Corporate Executive Board

Align Employees with the Corporate Strategy


In the wake of economic uncertainty, many companies are re-inventing their businesses to not only survive the downturn, but to emerge with a measurable competitive advantage in the recovery. In many companies, products suites are rethought, brand identities are unmistakably changed, go-to-market strategies are redesigned for greater efficiency, resources and funding are slashed, and the workforce is restructured for streamlined operations.

For some companies, these strategic changes in response to the broader economic environment have represented major shifts in the way they do business, while others have experienced more moderate tweaks to their strategy. Yet there are virtually no organizations with the luxury of remaining untouched by the economic turmoil.

Did your employees notice the changes that your company has made? Chances are they have.

In a recent study of 50,000 employees, representing more than 50 companies across a sample of industries and geographies, by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB), a preeminent executive and professional network-based knowledge resource, over 60% of surveyed employees noted that they have both experienced drastic changes in their business and expect changes to continue. Another 28% either experienced change or expect change to come shortly. It is clear that employees noticed new corporate strategy. Virtually everyone is aware that they are operating in a different environment. More important than measuring employee recognition of change, companies should be trying to understand whether employees are aligned with the new organizational strategy. Chances are that they are not.

Research by CEB's HR consulting and workforce survey division, CLC Genesee, recently discovered that productivity of the employees that both experienced change and expect more change to come decreased by 66%. Simply put, almost two-thirds of all employees are 33% as productive as they can be because they don't understand what they are now asked to do.

How can companies gain a competitive advantage when their employees' are focused on changes and productivity is on the decline? CEB has identified that companies need to align their employees with the corporate strategy. Progressive companies that successfully align employees to their corporate strategy are realizing the competitive advantages originally targeted in organizational transition.

• Refocusing on the customer? Companies in the service industry are realizing 10% gains in customer satisfaction.
• Launching new products? Measurable levels of innovation have been documented to improve by 15%.
• Trying to be more nimble in the market place? Employee perception of organizational speed has been cited to increase by upwards of 35%.
• Aligning employees to the corporate strategy—helping them understand their new call to action—is a critical driver of success in today's market.

To help organizations better align employees to the corporate strategy, CEB has identified these three easy tips.

1. Measure the specific behaviors required to achieve organizational goals.

The good news here is that your HR department likely already has, or can easily attain, this objective measurement through your company's regular employee survey efforts. While the trend among many organizations has been to shift from employee satisfaction or culture surveys to employee engagement surveys, CLC Genesee suggests that these may not be sufficient in today's environment. Measuring how aligned employees are with the corporate strategy is necessary to ensure that employees are not just working hard, but that they are also all aligned against the same mission.

2. Focus Action-Planning on daily activities.

Increasingly heard at major corporations is the need to "just show them what to do". Remember that simplicity can quickly alleviate confusion surrounding what employees are now expected to do. There are powerful best practices already in place inside the company—sharing them broadly in employees' own words will go far.

3. Involve line management.

When compared to center-led or broadcast communications, research shows that the manager is far more influential in successfully modifying behaviors when serving as a communication outlet.

Aligning employees to the corporate strategy—helping them understand their new call to action—is a critical driver of success in today's market.

What the Best Companies Do™

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CEB specializes in helping companies drive corporate performance by identifying and building on best practices. The organization offers data analysis, research, and advisory services relevant to business leadership. CEB's client and member network includes 85 percent of the Fortune 500, 50 percent of the Dow Jones Asian Titans, 70 percent of the FTSE 100, and 80 percent of the DAX-30. CEB membership encompasses 50 countries, 5,300 individual organizations, and 225,000 business professionals.

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