Get Your Ducks in a Row - Workforce Alignment that Works

by Melany Gallant | Posted | Business Impact

Get Your Ducks in a Row - Workforce Alignment that Works

Few HR professionals or C-level executives would deny the importance of workforce alignment in achieving their organizational goals.

Simply put, workforce alignment is about ensuring the goals of your workers are aligned with the objectives of the company. To borrow a common expression, it allows you to ‘get your ducks in a row’ so that your organization is positioned to succeed.

The ultimate goal is to make sure that everything done by each individual is helping to move the company towards its long term objectives. This makes goal alignment one of the most important elements of any Talent Management strategy; and one that is mission-critical to C-level executives.

Few are doing it well

In a perfectly aligned organization, everyone is productive and working on the right things. And each individual knows exactly how their tasks contribute to the success of the organization.

Unfortunately few of us are experience a perfectly aligned workforce where everyone is pulling in the same direction.

In fact, according to research conducted by Hewitt Associates and the Human Capital Institute, just 17 percent of respondents indicated their workforce strategy is consistently aligned with their business strategy across the organization.

Put another way, 83 percent of employees are not consistently aligned with the business strategy across the organization. This “misalignment” is not a recipe for a top performing workforce that contributes optimally to the company’s bottom line success.

What’s the problem?

Part of the problem is the model or approach that is adopted to achieve goal alignment. Two broad approaches are used world-wide to align employee goals: people-centric and organization-centric.

Organizations that have adopted a people-centric alignment model start with goals that are established by the CEO. This is a top down model where each level of management in turn establishes performance goals that are linked to the CEO’s plan.

This process cascades down the organizational hierarchy, eventually impacting each employee. At the end of this process, each employee defines goals that are directly linked to their supervisor’s goals.

The downside of this model is that change at any level results in a need to update goal plans across the organization. This ripple effect is hugely time consuming, complex, and difficult to implement. Moreover, with a people-centric approach, each employee only sees how their efforts contribute to their supervisor’s goals rather than to the organization’s overall goals.

Organization-centric alignment

An alternate model is called the Organization-Centric Alignment. It works like this:

  • Objectives are defined first for the company
  • Goals are then are broken down across the organizational hierarchy, with goals cascading down three or four levels
  • Employee goals are then linked to these organizational objectives

What’s the difference?

An organizational-alignment model lets you input your corporate objectives and ‘cascade’ them down to divisions, departments and employees.

With this approach, each employee sees how their goals are explicitly linked to the ‘bigger picture’. This is a critical difference – and key to a more motivated and engaged workforce.

Furthermore, this model provides a more flexible and measurable approach to employee goal management. One that enables organizations to adjust more quickly to changing business priorities while ensuring:

  • Employees at all levels know exactly what’s expected of them and why – and they can track their own progress
  • All employees understand why the organization exists and what they need to do every day to succeed – today, this month, this year
  • C-level executives and HR leaders have assurance that their workforce is doing the right things – that it is aligned with the strategic goals and direction of the organization

Goals must flow up and down the organization

Required is the ability to establish cascading goals that give C-level executives and each employee visibility on the chain of goals. This enables each person to see how their individual goals link to their team goals, their department goals, and their division goals; all the way up to overall corporate goals.

Continuous line of sight

Similarly leaders need the ability to look up or down the organization’s reporting chain to see exactly who is supporting each of their initiatives. This capability gives them a continuous “line of sight” on who is involved and how they are progressing towards achieving goals at each level of the organization.

This approach to workforce and goal alignment provides a powerful, two-way line of sight that travels up and down the organization. Key is the ability to quickly and easily establish cascading performance goals that show how each individual is contributing – in the context of the overall organizational strategy.

Not only does this empower each individual, it gives them a sense of increased ownership in your organization’s success.

We’ll be talking about the need for goal alignment again in the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you would like more information, I invite you to download the white paper A Practical Approach to Aligning and Managing Employee Goals by Knowledge Infusion.

Do you have any specific questions or points of view regarding workforce alignment? If so, please leave a comment below.

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