Four Reasons You Need to be Thinking About Goal Alignment

July 11, 2019
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Your organization’s greatest asset is its employees, who make up the mindshare, and knowledge base to serve your current and future customers. But how do you measure that asset?

Employee engagement surveys and Glassdoor reviews are a good start, but are they really clear indicators on how your greatest asset is being leveraged? To make the most out of the investment in your people, you need an objective evaluation of their performance. Effective goal setting at every level of an organization is one of the most important motivators and means of evaluating your people’s contribution to the mission and purpose of the organization.

Setting achievable individual and team goals that align with the company’s key objectives is one of the best ways to maximize performance while optimally engaging your employees. When teams and individuals feel like they are making a meaningful contribution to the organization and their customers, they have a greater sense of purpose in their role and are more likely to increase their intent to perform at a higher level. When employees and teams have a clear understanding of how they can contribute to the strategy of the organization are exponentially more engaged and passionate about their work.

Getting serious about how to effectively set and pursue goals is more than just a soft skill or a practice to make people feel better; it’s a viable business investment. Whether you are part of a small business, large enterprise, or start-up company, everyone in the organization needs to work smarter and act cohesively to achieve business objectives.

To achieve alignment throughout an organization, you need to give your employees performance goals that align with the company’s annual or quarterly goals and strategies. 91% of companies who believe they have effective performance management systems say that employees’ goals are linked to business priorities. Aligning goals across the organization not only creates transparency across different roles and functions and breaks down communication silos across business units, but it also gives employees the autonomy to solve business issues independently, while still operating with interdependence on the mission, vision, values, and strategies of the organization.

Four critical ways organizations can use goal alignment as a strategic advantage:

1. Align Roles with Individual, Team, and Organizational Goals

By giving your employees goals that align with the company’s performance or long-term goals, you enable them to visualize the way they contribute to the larger picture. Individual roles help individual team members understand the context of their daily activities and milestones within the larger picture of what the organization is attempting to achieve. Assisting individuals to understand and clarify their roles also gives leaders the ability to set the context for their conversations around performance and what the team is trying to achieve collectively.

Leader Insights: As a leader, it’s critical to help your people envision their roles and responsibilities before initiating the pursuit of a goal. Too often we lose sight of why we hired an individual contributor or invited them to the team. Helping individuals clarify their roles and responsibilities is not only the first step to achieving goals that flow from them, but it also enhances ongoing collaboration to those goals while building trust and respect between leaders and their direct reports.

2. Employees Need to Feel Connected to a Goal

The best way to maximize performance in your organization is to create a sense of connectedness around a common goal. When people unite around a problem or an idea, they have greater buy-in to the process. It gives them a more immediate sense of belonging and defines what their failure to perform at a high level would mean for their peers. The sense of being connected to others is one of the core psychological needs of individuals and is linked to higher levels of motivation and engagement. By aligning goals across the organization, you can create an even greater sense of connection to a higher, organizational purpose that can work concurrently toward the larger end, rather than cascading the projects and stalling performance and unintentionally lead to isolation.

Leader Insights: Great leaders don’t just drive great results; they get great results by helping individuals and the team feel connected to the broader mission and values of the organization. By aligning individual and team goals to the key strategies of the organization, leaders meet the psychological needs of the people they influence while creating synergy and passion toward a common purpose. Make sure individuals are clear on how the activities and key results of their goals help improve the team they are contributing to and how they ultimately make a difference at an organizational level.

3. Employees Need Regular Feedback on Aligned Goals

Once roles are clearly defined and goals are aligned to the team and organizational strategy, individuals crave regular feedback on their progress toward their goals. According to a recent study by Clutch, 68% of employees who receive accurate and consistent feedback feel fulfilled in their jobs. When leaders consistently respond to the needs of team members who are pursuing common goals, individuals stay more engaged and feel a greater sense of trust with their managers. When those conversations tie back into the mission, values, and strategy of the organization, it creates a greater sense of trust for senior leadership, which is more likely to be experienced when goals align throughout an organization.

Leadership Insights: Ensure you’re meeting the need for feedback of your direct reports by holding regular check-in conversations around aligned goals. Make sure your conversations focus on the end goals or objectives they are pursuing, not just the tasks or key performance indicators of the goal. While measurements are helpful and give us a target to focus on, they don’t always reveal the energy individuals and teams are experiencing toward the end goal. Not all feedback is effective. Leaders need to make sure that the feedback on aligned goals isn’t just about the organization, but how the individual or team is feeling about their contribution to the end result. Having regular one-to-one conversations in your organization between individual contributors and managers, coaches, or other key stakeholders about an aligned goal is crucial to reaching the finish line.

4. Good Leaders Identify Gaps Between Strategy and Performance

There is often a disconnect between the strategy and the performance of an organization. Just because you think your strategy aligns with client and market needs doesn’t mean it will be magically implemented. On the other hand, just because you think your organization is performing well doesn’t mean it’s aligned with the corporate strategy. That’s where effective leadership comes in to bridge the gap between the idea and the reality.

By aligning goals inside the larger framework of the corporate strategy, leaders across the organization from executives to managers or team leaders, down to individual contributors can readily assess their performance against goals and quickly and continually pivot toward more effective tasks that will likely solve the business problem or achieve the objective. Goal alignment throughout an organization provides leaders with vertical and horizontal visibility and instills a shared sense of accountability between the top leadership, middle management, and the individual employee.

Leadership Insights: Executive leaders at the organizational level should have a process or set of tools to consistently observe and assess the phase of strategy the company is experiencing. It’s important to know who and where contributions are being made to the corporate strategy and what pivots need to be made in order to ensure the strategy is effectively executed. Team leaders need to consistently assess the ability and energy of the team toward goals aligned with the organizational strategy. Having updates on key milestone results toward progress on objectives is critical. Managers should also be having regular one-to-one conversations with individual contributors about their ability and energy to achieve individual goals aligned with team and corporate goals. Assessing and responding to these phases of performance toward objectives and key results of aligned goals keep everyone on track to ensure the strategy is making an impact on bottom-line business results.

How to Get Started

The benefits that come with goal alignment are clear, but where exactly do you start when it comes to defining goals for individuals and organizations? Using the OKR method (objectives and key results) lends itself well to aligning goals in a relatively simple format. The two most important aspects to keep in mind when defining OKRs lay in the name of the method itself:

  1. Objectives are the qualitative goals. They are often bold and inspiring. Most of all, the objective should help in achieving the organization’s goals and should be aligned with the organizational strategy.
  2. Key results are measurable indicators of success. Key results show how much of the objective is achieved. If they cannot be measured, they are not key results. Numbers are an integral part of the key result.

Strong and thoughtful OKRs make it easy for individuals, teams, and organizations as a whole to understand where exactly they’re going and what is expected from them. Making OKRs part of your winning strategy boosts employee engagement and culture by giving everyone a view into what the end goal is and creating a sense of camaraderie for everyone trying to achieve it.

By aligning goals across the company, you give your employees the freedom and sense of autonomy they need to pursue their own goals within the larger framework of corporate strategy. This process can align through the project and can contribute to pursuing the organization’s strategy with the result leading to a successful conclusion for the employees and the business.

This article was originally published on the Inspire Blog by Jason Arnold.

About Drea Zigarmi:                               

Dr. Drea Zigarmi is a highly respected and experienced management consultant, best-selling author, powerful trainer, and motivational speaker.                               

Drea is the coauthor of Leadership and the One Minute Manager, the third book in Ken Blanchard’s best-selling One Minute Manager Library, and various chapters in Leading at a Higher Level. In addition, he has coauthored The Leader Within, Achieve Leadership Genius, and The Team Leader’s Idea-A-Day Guide. Drea has coauthored numerous Ken Blanchard Companies products, including the widely used Situational Leadership II, DISC, and Optimal Motivation programs. 
Four Reasons You Need to be Thinking About Goal Alignment
Source: HR.com Articles

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