Why staff buy-in will make or break your workforce wellness strategy

Why staff buy-in will make or break your workforce wellness strategy

At least half of all strategic initiatives miss their mark. One study, reported in 2017 in the Harvard Business Review suggests a failure rate as high as 67%.

Oh dear.

One of the most critical reasons for this kind of failure is a lack of buy-in from staff. This accounts for a variety of problems, from teams that simply don’t understand their role in bringing a strategy to life, to groups of people who are outright resistant. In some cases, the strategy itself may be flawed because it was developed without insight from the people who understand the business at a grassroots level.

Leaders must create strategy in a way that creates buy-in across the entire organisation. To quote one respondent from a 2014 study conducted by consulting firm A. T. Kearney, “strategy that doesn’t make it out of the boardroom isn’t really strategy”. Getting this right means following three important principles:

Principle 1. Consult wide and deep

Many leadership teams fail to consult widely or deeply enough. According to Alexandra Tullio, a senior executive formerly with Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, “Many people make the mistake of only engaging those they perceive as ‘important’ or ‘senior’ and assuming they will distil the message from on high. This is old school thinking – the fact is that change doesn’t happen at senior levels.”

Before sitting down to decide on a strategy, leaders should be asking: whose buy-in do we need for this to succeed – whether they be decision-makers, influencers or those critical to implementation? This isn’t just a matter of keeping people happy and on board – the input of these stakeholders might actually improve the strategy.

Principle 2. Go slow to go fast

Proper consultation and stakeholder engagement takes time, which is why it’s important to start early and go slowly. Leaders should avoid a “big reveal” – by the time a strategy is launched, stakeholders should have a good idea of what’s being presented and feel they’ve had their input. While this requires patience upfront, the pay-off is rapid execution and action.

Principle 3. Foster the right feeling

Ultimately, people’s willingness to get on board with any strategy is a function of their emotional response to it. Leaders need to resist the temptation to inundate people with slide decks and data-filled spreadsheets, instead focusing their energies on sharing stories and creating experiences that will help people to feel the opportunity or the problem for themselves. Once people emotionally connect to something, they’re prepared to invest in it – and act.

To hear more from Simon on how to get people onboard with your wellness strategy, you can tune into the recording of his recent webinar ‘The gentle art of buy-in’ in The Hub.

Simon Dowling is a leading thinker on creating and leading collaborative teams and workplaces. As a speaker, facilitator and educator, he works closely with leaders and teams from some of Australia’s most interesting organisations, equipping them with the inspiration and know-how to build strong, highly engaged teams. For the past 20 years, Simon has been working with leaders across a wide range of industries, helping them to tap the collective genius of their people. His book, Work with Me: How to get people to buy into your ideas, is available in bookstores and online. You can also find out more about his online course Get Heard.
Email: simon@2engage.com.au     Web: www.simondowling.com.au