends beyond leaders to every level of the organization. When employees own their improvement, they can better anticipate, communicate, and meet their upskilling and reskilling needs. As Kendra Grant pointed out in describing her work with Walmart, many barriers to improvement that are thought to be internal to learners are really external — they’re flaws in the design. UDL helps us focus on what works for people rather than on what’s not working in them. By providing the right context and supporting capacity, we can make expert learning become the skill that fills the skills gap.
International Number One Bestseller About Belief In God Avoids “Religion”
Jim Billington, Managing Director of Wealth Pilots, Interviewed on the Influential Entrepreneurs Podcast Discussing The 5 Risks of Retirement
Interview with Rich Scott, Vice President of Growth at milehimodern, Interviewed on the Elite Real Estate Leaders Podcast
Hiring a Remote Worker? It Takes More Than an Internet Connection
Flexible, shorter-term apartment startups gain more traction
Six Office Remodels That Will Help Improve Work Culture
News6 days ago
Southern Bone & Joint Specialists Expands to Troy, Alabama Fastest Growing Orthopedic Practice in Southeast Alabama
News3 days ago
HydroShield Las Vegas Takes Center Stage on Vegas Business Spotlight Podcast
News3 days ago
From Air Force Officer to Restoration Expert: All Dry Restoration’s Larry Mitchell Shares Insights on Agents Lounge Podcast
News2 days ago
D1 Henderson Owner Taylor Koki Shares Her Journey to Success on Vegas Business Spotlight Podcast
News3 days ago
AirTegrity Comfort Solutions presents “The Agents Lounge” featuring Kwik Dry: Keeping Homes Clean and Healthy
News2 days ago
Bestselling Author and Speaker Michael D. Wynn Honored with the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award
News2 days ago
Certified Residential Appraiser Kendrick Spencer Leads the Charge in Unifying Appraisers and Real Estate Professionals
News3 days ago
Ideal Age Aesthetics Featured on Vegas Business Spotlight Podcast