How do I connect employees to the organization's purpose?

Align individual goals to organizational goals.
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Set Aligned Goals

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High-performing organizations have a system for setting goals. More important, high performing leaders are systematic in how they reach the goals they set. Leaders in high performing organizations are very clear about why they set goals for the organization, for themselves, and for the employees who report to them. They want to achieve results. High performing leaders know they must rely on employees to help the organization achieve its goals. Organizational results cannot be achieved by the leader alone. It’s a team effort. The leader needs to utilize the talents of the team to reach goals. In that way, the entire organization is more likely to achieve desired results.

Research by Daniel Pink (2009) tells us that employees are motivated by a sense of purpose. If they feel connected to the purpose of the organization, they are more likely to be more engaged in their work. This sense of connection can be attained when employees feel their work goals are connected to the overall organization’s goals. In that way, they feel they are making a contribution, that their work is more meaningful.

This connection from the organization’s goals to the employee’s goals is called alignment. High performing leaders create a strong linkage that creates a clear line of sight from the organization’s purpose and goals to the work to be performed by the employee.

Create Clarity and Get Results

When individual employees and departments or divisions know how their goals align to the overall goals of the organization, they experience:

  • Increased employee engagement
  • Greater collective understanding of the organization’s purpose and work among all employees
  • More focused and well-executed strategy work
  • Higher productivity and profitability

When all employees understand how their goals align to the organization’s goals, they see the alignment and feel like everyone is “rowing in the same direction.”  That’s a powerful feeling….and it gets results.

It’s a lot easier to talk about the importance of alignment than it is to achieve it. To begin, you must have clearly defined organizational goals. What is the organization focusing on in the short-term and in the longer-term?  This is clear to know and communicate to all employees. As a leader, this definition of organizational strategy is Job #1. Without this, you have nothing to which you’ll align individual employee goals.

Once you have the organizational strategy set, you probe with the employee about his/her talents, passion, and role duties to set goals that support the greater organizational goals.

Set Aligned Goals in 3 Steps

Bring organizational goals to the meeting where individual employee goals are determined. Use the organizational goals to ask questions of the employee about how their work connects to these bigger organizational goals.

  • Ask connection questions such as:
    • Are the organization’s goals clear to you? Do you understand why they are important for us?
    • How does the work you do support attainment of these goals?
    • Which of the goals most connects to work you like to do and feel passionate about?
    • As we look to the next year, what work will you focus on that will help us reach these goals?
    • What are 2-3 goals that you would suggest align to the goals of the organization? 

Align individual employee goals to the organization’s goals.  

  • Work with the employee and agree on two to three goals for the employee that directly support the organization’s goals. Make sure they are in SMART goal language so you can measure progress.
  • Write them down.
  • Make sure the employee sees the alignment. Communicate this clearly so that the connection is solid. “Your goals cascade from the organization’s goals. If you achieve your goals, we are more likely as an organization to achieve these bigger organizational goals. We work together.”

Meet every 90 days to monitor goal progress and use this as an opportunity to connect to the organization’s goals so the alignment is clear to the employee. 

  • Employee goal setting cannot be a one-time-a-year event. High performing leaders meet with employees quarterly to monitor goal performance. They use these meetings as a communication tool and stress the need for goal alignment and attainment.

Data is a Force that Drives Change

More than a force, it is a powerful tool for aligning both the goals and values of an organization. How? Data provides evidence. When employees see the evidence behind the work they do, they feel a sense of ownership and hold themselves accountable for achieving results. Thus, they continuously strive to achieve the organization’s overall goals and values. Do you present data at your organization in an intentional, meaningful way?

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