Most corporate executives invest a lot of energy defining and fine-tuning their organizations’ business strategy and goals. But a company’s goals have little value if the employees do not know what those goals are, or what is expected of them in carrying them out.
A successful company creates a culture of transparency in which employees are vigorously engaged in understanding and carrying out organizational objectives. Here are four steps leading to enthusiastic employee engagement and alignment by being a transparent organization.
Step No. 1: Communicate corporate goals. It is startling how many organizations fail to convey business strategy and goals to their employees. One survey found that just 37% of employees know their corporate goals. Another even more sobering study found that only 14% of employees understand their company’s strategy and direction.
Does that make any sense? Failing to communicate corporate goals to the workforce is like hailing a cab, but failing to tell the driver where you want to go. That’s not a very good way to move from Point A to Point B.
There is no shortage of good ways to communicate corporate goals to team members. It begins with leaders incorporating the goals into their everyday vocabulary. Goals should be continuously reinforced: at meetings, one-one-one, in emails and newsletters, etc. The creative geniuses whose job it is to communicate your company’s message to clients and customers should be recruited to promote company goals to the workforce.
Step No 2: Engage employees in the discussion. The days when a company could tack a list of goals on the wall and expect employees to salute are long gone. To achieve genuine employee engagement and alignment with corporate goals, workers must be invited to participate in the discussion about setting the goals and fulfilling them.
A couple of decades ago, it was much harder to carry on that kind of company-wide conversation. But the Internet has changed all that. Several social networking tools for businesses have sprung up in the last five years. A social collaboration platform can be a great way to communicate effectively and continuously across an organization. One key to success is to make sure the leaders actively participate in the conversation.
Step No. 3: Identify individual goals that support the corporate goals. Corporate goals are hardly enough. When a company has hundreds or thousands of employees, the only way for employees to be engaged is to identify their individual goals. Each employee should know the specific activities, skills and behaviors expected of him or her. Many organizations overlook this crucial step.
It may seem like an enormous challenge to break corporate goals down to specific expectations for each individual worker. In 2012, our company, Best Practice Institute, introduced Skillrater, a social collaboration tool that makes goal-setting and fulfillment a lot easier. Leaders use Skillrater to identify very specific activities and skills for their direct reports, and ambitious employees use Skillrater to request guidance and feedback.
Step No. 4: Make evaluations a friendly process using a ratings tool. Employee evaluations at many companies are largely a negative experience. Feedback is focused on the past, with discussion about failures dominating any recognition of good work. “You did a good job this past year, but …” — and all an employee hears is what comes after the “but.”
Most employees want to do well. Many employees complain that they don’t know what their bosses expect, and when they do perform well, their bosses don’t even notice. When expectations are clear and good work is recognized, productivity will skyrocket.
Skillrater provides an online platform where employees can ask to be rated on a specific activities. It gives workers a way to get noticed. It takes only a few seconds to make an online rating request and only a few seconds for a supervisor to provide the requested feedback. Feedback takes the form of simple five-star ratings on activity-related skills, with additional comments optional.
The five-star system creates a metric that makes it possible to measure improvement over time. Continuous ratings-based performance management creates a positive, future-focused culture of continuous improvement.
The Transparent 21st Century Organization
Imagine an organization in which each team member knows:
• What the company is trying to accomplish,
• What one’s own role is in the process,
• What activities, skills and behaviors one needs to excel,
• That when he or she does, one’s success will be noticed, appreciated and rewarded.
That is a description of an organization that not only knows how to set goals, but how to achieve them by raising up an enthusiastic, engaged, ambitious workforce.