A Great Plan Is Only As Good As Its Execution

Posted by Rick DeMarco on 11 October 2016

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Recently we published a blog in which we talked about the gap between recognizing employee engagement as a strategic imperative and dedicating the proper resources to address it. In that blog we included some suggestions on how to secure the resources required to effectively create a culture of high engagement. But securing the resources is really only half of the solution. Creating that culture requires a commitment to execution of the engagement plan. 

As we have worked with clients over the past few years, one of the big challenges has been maintaining momentum once a comprehensive engagement plan has been developed. With the purest intentions to execute, those who are assigned the responsibility are often sidetracked or distracted with other priorities, often with good reasons. The problem is that creating employee engagement is a journey, not an event. And when execution of the plan is delayed, the organization runs the risk of losing momentum and the resulting enthusiasm and support from employees. Whether the person in charge of execution of the plan has another role in HR or Marketing or Communications, often day-to-day issues occur and execution plans are stalled, through no fault of that individual.

In addition to the problem of losing momentum, these delays create additional challenges in creating a culture of high engagement. First of all, it signals to the person charged with execution of the plan that this really isn’t a high priority, despite all of the evidence that supports the belief that employee engagement is one of the top challenges facing companies today and has a direct impact on growth, EPS, employee turnover, customer satisfaction, and just about any other business metric you can think about. Secondly, it’s somewhat ironic that if the end game is to create a culture of high engagement and commitment to employees, the more delays and missteps that happen, the more the organization dampens the enthusiasm of employees and the belief that the organization is truly committed to this effort. Finally, financial resources are often wasted because investments made as part of the plan are not fully leveraged as part of the longer-term objectives. 

You put a lot of effort and resources into developing a comprehensive engagement strategy, whether it’s based on a brand repositioning, cultural transformation, strategic initiative, or as part of a post-acquisition integration. So how do you ensure that the plan is executed effectively and efficiently?  Here are five suggestions

  1. Build a cross-functional team led by a senior leader assigned with the task of executing the plan and make this their sole purpose. It should not be an additional responsibility added on to a functional role that carries with it daily responsibilities. I was hired at HP as the Director of Internal Brand Alignment. Although I was functionally part of the Brand Management team, I had no responsibilities for brand positioning, creative, media, brand identity, or any of the other roles required to develop and execute an effective brand strategy. This gave me the authority and freedom to cross all functional boundaries, building partnerships with HR and communications, and to stay focused on executing a strategic employee engagement and brand alignment plan.
  2. Ensure that the team is held accountable for results and the effective execution of the plan. Performance metrics should be directly tied to improved employee engagement and other metrics related to the successful execution of the plan.
  3. Stay the course. Resist the temptation to re-assign these team members to other initiatives that come up during the course of the year. Doing so will create a loss of momentum and signal both the team and employees at large that this isn’t really a priority.
  4. Ensure that the team has the resources necessary to execute the plan in terms of both money and people.
  5. If there is not a senior level leader available to dedicate to this team, consider engaging an outside resource to serve that role to keep the execution on track and provide direction to the other cross functional team members.

In a business environment in which organizations are constantly assessing the use of both people and money resources to ensure that they generate a return, it may sound naïve to suggest that dedicated people be assigned to the execution of an employee engagement plan. But given the overwhelming evidence that a culture of high engagement has a direct impact on the performance of an organization, that it is one of the top challenges facing companies today, and that it directly drives the ability to create exceptional customer experiences, I would suggest that it makes perfect business sense to align the challenge with a commitment.

If you would like to learn more about how Inward can collaborate with your internal team and ensure that a well-designed engagement strategy is effectively executed, give us a call.