16 January 2018

Planning for 2018? 18 questions to ask

Here are our 18 things to think about to get your planning off to a good start in 2018.

A new year often brings refreshed focus, renewed enthusiasm and lots of good intentions for the year ahead. With new technologies, processes and regulations on your radar, sometimes it’s difficult to know where to start. Fear not, we’ve got your back – here are our 18 things to think about to get your planning off to a good start in 2018. We’ve thrown in some of our thoughts, tips and things we’ve found interesting for good measure!


Strategy & Planning

1. Strategic clarity – where are we all going this year?

Is the strategy for the business this year clear? Does everyone know who has been involved in creating/shaping it from their department point of view, and know how individuals can contribute? Can it be broken down into shorter-term focus areas (e.g. this quarter, this month) to really drive progress? The aim here is get that clarity between what the business has to do and what an individual knows they have to do to make a meaningful contribution. Your story and key messages will flow nicely from this.   To ask – Does everyone get it and know the role they play? To do – The big visual ‘plan on a page’ is still really popular. Everyone can see the plan at a glance and managers are able to talk it through in more detail with teams.

2. How are your people feeling?

Have you got a good feeling for how happy, productive and motivated employees are? You may have results from the opinion survey, but do you have mechanisms in place for more regular, quick checks? If so, are you clear on the priority areas for this year and what the plan might be to address those? More often than not, there is some focus on improved communications and better visibility of development/training or line manager interaction. To do – Plan to get out there and speak to different teams to test your assumptions further. Run a sample of workshops to incorporate ideas on addressing these priority areas.

3. How aligned are you with other business units?

Are you closely aligned to HR, Marketing and L&D departments? Are you ensuring a more collaborative approach to initiatives to ensure they’re delivered across the business and that there’s no duplication? To ask – What are other teams doing that affects what I’m trying to achieve? How can you support each other better?

4. Have you mapped out your employee experience from hire to retire?

Have you worked with HR, Operations and L&D to map out the entire employee experience from initial brand awareness and hire through to onboarding and exit? Creating the best employee experience possible is something organisations are giving more and more focus to as a route to talent retention and delivery of great customer experience. You can then look to improve each area from an HR, comms and development perspective. To help – Synergy’s mapping workshop is a great way to get your entire employee experience down on one page. To read – This Harvard Business Review blog on designing the employee experience.

5. Are you also mapping your customer experience?

After you’ve got your employee experience map nailed, work with Marketing, Operations and other business units to do the same across your customer experience; from initial brand awareness, through acquisition and building loyalty. Study how employees can make the difference; firstly they need to know what a great customer experience looks like, and secondly, how each team member plays an important role in the overall experience from back office to front office. To watch – Customer experience, moments that matter. To read – KPMG’s customer experience report. To help – Synergy’s customer experience mapping workshop.


6. Are you making the most of your digital tools and ESNs?

Thinking about the collaboration tools that exist in your business, is everyone aware of what’s available and how to get the best out of them? Many organisations struggle with the collaboration tools within Office 365, or ESNs like Yammer or Facebook Workplace because they’ve not been effectively launched internally.

7. Do you have clear channels of communication?

With so many channels available, it’s easy for people to feel overwhelmed and lack clarity of where to go for certain types of information. Have you mapped out all your available channels and simply signposted the purpose of each channel? To ask – How do we want employees to use the intranet versus our social network or email? Are there good examples of the benefit this provides both individuals and teams? To do – Synergy’s channel mapping workshop.


8. Are you innovating?

Are you staying ahead of the curve and offering something new to support and engage your employees in a new and exciting way? VR can offer insight into life at different office sites or to enhance games that engage your teams. And 360 degree video, chatbots and artificial intelligence can be great for answering those regular questions that people might ask day to day e.g rewards and benefits. To do – Speak to IT to see if they are developing or implementing new tools and technologies that could support you. To watch – KFC’s Virtual Training Escape Room.

9. Are you ready for GDPR?

Are you ready for GDPR coming into force in May this year? Do your employees know its importance and what they need to do when handling data? Is there a campaign being prepared to raise awareness of this if needed? In 2016, reported data breaches increased by 40% and in 2017 there were several high-profile breaches, like Yahoo, Microsoft and the NHS, with 3 in 5 companies say their employees are the biggest risk to data leak. To read – ICO guide to GDPR. To do – Ask us about our best practice approach to GDPR awareness comms. To do – The Chartered Institute of Marketing’s online GDPR course.

10. What’s your gender pay gap?

From April this year, UK companies with 250 or more employees will have to publish their gender pay gaps under a new legal requirement. This will obviously raise some eyebrows and might lead to your employer brand being affected, your recruitment strategy changing or your diversity and inclusion policy in need of an update. To read – How to report your gender pay gap.  


11. How are you attracting and retaining the best talent?

How well known are you as an employer and a great place to work? Is there a strong employer brand programme in place? Who’s leading it and are you involved in the communications for this? To read – Our whitepaper, ‘Finders Keepers’ shares the insights and opinions of top brands on how to find and keep top talent.

12. What’s your employee voice?

David MacLeod’s initial research into engagement back in 2009 said a key enabler to engagement is the employee voice. Fast forward nine years and you’ve got a number of channels available to support employees being heard, but are you having two-way conversations and fostering collaboration? Have you considered how technologies can help support you with this? To read – 12 ways to foster engagement.

13. How do you find and equip internal influencers and ambassadors?

Do you have a number of brand/communication ambassadors in the business that can support proactive comms at a very local level? Is the programme for them clear and structured with a defined set of what you expect them to do, activities, reviews and what they can expect in return (building their own personal brand, visibility, ability to preview information before the rest of the workforce)? To do – Ask us about our ideas for ambassador programmes and how other brands have done this successfully.

14. How do you engage a remote workforce?

We know it can still be a challenge for retail, contact centres and homeworkers to reach and communicate with remote workers effectively. If you have more remote workers in your organisation, do they have access to the same channels of communication and ways to share their ideas and contributions? Do they feel they receive the same comms and feedback opportunities as desk-based employees? To read – Our creative hackathon on engaging a remote workforce. To do – Ask them! Canvass a snapshot of these groups to find out what’s working well and what can be improved.

15. Have you segmented your audiences?

Different groups will value information differently within the business. Have you looked at the different groups of people in your business and how messages and channels might need to be tailored to them? Not everyone needs to see everything and relevance is key here. Personas can be a great way to bring to life key clusters of employees and build a picture of typical demographics, their day to day lives at work and their attitudes/preferences. To help – Synergy’s strategy team help organisations with audience segmentation, profiling and experience mapping. Drop the team a note.

16. Are your managers communicators?

A vitally important comms role in any business, the 2017 state of the Sector report found 52% of communicators think that lack of line manager communication skills is the most pressing challenge. Do your line managers have all the tools, resources, confidence and support to be able to communicate the strategy and campaigns for the year ahead? To read – IBM Developing Global Leadership white paper. To do – Ask your managers if they have the tools and confidence to communicate effectively with their teams. Also, hook up with HR to see what joint support can be offered.

17. Do your leaders have empathy?

Did you know empathy in the workplace is a biggie this year? A study last year found that whilst 60% of CEOs view their organisation as empathetic, only 25% of employees do. 31% of employees think companies only care about profits, not people. How can leaders show empathy? 1) verbally show you are listening 2) maintain eye contact 3) show emotion 4) ask questions 5) make appropriate physical contact. To read – The most and least empathetic companies list.

18. How do you manage five generations in the workplace?

With the average age of retirement increasing and University applications falling, we’re seeing five generations colliding in the workplace for the first time. With it brings challenges for employers to deliver effective communications through appropriate messaging and channels, but also an opportunity to unite these generation groups and deliver against business goals. To read – 5 generations in the workplace and why we need them.

What’s next?

So there you have it, 18 things to think about from us. What issue is keeping you up at night? What would you add to this list? Let us know on Twitter @synergycreative. If you’d like any support or guidance with the challenges above, we’d love to chat. Drop us an email: hello@mccannsynergy.com.uk

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