Want Better Performance? Align Company and Employee Goals

January 4th, 2023 – SkillCycle

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Setting clear and achievable employee goals is foundational to driving productivity and motivation in any organization. However, leaders should also ensure employee goals are tied to broader company objectives for the greatest success.

Why does this connection matter? When team members’ goals are aligned with both organizational and individual needs, employee performance increases by up to 22%, according to Gartner.

Aligning objectives helps individuals and teams understand their contribution to a larger initiative or company goal. Making this connection is a significant driver of getting your entire team working together to bring the company’s long-term vision to life.

“The most important thing is helping people understand the why, the what, and the value of what they’re doing and how they can contribute,” says Jeff Reid, COO & CPO and Co-founder of SkillCycle.

In this article on aligning company and employee goals, we’ll examine:

  • Creating alignment between company and employee goals
  • Common roadblocks that can derail alignment
  • How company culture and communication contribute to success
  • What effective goal alignment looks like in practice


Creating alignment between company and employee goals

Also called “cascading” goals, alignment in employee goal setting typically follows a standard process. It involves leadership breaking down company-wide goals into smaller ones for managers and employees. 

Within companies that have effective performance management systems, 91% say their employee goals are linked to business priorities, according to McKinsey

However, creating alignment isn’t about forcing a connection. This is why timing is critical in employee goal setting. If company-wide goals are set at the beginning of the year, leaders should communicate new initiatives and goals effectively. Employees must understand why specific goals are important and how their work contributes to these objectives.

“It’s about finding the right balance between quickly sharing the organization’s goals and actually having time to get that alignment and feedback from employees,” says Reid.

The need for alignment between employee and company long-term goals is clear. This underscores the importance of regular check-ins and feedback loops in your organization. Managers and leaders must communicate shifts and adjust goals throughout the year as projects and initiatives change, to help ensure the efforts of employees are going toward valuable outcomes with tangible results. 


Common roadblocks that can derail alignment

A lack of communication is one of the most significant ways companies mismanage employee goal-setting. If employees don’t understand why working toward a goal is meaningful, how can they be motivated to offer their best work?

“In some companies, leadership hands down goals without any opportunity for dialogue and understanding,” says Reid. “If that communication doesn’t happen, it’s the first chance for things to go awry.”

A second goal-setting risk is overcomplicating what will be measured and how. Too many key performance indicators and metrics to manage, especially when stored in different systems, may simply create more administrative burdens. Goals should be easy to understand, remember, and measure along the way to achievement.

Instead of spending the bulk of your time pulling together data and integrating it into endless reporting, try prioritizing the problem-solving, discussions, and engagement around progress toward goals. This approach strengthens connection and trust with your team, and will likely show results more quickly. 

Last, leaders should be mindful of how quickly things change in the organization and adjust objectives along with these shifts. Employees shouldn’t sit down once a year to review progress toward goals that no longer relate to the company’s needs or current responsibilities. 

If your company cancels a project or moves up a product launch, leaders should discuss these changes with employees and adjust goals to suit them. That way, employees can apply feedback and adapt their daily work, and obstacles can be reduced or eliminated in real time to aid progress.

Change isn’t just a reality for organizations as a whole. Industries, markets, and the global workforce have changed significantly in recent years. Sixty percent of HR leaders feel current roles are evolving rapidly, requiring employees to learn new skills and new ways of working with others to support changing business priorities, according to Gartner. Job descriptions and responsibilities may need to shift to keep pace, and adjusting goals can help ensure your employees understand expectations and can adapt successfully. 


How company culture and communication contribute to success

A specific goal offered by leadership can still give employees plenty of leeway to define their ownership of it. However, it should always be grounded in moving the needle on larger objectives the company is working toward.

“In the absence of clarity, individuals may create their own definition of success,” says Reid. “And that may or may not ultimately be what the company needs.”

For the most significant impact, your company goals should inform the goals set for employees and connect them to how you support, develop, and evaluate their performance regularly throughout the year. Shifting from annual performance reviews to a continual feedback cycle can help ensure goals are relevant and employees can gain the skills needed to meet them.

As a leader, you never want to be surprised by poor results that stem from employees not being supported in their work. Creating space for honest communication makes it easier for team members to ask for help or share their struggles with their managers. These conversations ensure that employees have what they need to execute their goals. 

A culture that fosters open dialogue and welcomes employee input naturally creates higher engagement and commitment to goals. It is also essential to offer learning opportunities and development plans to ensure employees have the skills they need to succeed.


What effective goal alignment looks like in practice

Ideally, aligning your employees’ goals to your company long-term goals will result in achieving these larger organizational objectives. Successful implementation should result in your company performing well and reaching its goals, but other strategies could also drive progress on this front. 

“A more significant sign that you have goal alignment is a strong culture of transparency and development,” says Reid. “When a company is on track with both of these, there’s a natural path to performance.” 

To measure the effectiveness of how your organization sets and works toward goals as a team, look instead to how often employees ask for help and if they’re comfortable raising concerns. It should be common to have managers and employees having conversations around identifying roadblocks and necessary resources. 

Encouraging these practices to become commonplace in your organization will help reinforce what everyone is working toward and how each individual’s contribution will make a difference. 

Another measurement of success can be the growth of skills in each employee and across your entire workforce. Progress in these areas can help leaders tie investments in employee learning and skill-building opportunities to employee achievements and desired business outcomes. 

Want to learn more about how SkillCycle supports effective goal alignment? Reach out today to schedule a demo or chat with a sales rep.