Why does employee alignment matter?
Simple enough to answer - To have an overall driving mission that points all the elements and people of the business toward the same goal. This ensures better efficiency and a higher degree of success that the goal will be met.
Studies show as low as 14% of employees understand their company mission. This issue spans all industries. Of particular note is a growing segment of the workforce, millennials, who are expressing a need to feel connected to the company they work for - a need if not met, will see a continued high turnover of those employees.
Studies also show that less than 10% of companies claim their company strategy is successfully executed. There is a need for companies to focus on their employee alignment to the company’s goals and overall mission.
This Guide will cover:
If the values of the company are not communicated or mean nothing to employees, they will not represent them when making decisions. This can lead to entire departments and divisions being off-track, which can cost your company a lot of money during the misalignment and during the process to get everyone back on track. "It’s a dangerous, slippery slope. One employee that is off-track, soon affects a department, and then a division.”
When employees feel disconnected to the company they work for, they are more likely to show little motivation, pride in their work, and interest in staying with the company long-term. Misalignment here is costing money in lost productivity, recruitment, and training costs.
Shareholders, who are responsible for valuable business capital, are also chiming in on misalignment issues by increasingly asking for metrics on the “employee experience”, such as diversity, equal pay, and termination metrics. This is in response over the years to media attention on such findings as the McKinsey & Company report, which found that companies with significant gender and racial diversity are 35% more likely to outperform national averages.
A look at Trillium, an asset management group that promotes Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing, submits proposals to corporations on behalf of shareholders requesting a change to the corporation’s behavior. Workplace diversity has been a recurring theme from shareholders in the last few years from such corporations as Home Depot, CVS Health Corp, Nike, Cigna, PNC Financial, Starbucks, and Citrix to name a few.
Corporations are putting a lot of emphasis on the employee experience heading into the next few years.
A Gartner study of 800+ HR leaders across 35 countries and all major industries found that among their top 3 business priorities for 2019 is improving the employee experience. The goal was noted as being seen to have a direct impact on overall business.
The communication of your mission statement is not the only aspect to be carefully considered. What your company selects as its mission should speak to the heart of those it will serve and employ. Consumers are diverse as should be your workers. If you can craft your mission statement to be inclusive to the majority it is targeting, it will resonate better with employees.
There are a lot of internal collaborative efforts at play in achieving your business goals. If there is misalignment between the mission and employees, it is difficult for objectives to be realized to their full potential, if realized at all.
Gallup reports in their 2017 State of the American Workplace, that 70% of the U.S. workforce is not engaged, costing between $450-550 billion annually.
They further report that companies with highly engaged workers have higher productivity, profitability, and staff morale.
Although “alignment” and “engagement” are two different things, the point here is that you cannot successfully communicate your mission statement, the overall driving mission for all the elements and people in your organization, to people who do not care. They just aren’t going to listen. And it is alignment of your mission to your employees that is going to yield the best results for your bottom line and cultivate happier employees.
Let’s look at what successful industry leaders are saying and doing about employee engagement and alignment.
Sir Richard Branson talks about his focus on employees over customers in an Inc. magazine interview. He says employees treated well will directly and positively impact customers. He says the reverse is true as well, with employees treated badly giving untold amounts of customers a bad experience with your brand.
Branson maintains that giving employees the right tools to do a good job, looking after and treating them well, and really listening to their feedback can turn “an average company into an exceptional company.”
When Tesla’s Elon Musk was asked about how to best grow and scale a business, he refers to something called “aligning vectors”.
Elon says: “Every person in your company is a vector. Your progress is determined by the sum of all vectors.”
This concept mathematically speaks about aiming for as little inefficiency as possible in your business by aligning the organization’s goals with all aspects of the business to the needs of the customer. This includes company teams like sales and marketing, as well as individual performers/employees.
Cascading Goals, or Top Down Communication, is the process of communicating from the top of the organization - down the hierarchy levels - to individual employees.
This starts with clearly defined organizational values.
These values make up your company culture and mission statement. They should be followed at all levels of business, from upper management, right down to boots-on-the-ground employees. And everyone should be held accountable or rewarded accordingly.
Regularly communicating the value of each person’s role under those values, brings relevance to employees. Imparting the importance of how an individual employee’s day-to-day activities brings value to the company will help engage employees and align them to your mission.
Be sure to continually foster their belief in this importance. This helps instill pride in their work and in the company.
As the employee experience is improved through consistent communication, there will be increased productivity, increased compliance, and better customer experience as you will have happier, more connected employees.
Your deskless workforce are those who do not work their shifts, or typical 8-hours, sitting at a desk.
They are on sales floors, driving trucks, leading gym classes, stocking warehouse shelves, conducting steward duties on airplanes, and etc.
They can be a little harder to reach with engagement messages since they are not on regular email or logging in daily to a shared corporate system. You will have to be more creative in your approach in reaching out to them in order to help them feel connected to the company mission.
These workers generally have direct contact with your customers and make up some of your future managers. They are no less valuable than other workers, and in some ways even more valuable due to their direct relationships with customers.
They are the face of your company. Your deskless workers need to understand and feel connected to the company’s mission.
Deskless workforce industries include:
Typically, jobs in hospitality, retail, manufacturing, and transportation have high turnover rates. Employers in these industries have extra challenges in connecting with their deskless workers.
Communication and the lack of learning and development opportunities are what deskless workers cite as the main reasons to leave one job for another.
Some of these industries are looking to technical solutions, like handheld devices or mobile, to connect with this segment of their workforce.
According to Hospitality Tech, 82% of hospitality companies are increasing their spending on deskless technology to better engage workers and retain them for longer. It is hoped that apps and online platforms will enable upper management to communicate company news, motivate staff, and give a space to connect employees and allow them to share experiences and achievements.
Whatever technological tool you choose to employ, when it comes to your deskless workforce you should endeavor to:
- Be open and transparent with information
- Keep them informed on up-to-date company news and goals
- Offer learning and development options
- Engage workers with regular feedback and praise
According to a Global Workplace Analytics statistics based on US Census Bureau data, remote work has grown 140% since 2005, nearly 10x faster than the rest of the workforce.
If you represent a large corporation, it is likely that remote workers are a growing segment of your workforce.
Teams are more global than ever with much of the workplace virtual.
How can you align your remote workers to your company vision and goals?
Step 1: It is recommended that you design the employee experience with remote workers in mind, and not just add on any special requirements for them. All of the technology and team collaboration efforts should enable remote workers to feel as included as possible to the every day work happening onsite. You want all employees to feel and act like part of their team and a part of the company. Give everyone the tools to do so.
Step 2: Have a “single source of truth”. This is where processes and procedures, workflows, resources, and any other support material to enable teams, whether in-office or remote, to do their jobs. This ensures everyone is operating on the same page and enables real-time priority changes.
Step 3: Managers should manage their remote workers very much the same as their in-house staff. Regular reporting and KPI checks should be carried out at the same frequency.
Step 5: A crucial addition in managing remote workers is including regular face time with them. Video conferencing, or a phone app equivalent, planned weekly can go a long way in making that personal connection with managers that remote workers miss in coming into the office.
This can be a short as a 15 minute chat that enables some pleasantries and relationship building, as well as discussion of work.
Step 4: Team inclusion should be a priority. All team meetings and brainstorming sessions in the office should include relevant remote workers dialed in via conference phone or laptop.
In the event that an unplanned meeting or spontaneous brainstorming session occurs, considering having one member of the in-house team take notes and ensure relevant remote workers have a chance to give feedback.
This helps avoid alienating a team member and allows for potential valuable feedback from a member of the team that was not given the chance.
In this day and age it really does not cost much in money or time to have remote workers feel connected. To help them feel connected and aligned to your company’s overall mission and every day projects, consistent connection is crucial.
To test employee alignment you can begin with asking your employees questions with a survey or one-on-one to see where they are at with the company’s mission.
You are looking to gauge the following:
- Does the employee know what the company’s mission is?
- Would the employee recommend working at the company?
- Do coworkers know the company goal and work towards it?
- Are there learning and development options for the employee?
- Does the employee have the right tools to do their job well?
- Does the employee know where to go to get help/resources?
- Does the employee feel valued/recognized for good work?
- Is greater job flexibility required?
- Does the employee receive managerial advice/feedback?
- Is the team they are a part of cohesive?
Another step in the employee alignment testing process is really looking at the structure of your people and job roles.
The overarching filter is how are the people and team elements performing in relation to your company mission? Your mission, being your promise to everyone - customers, vendors, employees, and future employees. Your mission is your truth. Are your people and teams speaking to this truth?
For an example, if your company’s mission to provide the safest equipment on the market, are your people contributing to that in their individual roles? Are teams doing that as a whole?
You can start by analyzing the structure of your people and roles by answering:
- Is the job a good fit for them?
- Are there other talents they have that are being underutilized?
- Do they long for a management position - or are they tired of a management position?
- Do they carry out the company mission?
You’ll next want to look at your teams and answer:
- Do you have the right individuals on a particular team?
- Do you have the right mix of people on a team?
- How are your teams interacting?
- Is the company mission being served?
Both your people and teams are dynamic. Chances are you are going to find a lot of room for improvement. This is a process you will want to carry out periodically, particularly when things change at the corporate level.
To achieve employee alignment, you will require:
A Clearly Defined & Communicated Mission
Focus on the Employee Experience
Design Thinking Tools
Clearly Defined & Communicated Mission
A clearly defined mission communicated regularly with accountability and reward will help align your employees to that message. It should speak to your customers and internal customers: your employees.
The message should be very concise, consisting in just a sentence or paragraph. It should include a statement of the company’s core values - the why you do what you do. And it should include a brief description of how those values are going to met.
A clearly defined mission communicates your brand to customers and employees and to potential customers and future employees.
Crafting the perfect message (or perfect message for right now as your focus may change in future) should incorporate feedback from the “boots on the ground” managers and employees, as well as feedback from customers.
This is the message that you’ll be aiming to align employees to. It should be communicated creatively and often to employees to help it be top of mind in their day-to-day decision making on behalf of the company.
This message should also be used in the recruitment process to help ensure the right fit employees are hired.
The Employee Experience
Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report indicates that nearly 80% of executives believe that the employee experience is important, however only 22% are actually addressing this challenge.
Deloitte says “In a digital world with increasing transparency and the growing influence of millennials, employees expect a productive, engaging, (and) enjoyable work experience.”
There is more of a need here than simple employee engagement programs can address. A progressive focus and integrative planning on the entire employee experience is required. From human resources, to day-to-day working, to work-life balance, to health programs and beyond.
Design thinking aims to reinvent the way HR departments reach and guide employees. Design thinking “transforms HR from a ‘process developer’ to an ‘experience architect’.”
Deloitte likens the concept to how companies intensely analyze and focus on the customer experience. When you look through your customer’s point of view, you can innovate better fitting products and services. You can also learn how to be that point of difference that makes a customer choose your company over a competitor.
With design thinking you can analyze and focus on your employees with similar results. For an example, understanding just how much digital distractions interrupt and overwhelm employees, HR may focus on a different platform or app to reach employees with messages. Or another example might be HR making benefits choices simpler for busy employees in order to increase participation in them.
Successful corporations are using design thinking for their consumers and employees, such as:
- Zappos - improved recruitment and onboarding
- Cisco - redesigned HR around employee needs
- Google - created a fun company culture increasing innovation
- Vodafone - developed a new way of working and learning
How do you employ design thinking?
Step 1: Empathize - you need to see things as your employees do. Survey them, talk to them one-on-one, look for patterns, and assume nothing.
Step 2: Define - when you start to find common issues in significant numbers, focus on one issue at a time so you can clearly spell out what it is being addressed and identify all of the elements attached to that issue
Step 3: Evaluate - brainstorm and come up with new meaningful ways to address the defined issue
Step 4: Prototype - have a model of action and solicit feedback
Step 5: Test - scale testing with a beta group and refine with feedback and analysis until the program, service, or event is ready for proper launch
Accountability - Is Someone Paying Attention?
Part of your strategy to achieve employee alignment is to make sure it is being paid attention to. Someone should be responsible in overseeing the larger, end to end picture of how employee alignment to the company’s mission is doing. Someone, or a division, should also be responsible for nurturing the employee experience.
Bird's eye view
Who should be overseeing the “big picture”?
Harvard Business Review cautions against leaving the responsibility to the company’s chairman or CEO. “The job of aligning the modern corporation is too complex to be added on to the slate of someone whose job it is to consider hundreds of other things, no matter how talented or powerful they are.”
The best person for this responsibility is someone at the enterprise level who believes passionately in the company mission. This person should focus on all of the elements of the business and how they are they are functioning in achieving the company mission.
Employee Experience Division
To achieve employee alignment, who will focus on the employee experience?
Traditionally HR departments have the responsibility of carrying out employee relations, however with the shift in focus to the employee experience, some companies are selecting another path.
Companies like AirBnB are opting to do away with HR heads and instead setting up a division focused on the employee experience. This ensures a focused group is continually carrying out those programs, services, and events deemed important to the employee experience at your company.
Ultimately, your company mission and brand is a promise you make to your customers and people. The better aligned that message is to all of the elements in your business, particularly your employees make up a huge part of your company's investment, the more likely you are to successfully deliver on that promise.
Cultivating your employees on their terms and to your company mission statement should be planned and continually evaluated to help avoid your company culture morphing into something unintended, with individuals, teams, departments, and/or entire divisions pulling in different directions.