Have you noticed things around the office are a bit stagnant lately? How about your employees, do they seem a little less satisfied? Or maybe your latest report about employee productivity showed the business could be a little more… productive?

If these sound familiar, you may be thinking about launching a new cultural initiative that can help transform your culture and get your employees engaged again.

Unfortunately, your big initiative idea can go exactly nowhere if you don’t get the buy-in you need. And you will need a lot, from the employees you’re looking to inspire, the managers who will reinforce and guide the initiative day-to-day, and the executives who will need to release the budget to make it happen in the first place.

A 2008 survey of over 3,000 executives from McKinsey found that only one in three organizational change efforts succeed.

It’s not all that surprising to hear how many initiatives fall flat before they even begin. But what is it that makes that one initiative more successful than another? Careful planning and understanding the needs of stakeholders, for starters. But these are almost guaranteed to be different. That’s why we emphasize communication, communication, and more communication if you want to achieve full support from all. 

First, A Word About the Executive Team

The first group that will need convincing is the executive team that will need to approve your initial request. These executives will most likely wish to know about the initiative’s value in terms of the bottom line and meeting business goals. In other words, you’ll need to find a way to clearly and concisely (these are busy people after all) make the connection between budgetary dollars and the return they can expect to see from that expenditure. 

Make your argument even stronger by providing leadership with a realistic timeframe for when they can expect to see changes starting to happen!

For executives, communication needs to focus on the bottom line and real business goals. 

Your executives are concerned with the long-term health of the business. Your job, as a cultural initiative leader, is to make sure they understand how your initiative will affect the company’s culture, and how culture affects the company’s longevity – that means not only profits but also explaining how the initiative fits into the culture, values, and strategic vision of the organization. 

Next Up: Management 

Once you’ve convinced your executives, you’ll need to get your management team onboard. Managers are your strongest link to your employees and any new initiative will need their dogged, determined, relentless support to succeed. Your managers are going to be the daily face of the initiative, encouraging participation, sharing information, and gathering feedback from employees. 

That means the needs of your management team will be different and so will the information they require to support the initiative. Communication about how the initiative will increase engagement and how that engagement will help them meet company goals is crucial. 

Be prepared to answer these three big questions about your initiative.

  • How will the initiative improve employee engagement?
  • How will that improve service?
  • How will it improve productivity?

The Heart of Your Organization: Employees

You’ve made it this far – congratulations! – but now you’ve come to the final challenge, and that’s getting your employees engaged and receptive to the new initiative. 

Change can be challenging to embrace. To ask your employees to change, you need to clearly show them how these changes will benefit them. But the things your employees care about can vary wildly from the cares of the executive and management teams. 

Rather than the financial health of the company, employees may be more concerned with finding purpose in their work or having convenient access to things that make their working lives more comfortable. Any new initiative will need to be framed with these considerations in mind as well as the benefits to the organization.

Building Trust with Employees

The most important consideration for getting employees to adopt your new initiative is trust. Trust is built slowly but breaks down quickly if employees perceive a lack of transparency around initiatives. So be certain you clearly communicate the ‘why’ behind the initiative, how they will be affected, and how it will ultimately benefit them and their role within the organization.

And don’t forget to ask for feedback! Feeling heard is a big component of maintaining trust and mutual respect. Once you’ve asked for the feedback, be prepared to take action on it.

For the communications between you and your employees, it’s important to make sure you choose the channels that are relevant and meaningful to them. Once you discover these, it’s important to maintain communications in a timely, frequent pattern that they can count on. Maybe that’s a weekly team meeting, or monthly video communications from the leadership team to outline ongoing priorities and strategies. Whatever you choose, make sure your employees know where, when, and how often to expect the communications as well as when they are able to provide input and feedback about the initiative.

Ready to Get Started?

Let’s get those employees engaged! If you have an idea for a cultural initiative and need assistance navigating your organization’s communications challenges, contact Outlier today. Our team can help you identify, plan, and execute communications strategies and find success for your initiatives. 

About the Author

  • Kathleen drives Outlier's marketing communications strategy. She covers topics related to content strategy and content marketing and is only a little embarrassed to admit how many show tune lyrics she knows by heart.