Strategic Planning as a Retention Tool, Really???

Clark Neuhoff Core Values

With global access to information and technology, your workforce is one of the few differentiators you have. Finding and training the right people are fundamental, but you cannot forget about retention, especially after you already made this investment to get them.  Susan Drake, President and founder of the Ascendis Learning Center makes a critical point about developing a winning workforce.  She observes …The biggest challenge of building a successful business is talent retention. With a sluggish economy, promotions and raises may not be in the budget this year or next year, but there needs to be some incentive to motivate your strongest performers to keep working hard for your organization. Research shows that Millennials do not come from the school of thought where you select a company, work there for 30+ years and retire with a pension and Social Security benefits. If one of your strategies for 2012 is to maintain and retain top talent, keep these goals in mind:

  • Share your plan for progress
  • Tell employees what they like to hear most…and mean it
  • Ask for feedback frequently
  • Write it down and share with others

So this begs the question; Can strategic planning really be an effective retention tool?  Absolutely!   It is true that compensation and advancement opportunities top the list of motivators.  However, “lack of participation in key decisions” and “misalignment of goals and objectives” are major reasons why people quit.  I hear this common frustration from both sides.

“Why don’t my people take ownership of what we are doing?”


“Why don’t they ever ask what we think?”

The good news is that raising employee engagement is one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to retain and develop your leadership talent.  In over 25 years of leading teams to create and execute growth strategies, we consistently see improved communication, trust, and collaboration as outcomes of this process – all positive measures of employee engagement.  Not to mention improved business results.   As people take ownership for their ideas and their results it drives accountability, confidence and satisfaction.  And isn’t that what everyone wants.

Here are 5 specific ways that engaging your team in a strategic planning process will produce greater employee engagement while driving your business forward.

1 ) The activity itself Allocating specific time on a consistent basis, as a leadership team to step away and actively work ON the business sends several powerful messages:

  • This is important
  • I value your opinions
  • We are all in this together

Sure you could go on a ropes course, but this will have a much more immediate AND longer lasting impact.

2)  Pre-Work Each participant will prepare and present critical information to the team that demonstrates their expertise and lays the foundation for the analysis that will follow.  Experts are more confident.  It also gives you the opportunity to see how your people operate on their feet.  This will help direct your coaching.
3)  Facilitated Discussion Check your job titles at the door.  During the planning sessions you are all equals, everyone’s contribution is important and valuable.  Management can really listen and employees can feel that they have been heard.  Together decisions are made.  This is tremendously empowering.  In the room there will be debate, but you walk out with one united front.
4) Action Plans Agreeing on WHO does WHAT by WHEN means you now all have expectations of each other.  You have made tough decision on priorities which means give and take. Everyone knows what is at stake.  Throughout the process the company vision and core values are reinforced as guides to how those decisions were made.
5)  Execution & Results The Plan is complete and now the fun begins – you execute!  But this transition is also when the team is most vulnerable.  People will be watching closely to see if this was for real, or just another exercise.  The key is consistent communication – weekly meetings to report progress and hold each other accountable.  As results are achieved and problems are solved, the team will build trust, accountability and momentum.

These five steps will get you started.  If you have any questions feel free to share them below as well as how it is working with your team.

For a copy of Sue Drake’s white paper “Transition to Transformation” go to Drake Resources.