When employee goals aren’t aligned with corporate objectives, employees may be working hard and may appear to the casual observer to be exceptional at their jobs, but what are they working to accomplish?
Goal alignment in performance management ensures that everyone in the organization, at all levels, are working together to accomplish the same business objectives.
What Goal Alignment Should Accomplish
Goal alignment should promote shared values, provide greater transparency into what’s happening at an organizational level, and provide context to help employees to define individual and team goals.
Promoting Shared Values
Employees don’t—or shouldn’t—work in isolation. They should understand what the organization’s mission, vision, values, and strategic objectives are.
Why does the organization exist? What does success look like? How do their individual efforts contribute to that success?
Goal alignment helps promote shared values by making sure employees’ contributions have an impact in ways that are meaningful and measurable.
Shared alignment leads to stronger collaboration across departments and teams and creates a sense of camaraderie that can increase morale, reduce turnover, and boost productivity.
Providing Greater Transparency
All employees need insight into how they’re doing. That insight can come through direct feedback they receive from their managers, along with information about how their team, department, and organization as a whole is performing.
Goal alignment offers greater transparency in order for employees to see the impact that their efforts—and the efforts of their colleagues—are having. Providing greater transparency ensures that goals and initiatives are taken up by everybody in the company.
Most employees can’t achieve success independently. They work as part of teams to achieve specific goals or objectives.
Goal alignment helps employees understand how their individual work contributes to team and organizational goals. This context helps employees to feel more satisfied with their work and become more effective.
How to Align Personal Goals With Organizational Goals
Effectively aligning personal goals with organizational goals requires a few steps to help ensure understanding, support, and engagement. Here are three keys to aligning personal goals with organizational goals:
1. Set Cascading Goals
Starting with organizational goals, the first step in aligning personal to organizational goals is to set cascading goals that will flow down through the organization. This can be something that is done once, twice, or even four times a year. Leadership sets the direction for the organization, then departments, teams, and individuals set their goals based on that direction.
Betterment, an investment firm, found this approach to be extremely effective. They focused on just two overarching company goals:
- Grow net deposits
- Increase efficiency
CEO Joe Stein said, “We thought it was perfect, having one revenue-driving metric and one efficiency metric. It was a clear signal to the team what was most important.”
Objectives were broken down across teams, each with 1-3 goals that tied back to the objectives. Teams came back with their own numbers that were aligned to the overarching plan.
2. Track Everything in One Place
As noted earlier, providing employees with the ability to see how they’re doing on an ongoing basis is an important part of goal alignment. After cascading goals are set, set up a system to track individual, team, and organizational goals all in one place.
Tracking everything in one place ensures that metrics are accurate and everybody is looking at the same numbers. It also helps employees remember what the organizational goals are and how their contributions are making an impact.
3. Make Metrics Available
Making metrics available for everyone to see helps every employee understand how they and their team are progressing towards company goals. Betterment did this in a couple of different ways. They sent out a regular email to all employees sharing current numbers and also posted top-line metrics on walls for the whole company to see.
This broad level of awareness “built in the ethic that there was no opportunity for teams to deviate from their goals to help another toward theirs,” said Stein. Instead, making metrics available created “a shared sense that it was all hands on deck to make sure everyone got where they needed to go.”
The more robust the system a company has to track metrics, the easier it can be to make these metrics available to everybody.
But even without an automated system, companies can simply email updates to employees or highlight them in recurring company meetings.
The most important thing is that metrics are widely and regularly made available to all employees in order for them to see how they (and the company) are doing.
Case Study: Goal Alignment in Performance Management
So what does aligning employee goals with corporate objectives look like?
InvestiNet is a full-service accounts receivable management firm. Bob Collins, the company owner, wanted all of his 100 employees to consider InvestiNet the best place they had ever worked. He recognized performance management as offering an opportunity to align work around company goals and individual strengths.
InvestiNet used a tiered system of diverse and frequently updated goals. At the highest level, the company will set thematic goals. These have a period of about 6 months and set the direction for the company. They include both core success metrics and transformation projects.
Individuals will then have semester goals. These set special focus areas for employees over the next 90 to 120 days. Everyone has up to 3 semester goals.
In addition to semester goals, individuals will also have 1-2 job specific goals. These define what the organization expects from the employee’s position over the course of a year.
Finally, everyone has at least one professional development goal. The focus of development is almost always “strengths based.” Occasionally someone will spend some time improving on weaknesses, but most often these goals are about doubling down on what already makes you special.
Weekly touchpoints between employees and their managers focus on what employees were working on and how their work supported their goals. In these meetings, any misalignment is addressed with a focus on making a connection between daily work and the broader organizational purpose.
An annual review included employee self-appraisal with their managers’ review, but the approach they take is a litter different, Collins said, “The question is ‘did we, the organization, have you working on the right things and what were our results?’”
InvestiNet’s process illustrates how companies can strategically drive better business results by aligning individual goals with team and organizational goals. Doing so gives employees insight into what’s important to the company and how their efforts can make a positive difference.
Resources for Goal Alignment
Looking for additional resources? Here are some resources we recommend to start your search on goal alignment.