Many manufacturers struggle to align the performance goals of each department with the objectives of the overall organization, but it is well worth the effort required to ensure overall alignment. One of the major advantages is higher employee engagement, which leads to increased productivity and many other benefits as well.
Improving performance alignment starts with effective communication. Frontline and mid-level employees don’t always fully understand how their actions support the goals of the entire organization. People need to see how their work fits into the big picture, or it will lead to alignment issues between an individual or group and the organization as a whole.
It’s particularly important when organizations are trying to change the way they do business. Improving alignment often involves asking people to change how they work, which is difficult. To be successful, employees must have two key pieces of information when they’re asked to make changes.
1. Why they’re being asked to change and what are the risks are of not changing: Research shows that employees won’t accept change if they don’t understand the reasoning behind the decision requiring the change or the consequences of not changing.
2. What’s in it for them: Employees aren’t selfish, but they do want to know how the change is going to impact them. How is it going to help them improve their work and achieve their career goals?
Without those two pieces of information, people have a tendency to be cynical about embracing change. Leading companies have a structured process for communicating performance goals to people at every level of the organization and ensuring they’re aligned. The process starts at the top of the organization, where you might detail market share objectives, for example. To break down goals for individual departments and demonstrate how they relate to the overall goals, consider using a visual process, such as a scorecard. Map out the process so employees are able to see how everything is interconnected, regardless of where they are in the organization.
How you communicate goals to employees is crucial. Many times, organizations expend a lot of resources on developing information, but they don’t spend enough time thinking about who will deliver the message. Effective communication hinges on the relationship between the messenger and the person receiving the information.
Research shows that someone at the top of an organization, such as the president or owner, is best suited to outline corporate objectives. When it gets down to goals for specific departments or teams, employees want to hear from their immediate supervisor, because that’s who they trust the most.
If departmental messages come from too high up, they lose meaning. It’s important to identify the appropriate messengers and determine how to best leverage them to disseminate information throughout the organization.
After communicating goals, the next step to improving performance alignment is to generate enthusiasm and support. Company leaders must be genuinely active in achieving goals. Too often, executives kick off an initiative, outline the goals and then disappear. Executive leaders should be active participants throughout the process, or employees won’t take it seriously.
Leaders must set an example for how they expect employees to behave, and everyone should be held to the same standards. High-performing workers often get a pass when it comes to new initiatives. Your top salesperson, for example, may get away with skirting certain rules or responsibilities. This happens in businesses all the time, but it’s detrimental to achieving goals.
Consistent standards and accountability must be applied in order to reach your objectives, just like the company president must play an active role in the process. Enthusiasm and support flow naturally when everyone in an organization is working together.
In the end, performance alignment is at its basic level about getting everyone on the same page and supporting the same objectives, which requires clear communication across the entire organization.