Every CEO or business leader will be responsible for a new organisational business plan or strategy at some point in their tenure. Many CEOs are actually recruited with a brief to develop a new strategy. The quality of this new plan or strategy, and the success of its implementation will be directly correlated with how effectively colleagues within the organisation have been engaged.

In our experience at Whitecap, the development of any plan or strategy must have a compelling and persuasive approach to colleague (and stakeholder) engagement. And over recent years, we believe that the level of required investment in engagement has increased for a variety of reasons including the move away from “command and control” cultures, the access to information, and initiative overload.

Richard Branson says he has made sure that Virgin prioritises employees first, customers second, and shareholders third. In practice, there are number of things that a CEO can do in developing a new business plan or strategy to ensure that it is successful – specifically that it resonates with and inspires staff, and doesn’t end up in the bottom drawer. Based on our experience with clients, here are our 4 practical “must haves” for colleague engagement in the context of a new business plan or strategy.

1. Facilitate Authentic Staff Dialogue

Involve staff meaningfully in the development of the business plan or strategy.

Sounds easy, right?

This takes investment (both financial and resource), great design of the process to support dialogue, and the ability and organisation’s will to carve our capacity for colleagues to be involved. Holding a simple “one off” workshop session does not equate to authentic colleague dialogue.

Colleagues are motivated by purpose and making an impact, and colleagues (as opposed to leaders) are often best positioned to address some of the organisation’s opportunities and challenges. So, there are inherent benefits in investing in authentic colleague dialogue and engagement. However, it takes genuine leadership commitment, it takes organisation’s time, and the measurable benefits may be hard to quantify.

 2. Invest in Required Changes

A new business plan or strategy will have elements of change within it. (Who develops a new plan that says “Same again for the next 3 years”?)

Colleagues need to understand what the change means for them.

The organisation needs to have though through these impacts on colleagues such that it can provide appropriate support. This can’t be vague e.g. “there is a need for a cultural change”. This must be specific, for example, this could mean supportive education and training opportunities to develop knowledge and build competence.

3. Reward Colleagues Accordingly

Colleague rewards and incentives need to be aligned with the new business plan or strategy.

Again, sounds simple?

While traditional incentives remain, we see new models emerging to support ongoing recognition. And the underpinning infrastructure of performance management needs to reward people for engaging with the change and behaving in new ways.

And this doesn’t have to be financial reward mind you. There is plenty of evidence to show that most employees are hugely motivated by the reward of appreciation and recognition, both by management and amongst their peers. The smart leaders ensure that recognition is personalised and powerful, thus strengthening the bond between the leader and member of staff.

4. Communicate with “Cut Through”

The need to communicate with impact is obvious. This means “cutting through” other competing internal messages and external noise.

We are bombarded by information, whether at work or in our home lives. To create communication that delivers success, we need to deliver messages that really matter to the receiver, not just to the sender. Our colleagues that work in marketing, tell us that a prospect needs to “hear” the advertiser’s message at least 7 times before they’ll take action to buy that product or service. We should consider the same for internal communications.

This means communicating often, clearly, and in a straightforward way. So, make the complicated messages simple. And the simple interesting.


Regardless of what type or size of organisation you lead, effective colleague engagement should be regarded as a critical investment – getting it right will ensure your growth plan or strategy is a winner with your teams, which in turn will lead to greater likelihood of success of implementation.

Hopefully you‘ve found this article useful. If you feel that your strategic planning would benefit from independent review and challenge, and would like to have a no obligation discussion, please get in touch with us here.

Established in 2012, Whitecap Consulting is a regional strategy consultancy headquartered in Leeds, with offices in Manchester, Milton Keynes, Bristol and Newcastle. We typically work with boards, executives and investors of predominantly mid-sized organisations with a turnover of c£10m-£300m, helping clients analyse, develop and implement growth strategies. Also, we work with clients across a range of sectors including Financial Services, Technology, Outsourcing, Consumer and Retail, Property, Healthcare, Higher Education and Professional Services, including Corporate Finance and PE.