Synergy is defined as the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. It is clear that the extent to which employees buy in to your strategy is a big factor in determining how close you will get to achieving productive synergy.
What happens when employees don’t buy into our strategy or plan?
- Significant energy gets wasted: if people don’t buy in, they’re doing something else with their time and energy instead.
- There is no neutral, non-impactful stance. If a group of employees isn’t excited by a planned change in direction, they will continue doing what they have always done. No synergy in that.
- We know some individuals and teams overtly defy a new plan because they don’t agree with some of the elements. These people will look for ways to sabotage the new plan through subterfuge and other unproductive attitudes or behaviours.
- That leaves your keeners, those long-term and newer employees, who are excited and engaged and have not yet been poisoned by their disengaged colleagues.
Several years ago I read about a company, which placed #1 on the list of a top 50-employer survey, and they still estimated that 10% of its workforce were moderately to significantly disengaged. They were the best of the best! In most businesses the numbers look more like those from the Management Journal’s Employee Engagement Index report: 60% of employees are not engaged; 15% are actively disengaged; and only 25% are engaged.
Our human instinct is to try and fix problems, so we are inclined to focus our energy on the unhappy employees. Some research suggests that by focusing instead on your highly committed people and making them the cheerleaders for your new initiatives, the entire buy in bell curve shifts to the right with a higher percentage of your employees boarding the ‘yes’ bus. Understanding that there will always be some who don’t buy in will help leaders sleep at night.
How do we help employees buy in?
- Get their input into the plan as it’s being developed. Use surveys, town halls, facilitated workshops, or a ‘What’s Going On’ (WGO) exercise.
- Be a visibly present leader. Walk around and listen to the buzz.
- Use metrics and a visible scoreboard so individuals can see progress.
- Ensure you have a process to correct course when you’re not on target. We’d be happy to share a couple of great tools with you at no cost – give us a call!
- Conduct structured coaching sessions and ask specific questions related to the plan. Then ensure you are actively listening. Be prepared to adjust the plan based on the input you receive.
It’s a rare person who gets up in the morning looking for ways to undermine the success of the company upon which they rely for their income and quality of life. Yet we know disengagement is a chronic issue in most organizations. The more you can make the business plan everyone’s plan, the more likely you will be to generate passion and achieve the buy in that best-in-class organizations enjoy.