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If your business spends December planning for the year ahead, I’ve got some bad news: you’re four to six months late

In his monthly column for BCBusiness, Richmond-based employee engagement and internal brand communications expert Ben Baker shares his insights into how to communicate value effectively, so people want to listen and engage. In the end, it’s about creating influence through trust.

Too many companies make it to December only to lament about the year that is behind them and hope that the next one will miraculously be different. Getting toward the end of the month, they decide that now is the time to develop strategies to change, thinking that January 1 will drop some fairy dust and all the wrongs of the world will immediately be righted.

A better idea: to make an impact in January, consider real changes much earlier, create a plan and put it in place by September. It takes most companies four to six months to implement change; if you start in January, before you know it the slow summer months are upon you, and the business spirals toward another dismal year.

Does this sound familiar?

So what if instead, you thought about, strategized and implemented plans with five years in mind? In five years, we want to be here, wherever that may be. Next step: understand where the business is today and develop the systems and people to get it from A to B.

Every company should have at least one person who is looking ahead. Who has the job of knowing where the company is, where it’s going, what challenges it may face, what new technologies and rivals might create roadblocks, and where to invest time and money to ensure success?

In my view, no one person should have this job: everybody in the company should do it. Every organization should have a culture of leadership where all staff know what might challenge their success—and feel empowered to raise their concerns to those who make strategic and budgetary decisions.

To do this demands belief in your people: a culture where everyone understands where the company is, where it’s going and how their role matters to its overall success. It’s about creating Leaders at Any Level, and that comes down to hiring, onboarding, training, culture and ongoing communication.

Too many companies hire for a position they need filled today. You could argue that they should hire people who can grow with the business, helping it overcome long-term challenges and achieve long-term goals. Bring on people who may not be the best at any specific task, but who think critically and can see how the parts affect the whole.

If more companies recruited, trained and promoted that kind of employee, engagement and retention would improve, and staff would become stronger advocates of the brand, and ultimately, better serve clients.

Culture and communication are vital. Everybody knows that plans change, and strategies sometimes need tweaks to ensure long-term success. Having a culture that embraces those changes—through engaged communication about why they’re necessary—will make them happen. Without effective communication, people get stuck in old habits and are less nimble when flexibility becomes essential.

This is why companies need to think long-term. By looking at the world in five-year blocks, you set yourself up to consider what challenges could arise and augment your current strategies to take advantage of opportunities. When all you’re looking at is the next quarter or even the next year, you and your staff don’t have the flexibility or time to pivot effectively and remain leaders in your field.

Only when everyone is looking forward, realizing how potential change can affect their part of the organization—and freely communicating those concerns to the decision makers—can a company survive decade after decade. Businesses that think this way also tend to make themselves valuable takeover targets when the time comes.

Ben Baker wants to help you engage, retain, and grow your most valuable asset…your employees. He provides workshops and consulting to enable staff to understand, codify and communicate their value effectively internally and externally and Lead at Any LevelThe author of Powerful Personal Brands: A Hands-On Guide to Understanding Yours and the host of the iHeart Radio syndicated YourLIVINGBrand.live show, he writes extensively on brand and communication strategy. 

To schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation to establish how Ben can help you engage, retain and grow your teams, click here.