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How unlocking your internal influencers will help your business return to growth - fast

As we start to focus on recovery, or pivot to adapt to the new normal, we need to be asking ourselves how best to map out the way forward.

What needs changing? Which stage of the employee journey needs focus to inspire and enable that change?

The key to sustainable change is collaboration and co-creation. The key to developing a business strategy that is owned and driven by your people is the same. And, if 85% of the global workforce is either not engaged or actively disengaged from the business they work for, where do you start?  

To develop a strategy in a fast and focused way, you need to tap into the most under utilised audience segment in most businesses – your internal influencers.

Internal influencers understand where the business is going and, more importantly, what it’s really like to work at your company. They can be the catalyst for making change happen, help you identify barriers to success and be instrumental in solving the challenges you need to overcome. Equally, they can be disruptive and cynical, especially if they are not engaged with the business strategy, or simply not happy with the way things are being done.

In a recent pitch, we were asked how companies should identify their true influencers. The answer is simple: ask your people.  

There are certain identifiable traits that characterise someone who has the ability to influence those around them. These individuals are often great communicators (or gossips), curious connectors who know how to get things done, and those who have strong opinions but are able to listen and learn from others.

A view from the boardroom is unlikely to generate the true influencers in your business, and in equal measure a plan for the future designed solely in the boardroom is also likely to miss the mark.

So, the starting point is to find out who your people identify as having these characteristics. The wisdom of crowds* isn’t a new concept, but it does work. To find the most influential employees, businesses need to kick against their normal hierarchical structures and tap into the knowledge of the masses.  

Identifying your influencers is only the start. How you use your influencers is the real key to success. Whilst co-creation, co-design, and collaboration are the buzzwords of the business world, they are also the key to success when unlocking the power of your influencer population.

Engaging your influencers in shaping both your strategy and how you can engage your people in it will help you drive engagement across your organisation. As advocates of the business, influencers can be the strongest communication channel a company has, and to really make them advocates you need to involve them.

You don’t need to be face-to-face to achieve this – collaborating virtually can be just as effective. Use your influencers to interrogate the challenges you need to overcome; identify the barriers and opportunities they see, interrogate where on the employee journey the business needs to focus to enable the right level of change and adoption. And then unleash them to engage their colleagues.

Support their activities with communications that reinforce and consolidate their input and use the same collaborative approach to engage the rest of the business in key elements of your strategy that you haven’t quite solved.

For a free downloadable step-by-step guide on how to identify your influencers, as well as tips for maximising their impact, get in touch Victoria.Lewis-Stephens@UnitedCultureCo.com.

*Surowiecki, James: The Wisdom of Crowds 2004