Establishing Alignment in Employee Performance Management

Alignment is key to both organizational and individual successラbut getting there requires a full commitment to improvement.

By Marcel Messier, President and COO, Technomedia

One of the biggest challenges for any company lies in achieving organizational alignment: that desired state in which the entire enterprise is working together to achieve business goals. But just like the tires on a car, if just one piece isn’t aligned with the others, there will be no forward movement. And unlike a car, creating full alignment in an organization can’t be achieved just by tinkering around with a few key components. Instead, achieving alignment involves a top-to-bottom transformation, in which leadership communicates goals and expectations and everyone has an understanding of what is expected and what they must do to advance the organization.

Interestingly, organizations are likely to see alignment during times of crisis. In the face of uncertainty and significant challenge, employees join together in panic mode and work together to help the company overcome the difficulty. But organizations don’t—and shouldn’t—have to wait for a crisis to achieve alignment. By taking the right proactive steps to set strategic priorities throughout the organization, each employee can gain a sense of ownership and accountability, resulting in an energized entity with a clear and consistent vision.

Why Alignment Is Needed

According to researchers at McKinsey & Co., there is a clear relationship between a company’s organizational performance management and its financial performance. And with labor typically the largest investment a company makes, financial wellbeing is dependent on employee productivity exceeding the cost of salary. By achieving a state in which each employee is working to full potential, as an individual contributor and as part of the group, the organization will see return on its labor investment.

But although money may be the metric upon which a company measures its performance, the same doesn’t hold true for employees. Compensation alone is not enough to drive sustained high performance. That is why companies spend significant resources on sourcing talent and providing ongoing training and motivation. Key to alignment is ensuring that employees understand the relevance of their contributions and taking the appropriate measures to ensure they remain engaged.

Six Steps Toward Alignment

Before a company can realize the benefits of having a fully aligned workforce, there are several changes that must take place. As with any major organizational improvement, achieving alignment doesn’t happen overnight; it requires time and a full commitment from leadership. And while the changes needed to take place, and the ultimate outcome will be different for each organization, the following tips can help any company on the road to gaining enterprise-wide alignment:

1. Set Achievable Goals

For alignment to be achieved, well-defined, attainable goals should be established in such a way that they don’t have to be modified and revisited each quarter. Once meaningful, employee-specific goals have been put in place, those goals become a roadmap for the year, lending a strong sense of direction across the organization. Additionally, progress should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure advancement and to determine if and when corrective action is required.

2. Commit to Regular Monitoring

Well-executed performance management should include regular monitoring and discussion of daily achievements. Variations against the goals shouldn’t be significant, and if they are, the goals should be recalibrated. Progression against goal attainment will further engage and motivate employees, especially top performers who want to be rewarded when they attain their performance metrics.

3. Link Learning to Performance

When organizations link learning to performance, employees are able to expand their skill set and reach personal and professional goals. Doing so also helps employees to better understand the business priorities and how their skills are needed to achieve them.

4. Ensure Strong Leadership

Attaining alignment requires strong leadership capable of establishing a plan and selling it to the organization. A good leader who takes the time to get to know the company inside and out has a higher probability of generating a plan that resonates with everyone.

5. Integrate with Formal Learning

Employee performance management and formal learning need to be integrated and aligned with organizational objectives. If the two are separate, learning remains reactive and performance management is relegated to a yearly performance appraisal. When these variables are joined together, organizational growth, transformation, and productivity can be advanced.

6. Use the Right Software

The right talent management software can play a key role in achieving alignment, and many world-class organizations have used such software to guide the evolution of the aligned workplace. Learning and other talent management applications can be used to provide the infrastructure necessary to support a high-performance workplace.

A High-Performing Workforce

Talent management is all about attracting, developing, and retaining the employees needed to meet current demands—and being prepared for future challenges. Ensuring alignment throughout the organization establishes a strong link between these HR processes and business results. Yet in order to achieve meaningful alignment, the organization needs to develop a talent management plan that connects its overall strategic goals with employee performance management.

If leadership is unable to create a clear roadmap that can be communicated and embraced throughout the organization, it will be much more difficult to establish a high-performing workforce able to meet those goals. Alignment only will be achieved by ensuring strong leaders are in place at the top and capable of clearly communicating goals and expectations and providing employees with ongoing learning opportunities to expand and enhance their skill sets. Once these factors are put into place, the organization can benefit from an optimized workforce that operates cohesively to overcome challenges and achieve key objectives.

President and COO of Technomedia since 2007, Marcel Messier has successfully merged the two functions together to create a significant contribution to the organization, as well as in the talent management industry. Prior to his roles at Technomedia, Messier has had extensive careers in the telecom industry. He occupied various management positions, including president of the outsourcing division at Bell Canada and vice president of Bell Canada’s professional services organization for seven years, where he created new alliances and new services for the Internet market. Also active in the community, Messier is Chairman of the Board of the Entrepreneurship Center for the University of Montreal Campus.

Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.