5 Steps to Align Company and Employee Goals

I’ve worked for a number of organizations that thought they had a clear vision of what needed to be accomplished and how every employee was going to help get there. Then, at the end of the year, the goals the company had were not met, but many of the individual departments and employees still achieved their own goals and thus got a healthy merit increase and/or bonus check. Management seemed puzzled, but never changed their process to ensure it wouldn’t repeat the following year.

How did the process breakdown and where can we do better? Follow these 5 steps and you won’t repeat their mistakes.

Step 1: Get Management on the Same Page

Before you start involving the lower levels of the organization, it’s important to make sure the leadership of the company is in agreement on what should be the strategic direction. Believe it or not, this can often be the hardest part of the process and it doesn’t make sense to have your employees start creating department, team or individual goals that work toward unachievable or ineffectual company goals. A great example of this occurred at my last company. Our division provided software and services to large sales organizations, but depending on the client’s level of sophistication with the technology, we could provide 10% to 100% of the software administration services. So, it became a constant question as to whether we were a software organization or a services/consulting organization. The answer would lead us in very different directions in terms of our objectives. Some of the management team members were more technical and therefore believed we were and should be primarily a software organization, while others realized the complexity of the software and the need to provide integrated services to the clients. So, it was critical to settle on what our true mission was, since if we leaned toward software and not services, then we needed to invest in making the technology easier for end users. Or, if we leaned toward services and consulting, then we needed to hire and train differently. This meant our team and individual goals would be drastically different.

Step 2: Make Sure Company Goals can be Impacted by Teams and Employees

It’s all well and good to set goals for the company, but if those goals are outside the control of the employees, it will just create frustration in the organization. A great example of this is when I worked with many pharmaceutical companies they would sometimes want to set goals for sales representatives based on dollar sales or profit. However, these sales reps had no control over the price of the drugs they were marketing, nor did they have input on discounts offered, manufacturing costs or marketing expenditures. So, they were being measured on metrics (sales dollars, profit) that they had very little influence over. The better metrics for setting these sales reps’ goals were based on the number of units sold in their territory or even activity-based metrics like sales calls, etc. because those metrics are entirely within the control of each sales rep.

Step 3: Set Goals in a Collaborative Way

Employees will be much more likely to contribute to achieving goals if they agree with the goals that are set or at least buy into the process. So, bring every level of the organization into the process of determining the high level goals for the company. This can be done in several ways, including selecting representatives from every department or team to participate in a Goals Focus Group, or sending out a survey of 10 goals and asking employees to rank the top 5 goals based on how important they are to the organization. The point is to involve the staff beyond the executive suite, so rather than risking there being a disconnect between the management goals and the employees, instead you create Champions for the goals you set.

Step 4: Clearly Communicate the Company Objectives…with Fanfare

It’s surprising how many organizations spend many hours and dollars developing strategic plans with important objectives for the company to achieve, and then they just send the goals out in a slide deck or e-mail. Be proud of those goals; they did take a lot of time and effort to create. And the only way to make sure they are achieved is to get the entire organization behind them. So, I suggest starting with a company meeting or video conference where you celebrate the completion of the planning and goal setting process. Announce why these goals were chosen and why others were not. Share with all staff members how their daily activities will contribute to achieving these goals and what the achievement of these goals means to the future of the company. Employees WANT to be a part of something big, so make them feel like they are.

Step 5: Frequent Check-ins and Progress Reports

Finally, don’t just let the goals drop. In order to show the employees how important it is to achieve these goals, you must continually remind them of the goals and how everyone on the team is progressing toward achieving them. Ideally, this should be done through both tools and in-person sessions. Having a continually updated, online tool that everyone in the organization has access to, will show how transparent and committed you are to these goals. A great way to get individual employee buy-in is to have them identify a handful of tasks that they can accomplish within their job responsibilities that will directly contribute to a larger goal. Then, review these tasks and goals with them at least once a month. When major milestones are met, the entire organization should celebrate in a public way.

By following these 5 steps, your organization won’t make the mistake of disconnecting key goals from your employee’s daily work and you’ll be much more likely to achieve those goals.

Let us know the ways in which your company or team keeps everyone aligned to your goals by sharing a comment.