How to Align Employees to a Broader Purpose
Research shows that employees who are regarded as stakeholders within an organization demonstrate greater engagement and performance.
Yet, Gallup's 2022 State of the Global Workplace report found that 65% of US workers still aren't engaged with their work.
According to Gallup, there is a sense of urgency in rectifying this disconnect because while actions taken by leaders to improve engagement can help remedy the situation, inaction can make it drastically worse.
What's the Engagement Holdup?
A York University survey of global business leaders found leaders face many challenges in engaging employees and unifying them towards a common goal. Some of those include:
- Inspiring and developing employees
- Leading a team effectively
- Guiding change within a team
- Managing internal stakeholders
According to the study, one of the biggest hurdle to overcoming these challenges is a lack of trust.
"Aligning employees with company goals requires trust and collaboration among teams," said Marcus Clarke, founder of UK-based search marketing agency Searchant. It is very difficult, he said, to achieve the company's goals when there is limited trust between employees and employers.
Yet, recent data collected by LumApps shows that 20% of employees still don't trust their leadership team.
To engage employees and drive them to unite behind a bigger purpose, everyone must understand the ultimate goal and see value in it. Employees must trust that leaders are also considering their wellbeing and experience in the process.
While that may be the case, some leaders still don't communicate with full clarity and transparency. In many companies, employees only get to see or hear about the list of tasks they need to accomplish said Matthew Gertner, CEO of development agency Salsita Software.
"Staff doesn't have the full context for company decisions," he said, and aligning employees to company goals under these circumstances becomes almost impossible.
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4 Ways to Improve Engagement and Alignment With Corporate Goals
If mistrust has already taken place in the organization, not all is lost. There are ways to rectify the situation.
Honesty and Respect
Gertner suggested first taking an objective look into how employees are treated.
Managers should be comfortable being transparent in their communications, showcasing the inner workings of the business and trusting employees to not just do the work but also understand how their work impacts the broader organization — and community.
Leaders who dismiss employees' inquiries into the rationale of business decisions are not making any friends, nor supporting healthy engagement. Clearly communicating the goals and linking those to task is key to providing a road map to organizational success.
Clarke said leaders should also ensure that there is a feedback loop in place, where staff can provide feedback to leaders on the corporate goals.
Opening the lines of communications — both ways — is a great way to gather insight into how employees think, how they perceive the brand and the actions that need to be taken to improve things for the future.
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However, in doing so, leadership must be open to hear divergent views. Not everyone will have the same perspective, Liat Hortig, chief people officer at SaaS company Torii, said, and leaders shouldn't assume an employee is automatically wrong for thinking differently.
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Hortig said first and foremost, companies should take a look at their recruitment practices. "Aligning employees to company goals starts with the hiring process," she said.
Finding candidates who fit in with the company's values, ethics and goals is key to alignment from the start. It is much harder to change a person's aspirations than it is to train skills, she said.
Hortig said Torii, for instance, provides candidates with a cheat sheet to find out what their goals and motivations are. The company has developed an interview style that looks into not just the candidate's capabilities but also their vision for the future.
Leaders also need to take a more active role in recognizing employees' accomplishments.
Weekly recognition of good work and setting monthly goals aligned with the company's goals, for instance, can help a business move in the right direction more effectively.
This works both among in-office teams and remote teams. Clarke's team is remote, and he has found that frequent communication of accomplishments and milestones has helped move his business more effectively in a collective direction.
The Long-Lasting Benefits of Engagement
The benefits to achieving alignment and engagement are enormous. For both the business and the employee.
On one hand, employees are more likely to stay within the organization when they are aligned, leading to lower recruitment costs, improved productivity and a tighter culture of collaboration.
On the other, operational costs are reduced, staff morale will climb and goals are more likely to be exceeded — and celebrated.
About the Author
Kaya Ismail is a business software journalist and commentator with years of experience in the CMS industry.