These days, it's easy to find books, articles and presentations touting the importance of aligning employee and organizational goals. While in the past, the logistics of doing this were complex and impractical, automated talent management applications make it easy today with a variety of tools and approaches. Yet the reality is that many organizations either haven't thought to create high-level organizational goals or don't communicate and assign responsibility for achieving them to their divisions or departments.
Why is it so important to have organizational goals that employees can link their goals to?
Employees need a context for their work
The simple truth is that employees need to know that their work matters, that what they do each day will make a difference. One of the key ways they come to understand this is by seeing their work in a larger context.
Organizational goals define and specify the desired business results, so employees have a greater "cause" to commit to, and a context for their work. They help employees feel part of a team and help them see the larger impact of their work.
Without organizational goals, employees are "just doing their job"; they know and understand their small work environment, but have little knowledge of the larger organization. Their motivation will therefore likely be limited to pleasing their manager, maintaining good relationships with their peers, or even “collecting their paycheck". In any of these scenarios, your organization is missing out.
Even further, without organizational goals, employee goals can never be SMART. There's no "bigger picture" to make them relevant, other than their manager's wishes. And although employee goals may be achievable and have a deadline so they are time-bound, without a larger context or cause, there is no real motivation to accomplish them, other than manager approval.
Creating organizational goals and encouraging employees to link their own individual goals to these helps focus everyone's efforts on the larger reason or context for their work, making every employee feel purposeful and needed. This helps drive employee satisfaction and engagement, as well as individual and organizational performance.
Help break down silos
Most companies have them: organizational silos that people sometimes use to segregate themselves from others. Silos tend to breed an attitude of: "That's not my problem!" With our natural competitiveness and protectiveness, we tend to easily "grab the glory" or "point the finger". The result is a polarized organization where teamwork suffers.
Establishing organizational goals that everyone can contribute to helps break down internal silos, because they make the corporate mission and success "everyone's business". The truth is, every employee in the company needs to focus on how their work contributes to higher-level organizational goals, whether they are about quality, innovation, customer satisfaction, or safety.
There's a famous story about a visitor to NASA headquarters who came across a janitor sweeping the floor. When he asked the janitor what he was doing, the janitor replied: "I'm helping to put a man on the moon."
Making organizational goals visible and accessible to everyone in the organization, and further, encouraging employees from across the organization to link their individual goals to them helps to build team spirit. Everyone in the linked chain can see that they are contributing to a larger team effort and can better understand organizational interdependencies.
Improve corporate performance
Research has repeatedly shown that organizations who adopt integrated talent management practices, and implement goal alignment outperform others in the industry. IBM, Towers Perrin, Workforce Intelligence Institute and many others have found links between employee engagement, goal alignment or overall talent management practices and financial performance.
It’s actually kind of common sense. If you successfully rally your entire workforce around your key organizational goals, in a way that challenges each employee to contribute in their own way and be accountable for their contribution, you’re far more likely to accomplish your organizational goals than if you allow everyone to work independently at their own disconnected jobs. Defining organizational goals and aligning your workforce to them can’t help but harness energies and drive efficiencies.
Learn how others have successfully by implemented organizational goals
"It is hard to insist on accountability if there are no goals to hold anyone to." The San Diego Zoo realized they needed to change their corporate culture. So they established organizational goals and introduced a new performance appraisal process to align everyone’s efforts and ensure employees were getting the feedback and direction they needed.