Improve employee engagement by focusing on attitudes, not roles


Gaining buy-in is something we often treat like a "check the box" exercise when, in fact, it's much more complex and costly.

Whether you think in terms of effort or dollars or both, what makes some projects so hard is the anticipation of resistance you will meet along the way. But take a breath, get some coffee and consider how you might apply these three things to improve communication and buy-in today.

What’s the end objective? Shift from role-based (project manager, engineer, HR Director, etc) to attitude-based messages to increase buy-in by more precisely addressing each group’s unique concerns and challenges.

How might this shift from role-based to attitude-based outreach work?


Perceptions Matrix

Perceptions Matrix

Role-based communications is critical when communicating job requirements but is not precise enough to address an individual’s unique perspective of concerns.

Develop attitude-based communications

Develop attitude-based communications

To more precisely target outreach efforts, program managers should segment their stakeholder community by creating attitude categories. The matrix above includes two dimensions including 1) perceived program value (high or low) and 2) implementation pace (early adopter, passive supporter, and resistant). 

  1. Refine the categories to mirror the categories of concerns
  2. Estimate the percentage of staff within the broad stakeholder community that fall into each bucket. This will provide some focus and sense of areas of importance
  3. Develop messages and outreach opportunities that match the needs of each attitude category
  4. Roll-out approach, recognizing there will be multiple messages released in parallel


As shown above, there are two broad dimensions of perceived program value and pace of adoption that help define attitude categories.  Using the combinations, attitude groups emerge that can help inform targeted outreach efforts. 

To implement this approach, program managers have to morph the traditional thinking on outreach.  Specifically, key assumptions include:

  • The believers or people who rate high on the perceived value of the program and are early adopters are critically important. These people are continually looking for ways to improve and advance program within their part of the organization. They might be frustrated with the negative feedback because “it’s working just fine for them.”  Confident program managers should encourage this key group to run with their ideas to push the program forward.
  • Reaching out and trying to convince the most stubborn, resistant staff (depending on their role) should be a lesser priority or not done at all. 
  • Outreach efforts should be focused on the top and middle tiers with the belief that they’ll create the momentum and have the most influence.
  • Every opportunity to highlight accomplishments should be seized upon.  Amplifying the positive leaves less time and attention for the more negative, counter-productive attitudes.

In sum, an attitude-based approach will help target messages—regardless of role within organization—and more precisely address their issues and needs for better buy-in.