As the leader of an organization, do you get your employees involved in annual planning? Should you? This is a question I get asked often from other entrepreneurs and without hesitation I always recommend a confident yes! Your employees often know more about what is going on in the organization than you know. Ignoring those insights is a huge missed opportunity. I personally see the value of all team members having a voice while still having structure. I believe as the CEO, my job is to own the vision and lead the company direction, while the team’s job is to determine how we get from point A to Z with the main vision in mind. That is why I involve all team members in our annual planning.

Right around now, you are probably wrapping up annual planning. This is a great time to reaffirm corporate objectives and establish new ones, set goals, align resources, and articulate in detail the direction, tactics, and activities that the entire organization will engage in. However, business leaders often complain that once they present their vision, their employees don’t implement company changes quickly enough. One of the reasons for this disconnect is that senior leaders spend copious amounts of time creating the strategic plan, often in isolation. Then, employees are tasked with implementing the plan blindly without understanding the conversations and debates that went into the creation.

Research from Harvard Business School and the Balanced Scorecard Collaborative found that 95% of a typical workforce doesn’t understand the organization’s strategy. If that’s the case, how can you expect them to perform at their peak? The solution to this is to get your employee’s input in developing your annual plan. If you involve your employees in the development of the organization’s strategy and goals, they will be motivated to help you achieve them.

When the implementers of a strategy are part of the process, they can not only add perspective to the plan, but are also immersed in the nuances and back-and-forth discussions. When obstacles arise, as they always do, implementers can make course corrections quickly and powerfully, saving loss of time, money, opportunity, and headache.

Here are 6 strategies for incorporating team members in annual planning:

SWOT Analysis:

Since different departments of your company work on different projects, clients, or processes, it’s important to have a healthy conversation with the members of those departments to analyze the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of the company and how that specific department focus area impacts the entire company.


Have employees take a survey that covers topics such as training, equipment, management, financial health, career opportunities, company culture, etc. to provide insight into company operations. Give your employees the ability to submit this feedback anonymously just in case there are some sensitive topics they are afraid to share publicly. Once all the survey data is gathered, make sure to share highlights uncovered with all team members that supports the direction you are headed and or the problems that need to be addressed.

Start, Stop, Continue:

This is an exercise we often complete in our company to determine what we need to start doing, stop doing and/or continue doing to meet or better exceed goals.

  • Start: Brainstorm activities you should start doing.
  • Stop: Bad habits, issues, projects, that are negatively impacting the company.
  • Continue: Express appreciation for the work and effort everyone is doing, and challenge everyone to raise their game.

Meet Regularly To Review:

There is nothing worse than investing countless hours creating a plan if you don’t make progress on them throughout the year. Here are some tips to follow:

  • Every month our entire company meets to present progress being made toward company goals.
  • Every week the leadership team meets to review progress by department and person.
  • We have found that annual goals are difficult to accomplish unless they are broken down into smaller goals. Breaking goals down by quarter or ideally by month makes them less intimidating and more attainable.
  • Remind employees of goals regularly to keep them accountable and focused on achieving them.

Performance Reviews:

Have face-to-face discussions with each of your team members to get a better understanding of what their career goals are and how they think they can accomplish them. Our agency has self, supervisor, and peer reviews to reflect on how things are going and quarterly updates on where we are at on our goals. These performance reviews often uncover opportunities that should be incorporated into annual planning. You should address:

  • Challenges they have in their current position.
  • Self-assessment of their work.
  • Determine what role your business plays in their individual annual plan as well as what opportunities you can offer them.
  • Once the reviews are completed, the employee should create a development plan to address their individual role gaps. Creating a development program not only makes your workforce more effective and knowledgeable, but can also improve employee satisfaction.
  • When your employees are happy, they’re less likely to go looking for work elsewhere and more likely to be motivated to play a part in the organization’s goals.


Be honest and transparent about company performance, challenges, and wins. Welcome genuine input and tough questions. For instance, at StringCan, once a month we have a “Brown Bag with the Big Can” lunch where members of the team can put any question (appropriate to the company) that they want in a can and we all sit down and eat lunch and I address the questions one by one. I’m not allowed to see the questions beforehand, which forces me to be on the spot and truly transparent with my team about the issues and questions they have. It’s a fun and creative exercise to generate trust with your team and get everyone on the same page.

12 months is a long time, so keeping your employees in the loop and valuing their feedback will build morale, trust, and ownership along the way to achieving company goals. By involving your employees in the process of annual planning and keeping them focused on the plan throughout the year, you are sure to see more success. If you have any further questions or comments about how to get your team involved in annual planning, please reach out to me!