By the time the holidays roll around, most CFOs have completed their plans for the coming year. At least three months in the making, the plan represents the high-level goals and milestones the company has set.
The CFO has no doubt spent months working with key stakeholders to ensure each department’s top-level objectives are aligned with overall corporate goals. He or she may have distributed workbooks or spreadsheets detailing each goal and worked with each functional vice president to develop key performance indicators to track their contribution to the plan. But meeting those goals requires the dedication of every team member, so how can the CFO get all employees on the same page?
All plans need buy-in from the rank and file. Employees need to see how their roles may change in order to align with the plan.
For instance, let’s say the board has set a high-level goal of increasing new customers by 40% in 2019 in order to make the company more attractive to potential buyers.
To boost the customer roster, the sales team may need to focus on selling a product or service with a lower entry point. But sales may resist that tactic — because commissions are lower, the product is less prestigious, or they’ve spent the past few years nurturing a lead for a high-end product. In other words, there are entrenched reasons for sales to stick to business as usual; unless salespeople are sold on the plan, the company is at risk for missing its high-level goals.
Though it’s normal practice in most organizations, I advise against leaving the socializing of the plan to the lower levels of line management. Marketing the budgeting and planning goals to staff is an executive-level responsibility.
Back in the 1980s, when the former MCI Communications was the David to AT&T’s Goliath, founder and CEO Bill McGowan wanted to focus on aggressive growth. The C-suite set a goal of $5 billion in revenue and coined the phrase, “Drive for Five.” To ensure everyone was on the same page, corporate developed a company-wide marketing campaign that included kick-off calls, swag such as t-shirts, and mouse pads with the Drive for Five logo. There was no question as to what was expected of every employee.
Do all companies need to create slogans and mouse pads to socialize their corporate goals? Depending on the size of the organization and the internal communications structure, it may not be necessary. But devising and executing a marketing campaign directed at staff helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that a plan is fully socialized.
I was recently talking to the CEO of a holding company who said that when his organization considers acquiring a company, he likes to walk the floor, asking random employees of the target company what their employer’s corporate goals are for the year. He has found that, generally speaking, it was near impossible to find someone that could actually tell him.
Harvard Business Review documented this phenomenon. “When CEOs Talk Strategy, Is Anyone Listening?” cited research that showed only 29% of employees could correctly identify their company’s “clearly articulated public strategies” out of a list of six choices.
Every company out there looking to empower its staff to reach growth plans should make a modest effort to socialize the strategy directly to everyone in the company. Otherwise, the organization risks setting a high-level goal that falls flat for the rank and file.
Chris Howard is vice president of customer experience at Centage. Chris brings over 20 years of sales, marketing, and customer experience in software and service companies to his role at Centage.