Sending e-mails or writing your vision on paper and handing it to your employees to absorb doesn’t work, says Prashanth Rajendran.
The chief operating officer and co-founder of Pilgrim Software Inc. says that you can’t underestimate the importance of outlining a clear vision for employees because it’s linked to the overall health of the company.
“You have to be able to get a critical mass within your company to be aligned with you if you want to scale,” he says. “The way you’re going to scale is by having significantly more people within your company participate in whatever activities you think are critical to your company’s growth.”
Rajendran uses face-to-face communication to get the company’s vision across to his 100 employees at Pilgrim Software, a software solutions company that posted 2008 revenue of $20 million.
Smart Business spoke with Rajendran about how to communicate your vision to your employees and make sure they understand it.
Maintain an open dialogue with employees. One of the things that we have seen really work is the fact that you try to maintain relatively an open dialogue with the various levels of the company.
You need to have not only a clear message about where are you trying to go, [but] you want to be able to convey that message periodically so that the message does not get forgotten. Also to be able to show that the successes that we are having actually go down that message and also sometimes the relevant failures so you can learn from what didn’t work so that your path toward that message is continued to be fine-tuned.
E-mail is good to be able to provide more of a snapshot of what has been achieved. But when you want to communicate a vision and you want to communicate a larger message, you really want to do that face to face, so that if questions come up, you’re able to answer them. Sometimes I may not have a question, but let’s say in this case, Sandy, who is my peer here, may have a question. Through that question, I can learn something through that message that I didn’t quite think about it that way.
We have found that any time it is a strategic topic and it is a strategic communication, we are better off communicating that face to face. The downside is trying to get everybody into the same room at the same time. So you end up getting maybe about 85, 90 percent of the people in one shot.
Then you figure out who didn’t get to listen and how do you go about communicating to those people.
Communicate the ‘what’ and the ‘why.’ The most significant message that we are talking about is the relevancy of what we do in the marketplace that we cater to and why that is important.
Convey the message that there are several categories of solutions in the marketplace, all the way from nice-to-have to the must-have. Where do we fit into it? How do we have to look at it? How do we put ourselves in our customers’ shoes so that we can empathize with the things that they have to go through so that we’re able to make our solutions significantly (friendlier), easier, more useful [and] improve the productivity?
It is important for us to be able to explain and continue to teach the customer opinion and customer feedback on what we provide and what we provide helps their life. We also convey why are we in the market that we are in.
What happens is when you don’t quite understand that people within the company could think, ‘Well, that market seems hot, this market seems hot, there is money in this market, why are we not going here, why are we not going there?’
It becomes a distraction, and you want to be able to curtail that. You want to be able to specify that, ‘Look, here are all the things we looked at. Here is what we looked at and why we looked at [it]. Here’s what we have chosen to pursue and why this makes sense, why this will not make sense and what will make sense for us to look at in the future.’
You want to crystallize that as much as you can so that everybody marches to the same goal. It is so important to be able to clearly articulate what that goal is. Only then you will be able to make sure everybody goes there.
Monitor whether your communication worked. No matter what you think, you always hear through the rumor mill who has bought in to it and who has not. What you really should be concerned about more than anything else is, has the critical mass of your company’s employees bought in to it?
You can tell by the way they work, by the way they are committed to what they say they’re going to do and if they’ve delivered on it. Those people that have not bought in to it, their refusal to buy in to it bubbles up and eventually it weeds itself out, meaning that either they leave the job or they are asked to leave the job because it reflects in the way they perform.
We focus very hard on trying to make sure that there’s personnel alignment. That goes back to that face-to-face dialogue that needs to be had to be able to understand.
How to reach: Pilgrim Software Inc., (813) 915-1663 or www.pilgrimsoftware.com