How to get real employee engagement with your Turnaround Strategy

powerofpurposeBusiness Purpose before the Company Turnaround

When the organisation started out there will have been some form of underlying purpose.  It may be that this purpose hadn’t been pre planned, or even articulated by the entrepreneur or the start up team.  However it is very likely that this purpose will have played a major part in the development of the structure, systems and culture of the business.

At the Hard end, this purpose will have been simply to make more money for the shareholders, and the culture will likely have been very much “Command and Control”, with the employees finding it difficult to empathise or relate to this purpose.

At the Soft end, the purpose would be to create a product or service that makes the world a better place, and for all employees and stakeholders to lead more enriched and fulfilled lives as a result of being part of this particular revolution.

The ideal is possibly somewhere in the middle…

Turnaround Strategy – What happens to the Purpose?

I think it is reasonable to assume that most businesses have been started with all good intentions, wanting not only to make a profit, but also to create an environment where employees are motivated at some level and feel good about what they do!

In our experience, in Turnaround situations, this Purpose is invariably almost completely forgotten due to the external pressures the business is operating under.

How to revitalise the old Purpose when planning a turnaround strategy

To initiate a new-found motivation, you need to get back to the Purpose and some sense of Mission.

You need to recreate the energy, the drive, the emotional commitment that may, or may not, have been there in the first place?

How do you do this?

First of all, just think about the kind of feeling and atmosphere, culture and climate that you are trying to create

Many of us will have worked in bureaucratic, unfriendly environments in our careers, and not need reminding that this does not get the best work from anyone.

This is the time to grasp the moment and create a real passion, an emotional commitment, to drive the Turnaround Mission forward.

As an example just think about the emotional ties we might have to a sports team, or a charity, or a house we are renovating, or even sometimes our work?

The skill in business, and in Turnaround more than ever, is to create this feeling of ‘us against the world’,’ a force for good’, ‘ it’s us against the big guys’ etc.

What better time to do this than when you are seeking to regenerate the business and protect everyone’s livelihoods?

The New Improved Purpose

Inevitably this new purpose will include improving the financial position of the shareholders.  Whilst of course there is nothing wrong with this, I would stress that the Purpose around which we are trying to build a real sense of mission, and which engenders a real emotional commitment from our people, cannot just be making more money for the shareholders.

In today’s highly competitive and fast changing world, we all want more from our working life.  We want to believe something good is happening. For example, Apple have created this environment where everything they do is about the product being innovative and creative.  Customers almost come second!  Their people believe they are working at a different level to other companies.

Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter and Innocent Foods are other examples of where the management team have created a feeling among the workforce that profit plays second fiddle to the crusading mission they are on to change the world.

It is no coincidence that these companies have all been viewed by shareholders as being extremely valuable – some of them even before they have made a profit.

And, they have managed to get real employee engagement.

Employee engagement in Turnaround Situations

An engaged employee is defined as being

  1. Proud of the Company
  2. Wants to improve things
  3. Has the tools to do it
  4. Is able to learn and grow
  5. Gets frequent recognition
  6. Feels his or her views count
  7. Sees the bigger picture
  8. Helps and respects colleagues
  9. Will go the extra mile

Research conducted a couple of years ago by Towers Perrin the professional services firm has shown that Employee Engagement is adversely affected by significant change!

This obviously includes a Turnaround situation so, as described above, whatever level of employee engagement the business had before the Turnaround, it will have been damaged significantly by the potential disruption.

motvating employeesSummary 

Revitalising and restoring employee engagement in these situations is crucial to the success of the Turnaround Strategy.

When developing the post-Turnaround, new improved purpose, the directors and shareholders must think long and hard about how this is structured, who it benefits, and in particular make sure there is some upside for the employees!

As always, I would be very interested to hear your comments on this article and any of your experiences in motivating staff in Company Turnarounds.  I can be contacted at, or on 0845 689 8750.


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