Most of the time when we approach goals, we do it from a corporate angle. After all, that makes the most sense. The reason you hire people is to reach the organizational goals of the company. It’s why they get a paycheck, says traditional thinking.
But we know today that engagement skyrockets and employees are more fulfilled (and productive) when they understand those organization goals. This means executives (and let’s be honest, HR executives and middle management) must be equipped to communicate goals to their employees to help with aligning corporate goals. This means three key things...
HR Executives and Practitioners must know what their employee goals look like. It’s understandable that few want to tackle this, especially once a company gets to be larger than a hundred or so people. But it needs to be done. Whether you ask employees to map out their goals en masse (from a professional standpoint of course) or use a platform that gives everyone transparency into one another’s goals, you must create an avenue to understand the goals of your people. Only then can you align their goals to those of the organization. Communications expert Bill Quirke is quoted as saying that when employees understand their overall role in business, 91% will work toward its success. But when they don’t, that figure drops sharply to 23%.
It’s also possible for this step to come during the hiring and onboarding process, although it may be an incomplete view of the employee’s actual progression plan. After all, new hires (no matter what your quality of hire metrics are) will, for the most part, say what you want to hear. But there’s no reason not to plot goals out when someone joins your organization. It gives the talent management team something on which to build later. Microfeedback, a new coined term for feedback loop, itself a less recently coined term for just plain old feedback, lends itself well to frequent updates from employee and manager, and can be a useful tool in identifying goals and the progress toward them.
Once you have an idea of employees’ professional goals, you can start aligning those with organizational goals. There will never be perfect alignment between a corporate entity and its employees, but there can be team, departmental and corporate alignment with at least some of them. For example, you may have an incredible engineer who is engaged and great at his job, but who you know to be seeking out a way to make his side consulting business into a full time enterprise. Ultimately, if he is successful in achieving his own goals, he will have to leave the company. But by managing his performance and knowledge transfer toward his product team, you are able to align his goals with the organization’s for the time he is there.
If it sounds like this all depends on transparency, that’s because it does. And many companies are not yet ready for this type of transparency just yet. However, studies have shown that those who ARE open with their employees about opportunities outside the company and who DO give them insight into things like product roadmaps, intensive training and compensation data, do reap the rewards of more engaged and productive employees. While your executive team may not be ready to open the doors to the boardroom wide, you can identify key goals that, let’s face it, your employees NEED to know to do their jobs correctly.
And it’s worth a shot. According to goals pundit Alex Moffitt, traditional performance management (annual, one-way, opaque in nature) isn’t working:
Every company we talk with is concerned about performance management. Yet most understand that the current models of performance management aren’t working. In a 2014 Forrester Research report titled Disrupt the Employee Performance Process to Align with Business and Customer Outcomes, Paul D. Hamerman and Claire Schooley wrote, "Only 12% of top management believes that performance management influences business results. New research also reveals that performance rankings actually trigger a fight-or-flight response in employees’ brains."
The third important step is communicating those goals to your employees. If they don’t know where the company is going, they are doomed to failure. Perhaps this sounds doomsday-ish, but that makes it no less true. When an employee has no concept of how his or her duties drive the end game of the company, or touch the customer, or loop back into his or her paycheck; they easily become disillusioned. They may as well be making widgets in a factory for all the insight they have into their company’s impact on the community and the world. Moffitt alludes to this in his Quora response, when he references the Forrester Report, aligning with business and customer goals jumpstarts results!
Finally, monitor where you have goal alignment with individuals, teams, departments and the company. This can be one of the most difficult steps if you have no system by which to determine if goals are aligned, were ever aligned or are on track to continue in alignment. Because while the three steps listed above can help get employees and their organizations aligned on which goals to work toward together, there is still the matter of how to actually achieve those goals!
Join us for the next in the series, identifying your BHAG and working with employees to attain it.
As the head of a department in the midst of a sustained period of rapid growth, Sara has spent hundreds of hours interviewing, hiring, onboarding and assessing employees and candidates. She is passionate about sharing the best practices she has learned from both successes and failures in talent acquisition and management.