Corporate Strategy: 71% of employees can't find it on a multiple choice test.
According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, “When CEOs Talk Strategy, Is Anyone Listening?” only a fraction of our workforce is really clued in. The article cites recent research which says that even in high-performing companies with “clearly articulated public strategies,” only 29% of their employees can correctly identify their company’s strategy out of six choices. -When CEOs Talk, 70% of The Company Doesn't Get It.
Employee Engagement: 70% of employees aren't.
The vast majority of U.S. workers, 70%, are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at work, meaning they are emotionally disconnected from their workplace and are less likely to be productive. - Gallup. You can download Gallup's annual report on America's lack of employee engagement.
I've seen the last quote forever, since before this most recent Gallup report. That's because, according to Gallup, nothing's changed for employee engagement. Good times or bad - wait when were the good times for employees - this figure remains the same.
The first quote caught my attention because of the 71% figure. It's darn close to 70%*. It's darn difficult to engage with a strategy's execution if you can't claim it as your own. The author phrases this corporate cognitive dissonance with more eloquence. He writes 71% of employees may be unknowingly misaligned.
That's because the corporate strategy too often is messaged in CEO or corporate PR speak. Safe, pleasant, using careful words that won't disagree with anyone's feelings on global warming or climate change: yes it is, no it's not, look at the science, lulululu or Obamacare: good or bad, hey we feel the same way either way, too!
That's because those who create the corporate strategy are far removed from executing it, every day in every way in every trench and phone call and email and conversation. (Strategy's never executed in meetings. It may be lost in a meeting...)
If you want your employees to at least be able to find your corporate strategy on a multiple-choice test you have two options:
1. Reduce the number of multiple choice options from six to either 2, if you're a gambler, or 1 if your promotion rests on the test scores. Then carve out time each day to study for the test. This approach is very popular in our educational system. Many companies like it because it prepares students for jobs performing routine tasks in return for low pay and no benefits.
2. Engage your employees with creating your, their, corporate strategy. I guarantee if they create it, they can find it. If they can find it, they can execute it. They'll want to execute it. Why? It's their baby. They have skin in that game now. They've got a dream on paper and they want to make that dream, their dream, real.
Not sure? Imagine you're the parent of a newborn baby. Are you telling me that in a room of 6 babies you cannot correctly identify the one you co-created? C'mon.
It's the same principle with employee engagement and corporate strategy.
If you want engaged employees then engage with your employees. Measuring their performance on routine tasks is not engaging.
If you want them to recognize and be able to execute the corporate strategy then engage them with its creation. Then its execution is a passion, their passion, to execute their dream.
* Academics, quants and quibblers may wiffle around the difference of 1%. Executives and managers and employees lack that luxury.
** The study is limited to 20 high-performing companies. I'm quibbling with the term 'high-performing.' That's as opposed to low-performing? Is that performance measured against peers, competitors, stage of growth, revenues...financial ratios, what? Would their performance change if 40% of their employees could pick the right corporate strategy from a list of 6? Tests are for academics and researchers. My thinking is every leader knows who's engaged with their culture and who's not. The weak one won't admit it to themselves. The strong ones, the ones leading a culture of learners, admit it and work to keep it strong.