Aligned organisations achieve higher levels of performance because all of their contributions are focused on driving measureable objectives.
When you align teams, resources, planning and processes, you reduce wasted time and misdirected efforts. Everyone works in sync towards the most important company priorities. Yet, HBR research shows 95% of employees do not understand or are unaware of company strategy.
This misalignment between what the CEO needs completed and what teams actually work on leads to redundancies, inefficiencies and poor overall performance. Further research shows managers aren’t doing their part in communicating the company strategy with their teams: HBR also found 69% of managers are uncomfortable communicating with their direct reports in general. Employees feel the disconnect as well. The same source indicates 57% of employees complain their managers don’t give clear directions.
To solve these challenges, you must align employees with your company goals. Organisations such as Google use OKR (Objectives and Key Results) goal setting alongside ongoing performance management tactics to achieve this alignment.
1. Develop a One-Page Strategic Plan
The One-Page Strategic Plan (TOPS) outlines all of your company’s initiatives and the alignment of its resources (time, people and money) to achieve high performance and results. It defines your mission, vision and values. Your mission and vision then inform your top company priorities.
The purpose of creating a one-page strategy is to enforce clarity. A one-page strategy keeps your company focused because it is easier for teams to connect with. The succinct yet focused strategy is also simpler for managers to communicate to their direct reports.
2. Set top company priorities
After establishing your strategy, set company priorities by answering, “What is most important to the company right now?” An example of a top company objective is: “Grow the corporate global business.” Then set Key Results (KRs) for the top company Objective.
OKRs work by defining the “what” and the “how” of a goal. (The Objective answers the “what,” while the KRs answer the “how.”) Ideally, KRs will follow SMART goal criteria (specific, measurable, aligned, relevant, and time-bound). This goal setting formula creates a sense of measurement so you can track the progress of objectives.
More importantly, written, shared goals are more likely to be achieved than those that aren’t shared or made visible to the company. Dominican University research shows 70% of written, shared goals are accomplished, compared to just 35% that aren’t shared. OKRs allow the entire company to see the most important corporate priorities so everyone focuses on what really matters.
3. Cascade clear, measurable objectives
Once you’ve set top company objectives, cascade them to the department, team and individual level. This ensures everyone’s contributions support company priorities. Have managers collaborate with their direct reports to set objectives. Make sure the KRs are measurable so both managers and teams can track progress, using a data-driven goals
All objectives should contribute to the company priorities in some way or another. Yet, effective managers also work with their teams to set goals that build strengths. Gallup research shows strengths-based goals encourage employees to be more productive. Moreover, managers who develop their teams’ strengths (instead of trying to “fix” weaknesses) support higher retention rates. Employees are less likely to leave when they use their strengths to achieve objectives. Further research indicates managers who use objectives to develop their teams’ strengths can improve employee engagement by 61%.
While effective goal setting is an essential part of keeping employees aligned with corporate goals, it is only one step. Managers must also check in with their teams to track progress, re-clarify expectations and enforce accountability.
4. Use one-on-one check-ins
One-on-one check-ins are considered the greatest management practice of all time. To achieve them, managers meet with each of their direct reports once weekly. The check-ins are brief but provide an opportunity to discuss updates on objectives. Employees receive praise for weekly wins or coaching as needed. Managers also discuss the priorities for the upcoming week to re-clarify expectations and ensure teams are always laser-focused on objectives.
Checking progress weekly prevents you from getting to the end of the quarter and realising progress fell short. Instead, managers step in and course correct in real-time. They provide actionable feedback for teams to drive better performance right away. They also consistently review expectations so teams know exactly what they are accountable for.
In addition to securing goal achievement, one-onone check-ins also achieve a number of outcomes to support engagement and retention strategies, allowing managers to:
- build trust with teams by showing commitment to their success;
- discuss employee development planning, including personal career goals; and
- continuously communicate the company strategy in ways employees understand it.
Lastly, one-on-one meetings save time because you communicate expectations and progress updates regularly. You will spend less time putting out fires and tracking down teams for updates as a result.
5. Maintain an ongoing feedback loop
Modern performance management is not a onetime event. It is a series of activities managers must continue to do regularly to ensure teams remain focused on company goals.
Employees have a basic need to be recognised, and need feedback to stay motivated to continue working towards their objectives. Millennials, who are now the largest age group in the workforce, need feedback more than any other generation. Yet, Gallup research shows only 19% of Millennial employees receive ongoing feedback, and only 17% of those polled consider the feedback they do receive is meaningful.
Managers must give prompt, actionable feedback on an ongoing basis to keep teams aligned with and focused on goals. Give constructive feedback that focuses on the behaviour (not the person) and what the team member can do differently next time. Give praise in the way that your direct report prefers to receive it.
Most importantly, continue to implement each of these best practices on an ongoing basis. In doing so, you’ll create a goals-driven culture with high performance as a natural byproduct.
Zorian Rotenberg is the Founder and CEO of Atiim, www.atiim.com, based in Boston, Massachusetts, in the US.
This article appeared in the March 2018 issue of HR Future magazine.