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    Strategy Deployment for Employee Engagement

    At the end of the day, have you ever left the office and wondered if you actually worked on anything that helped the company move toward achieving its vision? Not just for the next day or next week, but what about for the next year or three to five years out?

    Here is another question for thought. Have you ever asked your front-line and field staff, “Did you have a good day? How do you know?” What do you think they would say? It is great if a maintenance technician knows the number of work orders they did for a particular day, but do they know how many guests or owners they delivered great service to? How does their daily accomplishment tie into the company vision three to five years out?

    A handful of companies use an open book management philosophy. Briefly, that means that every person in the organization has the awareness of how the company is financially performing against its budget. This can create a sense of engagement between the individual staff members’ role and the fiscal impact to the company. However, budget targets are normally set annually, and there are more ways to measure the success of a company in addition to fiscal results. How do we go about creating a sense of engagement beyond the one year?

    The Process of Strategy Deployment

    Strategy deployment is a management process that aligns—both vertically and horizontally—an organization’s functions and activities with its strategic objectives. It provides a clear connection between the company’s objectives and day-to-day activities. Another benefit is that it drives top-to-bottom, consistent messaging such that all departments know how the entire company is running (beyond just financially). It gives management an effective way to communicate directives so that every employee knows how they impact the business both short and long term and can get engaged and implement improvements.

    While it starts as a top-down initiative (goal setting), once implemented, it creates a bottoms-up process involving communication between the organizational leaders and the employees executing against those metrics. In short, the objective is to match available resources with desirable objectives so that only objectives that are desirable, important, and achievable will be focused on. The greatest benefit is that is eliminates the need for “command and control” management and the employee frustrations that come with that style of leadership.

    Implementing strategy deployment is not something that can be completed in one leadership meeting and distributed to all employees to check a box. Rather, it is a journey that is done over a period of time so that full understanding and engagement takes place. While we all desire instant gratification, normally full engagement takes place over the course of three to four years.

    The development of the goals and objectives is completed through series of five steps and annually reviewed and adjusted. We will use an example throughout the article to help with understanding. The five steps consist of: 

    1. Identifying the three- to five-year breakthrough objectives
    2. Determining the annual objectives that align with the three- to five-year objectives
    3. Setting the targets to improve (metrics) that will track progress toward the annual objectives and which leader is responsible for each metric
    4. Defining the improvement priorities—that is, how are you going to achieve the annual objective
    5. Creating a balanced scorecard containing the targets to improve as well as other business metrics so that each department has at least three to measure monthly

    1. Identify Breakthrough Objectives

    Breakthrough objectives are things that the company is currently not doing or measuring; however, hitting them provides the company a sustainable competitive advantage. Your leadership team should have no idea how to attain it. The objectives should be audacious in nature. While people will automatically think “No way, no how,” as Wayne Gretzky stated, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

    To identify these objectives, you must put yourself in the shoes of owners, guests, and employees (yes, I said employees). What are those things that no one else is doing that if you executed on would have them banging down your doors to have their property in your program, come stay in one of the properties that you represent, or come work for you? Is it in the area of communications, service offerings, operational execution, or workplace environment? (Hint: Most likely, it is a mix of all these.)  

    In our industry, excellent communication is critical and needs to be quick, concise, and consistent. What if your breakthrough objective was to respond to all communications within three minutes on average? Your first thought might be, “Impossible.” This leads you to the next step for the annual objective.

    2. Determine the Annual Objectives

    The annual objective will require discussion and perhaps some investigation or analysis. It may be a subset of the breakthrough objective but significant enough to move the needle. It is important that they are SMART objectives (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound). Sometimes they may be foundational—for example, the need to develop a measurement tool that is currently not in use or not available.

    In our communication example, suppose we identified that email leads during normal business hours is averaging 25 minutes but is 80 percent of our communications with guests and owners. In this case, a SMART objective would be: Reduce email communications to guest and owners from 25 minutes on average to five minutes on average during office hours by December 2023. That would be an 80 percent reduction in response time with the largest method of communication. That also can become your target to improve (TTI) (step 3).

    3. Set Targets

    If the annual objectives are in the SMART format, they can be the TTI and is the most common occurrence with this process. TTIs are then assigned to leaders (normally executive leaders or department heads).

    4. Define Improvement Priorities

    With the TTIs set, now the team identifies the improvement priorities. That is, how are we going to get this done. At a high level, what systems, technologies, and methods will need to be used to achieve these targets? To improve the email response time, the improvement priorities might be to use a CRM system, templates, and staffing schedules to decrease response time during peak periods. This should be the foundational information for any projects that your teams may work on.

    5. Create a Balanced Scorecard

    The last step is to translate your targets to improve to a balanced scorecard and add other business metrics so that each department has at least three (but no more than five). The scorecard breaks down each metric into monthly goals to get to the desired end state. Each month, the person responsible for that metric fills in the results. If that metric is on track, keep going. However, if the metric falls behind, the responsible person should get with others to figure out what went wrong, how it is fixed, and what can be done to get back on track and stay on track. In the email communication example, if in March the goal was to be at 19 minutes, the actual was 22 minutes, and the cause was a delay in getting a template done and in place, can you pull other resources to get that one done plus any others that are expected to be completed in April?

    Rolling It Out

    After this challenging work is completed, now is the time to roll this out to the employees. It should initially be done in person, whether an all-company meeting, department meeting, or one-on-one. Spend the time to ensure all employees understand the metrics, their importance—and especially their department metrics—and the employee’s importance in achieving the goals both short and long term.

    Every month, the scorecard needs to be updated and posted (in offices or at workstations, in the conference rooms or kitchens). If metrics are red, that is OK if the team is focused on understanding where the miss was and how to rectify it. Leaders should at random ask their employees if they know how their department did last month. Reward those who take the time to know.

    This process does not have to be hidden from owners or guests, either. Be proud of the things that are working, and own the things that need more help. This correlates to exactly how short-term rental managers interact with owners and guests every day.

    Dave Roberts is the vice president of operations and strategy deployment at Outer Banks Blue Realty Services and Sandbridge Blue Realty Services.

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