The 3 Percent: Influential Employees Have Bigger Voices
Successful corporate change – whether it is cultural, functional or growth oriented – is contingent upon employee buy-in. More than ever before, employees are asking questions, demanding transparency and sharing their opinions through social media channels. And more than ever, corporations want these employees to be engaged in the organization and to be ambassadors for the company’s vision.
A small percentage of employees have the power to influence change. Identified through organizational network analysis (Read ”Three Percent of Employees Can Make or Break any Corporate Change”), these employees can sway the majority of others and can have a positive - or negative - impact on corporate initiatives.
How do you get these people on board and effectively utilize their influence to engage others? Connect with them through deliberate and focused messaging about your corporate purpose. Studies have shown that leaders committed to helping others understand their purpose are more able to retain key talent and improve employee engagement. Employees engaged within a company are more committed towards achieving company goals and are less likely to view their position in the company as a stepping stone to the next phase of their career. They will engage others and be effective ambassadors if they are connected to the corporate purpose.
Purpose explains up to 8 percent of the variation of the financial performance of companies operating within the same industry, and companies devoted to a larger purpose than maximizing profits outperform the S&P 500 by a ratio of 9:1, according to a Burson-Marsteller survey.
There are three key steps in engaging the three percent of influential employees during any corporate change initiatives.
- First, know and convey your corporate purpose. Identify what drives the company to uncover its purpose, vision and values. This is the critical step and everything else depends on it. Once purpose is identified, all corporate change initiatives must align with it to be successful. Outline exactly what purpose-driven success looks like and create a plan to move the company in that direction.
- Involve influential employees early. Communications within an organization used to be driven from the top down. That is no longer effective. Employees have a voice and must be connected to the purpose, understand what it does for them individually and how it affects the company as a whole. Then they will accept any change that supports the purpose. Solicit their feedback and have an open dialogue if you want them to become your ambassadors.
- Once the influential three percent of employees believe in the corporate purpose, conduct an intensive internal training program to help them share it with others. Involve the influential group in the training and keep them informed of progress. They will feel more responsibility for advancing the company’s purpose if they are involved early.
When a leader is truly committed to purpose, values and related behaviors, employees share the connection and understand how they fit into the bigger picture. And that’s how you retain good people who are effective in advancing business goals.
This article originally appeared in the Houston Business Journal July 25, 2014 (subscriber-only content)
As President at Savage Brands, Bethany is known for forging powerful connections – connecting people to people and connecting companies with the fresh ideas that make their brands purposeful. In her recent book, "Get Your Head Out of Your Bottom Line and Build Your Brand on Purpose," Bethany conveys to business leaders the importance of leading with purpose.