Step 1: Bring employees closer to strategic decisions made by the senior management of the business – “The Strategic Narrative”

To achieve an engaged workforce, every employee should understand why and how key strategic decisions are taken in the business. Thus, strategy has to form the basis of discussions at employee forum meetings in order that employee representatives can scrutinise and evaluate management decision making. This will require the representatives to have the knowledge and skills to ask questions that may not otherwise be asked by employees. The answers to these questions should be the foundation of high quality communication back to the wider workforce - essential for the success of the process.

As a result of employee forum representatives asking a series of key questions, the workforce should be able to trace any change in their circumstances to a strategic decision. This helps employees to see change as something that involves them, rather than as something done to them.


Step 2: Creating "buy-in" to the strategic decision.

"Buy-in" does not mean employees agreeing with or being happy with organisational change. The basis of employees buying–in to a decision that results in organisational change rests with their complete understanding of that decision.

This requires an understanding of both why these decisions have been made and how they have been made.  In a mathematics exam, marks are given not just for the final answer, but also for the process by which the answer is reached - "showing your working". Scrutinising senior management’s decision making is like that – it is not so much the decision at the end of the process that achieves buy-in, it is be able to understand management’s “working”.

Respect for decisions comes when employees understand the process and appreciate the quality of the decision. When managers begin to fully explain to employees their reasons for making a decision, and how the decision was made, trust between managers and employees increases.


Step 3: the What, the Why and the What Else. 

Employees often need reassurance that decisions have been made with proper consideration. An exploration of the “what else” will support this and involves managers talking through the options that were considered before the final decision was reached. This will, ideally, be done before that final decision has been taken but it can be done retrospectively. The timing is actually of secondary importance to the quality of the communication that the employee representatives and managers provide to the employees. It is this regular communication that will lead to Step 4.


Step 4: Continued improvement in employee satisfaction and the building of trust

As organisations move through the preceding three steps, employees’ trust in senior managers and the decisions they make will increase. There is security in the predictability of knowing that employees will be involved and that the decision making process is open and transparent.

Step 5: Create an informed and credible employee voice in a culture where employees want to contribute and get involved.

It is within a open and positive culture that employees will be interested in talking about organisational strategy. There will be less speculation about why something has happened and  more interest in debating what might happen next.

Progress through these five steps should be seen in improved engagement scores in employee surveys.

A further measurement of success will be more employees standing for election as forum representatives as the role is proved to have real value and influence in the organisation and as more people become aware of the role as a result of better communication.