Solid strategic planning and enthusiastic brand activism are front and center for proactive firms wanting to differentiate themselves from the competition. Two industry leaders share their secrets for staying ahead of the curve
Even before the pandemic, “we had actually been pushing toward a virtually enabled workforce,” says Stewart Haney, president and CEO of Wendel Companies, which is headquartered in New York and has 14 offices nationwide. All but around 10 employees were already on laptops. “So we were fully prepared to work remotely at any given time.”
Haney’s tips for an effective strategic plan:
• Measure effectiveness. Each goal should be specific, clearly spelled out, and include metrics.
• Be disciplined. Each goal needs a leader. At Wendel, the goal leaders meet every two weeks—known as two-week sprints—with Haney. “They have to report what they completed and then commit to what they intend to complete in the next two weeks.” In addition, Haney reports progress on the strategic plan at bi-monthly board meetings.
• Tighten the timeline. Instead of a traditional five-year strategic plan, Wendel uses a three-year plan to remain agile and increase the likelihood of remaining relevant.
Younger employees increasingly are looking for a work environment focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)—and one that promotes social policies to drive change, according to Marie Purkert, director of corporate strategy for christopher consultants, based in Fairfax, VA.
Purkert shares her firm’s strategies for creating that environment:
• TONE. The firm’s president addressed the death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor head-on. Frequent employee engagement surveys then were passed out “to take a read on how employees were feeling, and what steps we wanted to take next.”
• TASK FORCE. An overarching DEI task force not only focuses on education, community outreach, and the teaching of life skills, but serves as a governing force for the company’s employee resource groups.
• EMPLOYEE RESOURCE GROUPS. The firm has three—multicultural, a network of women, and working parents—founded and led by employees who cultivate community based on shared beliefs, experiences, and backgrounds.
Informational campaigns have resulted in recognizing Juneteenth as a companywide holiday and a day of education and celebration, for example, and spreading awareness around Ramadan. “It’s really just to touch on all aspects of the lives of our employees who may not have had that platform in the past or known how to take some of those conversations to the next level.”
• OPEN-DOOR POLICY. Employees are encouraged to share feedback, which also is collected to measure employee attendance and engagement, retention, and hiring since kickstarting DEI efforts.
Each one of these efforts directly respond to one of the main questions coming not only from prospective Gen Z recruits but from potential clients: What do you have in place to make your firm socially engaged and safe—and where is the collateral to prove it?
Says Purkert: “This is about humanizing employees.”