It could be argued that strategic narrative became a particularly popular topic for internal communication practitioners after MacLeod and Clarke wrote Engaging for Success in 2009. But the unfortunate truth is that most strategic narratives are not created for, or communicated with employees in mind.
Typically, strategy narratives are created by a small group of business leaders to communicate consistent messages to external audiences. This generates a narrative which fails to connect emotionally with employees and their everyday experience, so is inevitably unlikely to be effective in engaging them.
There’s no agreed definition of a strategic narrative, but at RY we believe it should weave together the organisation’s purpose, vision, strategic goals and a compelling call to action. It needs to be an authentic, inspiring and visible story that your employees can relate to.
It should set out the organisation’s ambition, how its plans to achieve it, how it will overcome obstacles, the capabilities it needs, why it’s telling its people this story and the contribution to it they are being asked to make.
A great deal of evidence exists about the positive impact from employees understanding and being committed to delivering organisational strategy and purpose. This means communicating strategy is not just about logic, it’s also about creating a strong emotional attachment between it and a company’s people. Or, as The Corporate Leadership Council puts it : “…emotional commitment drives effort… four times as valuable as rational commitment in producing discretionary effort. Indeed the search for a high performance workforce is synonymous with the search for emotional commitment.”
Turning strategy into action can only be accomplished by an organisation’s people. This requires a continuous process of planning, implementation and feedback to build a rational and emotional connection for all employees to strategic direction and purpose.
We believe this involves six steps, and internal communication practitioners have an essential role to play in each one.
- Translate strategy in a short, inspiring narrative for all employees.
Work with leaders to translate strategy and drivers of change in a short, emotionally engaging, employee-relevant narrative.
- Involve employees in exploring their connection with the narrative
Test understanding of and identification with the narrative with groups of employees, and define the support and resources they need to engage their colleagues with it.
- Agree the strategic narrative and its communication plan
Work with leaders and managers to agree the strategic narrative and communications plan for launching and embedding it to ensure local relevance, including measures of success.
- Implement the communications plan
Create the required resources and implement the plan for engaging all employees with the narrative, underpinned by a standout creative approach.
- Measure the effectiveness of communications
Implement the measurement plan to support reporting and continuous refinement of communications.
- Sustain connectivity with the strategy through communications
Maintain feedback and dialogue with leaders to shape their communications and subsequent iterations of the strategic narrative in response to change.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like more information on this subject or you would like to share your stories on what has worked well for your organisation.