In HR, we know the value of acting strategically in our jobs. However, the philosophy extends way beyond HR and management, and, really, every single employee can do his job strategically. Because we know that employees on the ground in the company directly contribute to the success of the entire organization, we also know that our roles are even more strategic when we hire employees who naturally see the “big picture” and we encourage all employees to approach their jobs with a strategic mindset. Here are six ways you can get all employees to start thinking and working strategically:
1. Cross-train. One way to have employees better understand the direction your company is moving is to show them how the different pieces contribute to the momentum of the whole. When you cross-train employees with other teams or departments, they’ll see how other employees approach problems and strategically sort through them. Employees also get to see how other teams interpret the company mission and goals and put them to use. Other departments may use a different perspective to approach the same mission and goals that yours is working toward. If you simply don’t have the time or resources to cross-train, you can show them how each department is working toward the same goal at the next company meeting or retreat. All of this exposure to new thinking and understanding will give your employees tools to inspire them to think out of the box.
2. Let employees speak up. Encourage your employees to take the initiative to identify problems, brainstorm solutions, collect data and formulate recommendations. If you have good managers in place, they will appreciate employees who takes it into their own hands to solve a problem. They should love having someone on the team who can identify roadblocks and offer solutions that help them make adjustments quickly without losing the momentum that’s driving the team toward company goals. Be careful, however, that you consider these employees’ ideas. Because if they go out on a limb to try to help, they need to know managers take them seriously. If not, they’ll see no reason to in the future and will feel as though their voices aren’t important. Everyone wants to feel valued.
3. Make a plan. Help your employees use the company mission and goals to create personal mission statements and goals that drive them and contribute to the big picture. We recently did this during a company meeting at BambooHR where we broke off into teams. We all know and love our Bamboo mission, vision and accompanying values. While together as a content team, we each identified our personal motivating values and developed our own mission, vision and values that supported the company’s goals. By doing this, we personalized the company mission and goals and were able to apply them to what we do in our roles every day. This helped our team stay focused and motivated from day to day. Try it. It’s a great way to help all of your employees see their particular roles as an important part of the company’s strategy.
4. Show employees where they fit. Every employee at your company should know how his role contributes to the long-term success of your company. It should be one of the first things new hires learn during onboarding and revisited often during one-on-ones and as projects are completed. You can identify an underlying strategic goal that every employee’s current assignment serves and reinforce how it helps directly contribute to specific company goals. Seeing an employee whose work supports the vision of the company is refreshing; seeing an employee who knows the company’s strategic goals and works to make sure assignments directly contribute is impressive.
5. Help employees be a $, not a ?. Once you’ve tied your employees’ work to strategic goals, go bigger. Encourage them to think about how their daily action items will affect the company’s bottom line, then look even further to figure out how their actions will impact every part of the company. Will this project save money, increase sales, raise brand awareness, help management operate more efficiently, increase employee morale or do something equally as valuable? When managers can directly relate an employee’s activities to the success of the company—and provided you share that information with your employees—they see their value very clearly. This is a great way to make sure they understand how much the company needs them and their contribution.
6. Fit your team into the larger purpose. Once your employees are empowered and motivated to think of their role and assignments within the strategic aims of the company, it might become difficult for them to take direction they don’t understand or agree with. Be understanding of this as a leader but also help your employees understand that corporate strategy is fluid and controlled by executives who have a complete view of the company and the market. When employees understand that their strategic performance is part of a much larger strategic machine, they will truly understand how the organization operates. Then the company will have all teams working in sync and building toward success.
Yes, this process will make your employees invaluable to the organization. But even more, it will help the organization function more efficiently, effectively and successfully, which plays a huge part in every company’s “big picture.”