The 4 Levels of Organizational Alignment

The 4 Levels of Organizational Alignment
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An aligned workforce is a happy, engaged workforce. Unfortunately, alignment between an organization and its employees doesn’t come naturally -- it takes planning, hard work and communication.

Think of alignment as a playbook for the entire company, just like in sports. For a coach to make sure every player is on the same page and goals are made, that playbook needs to be shared and discussed in real time.

There’s a reason watching a sports game is much like watching a choreographed performance -- every movement and play has a purpose that each player knows inside and out. The same goes for employers and their employees.

Related: 5 Ways to Create a Culture of Trust

To achieve a completely aligned workforce that plays as a team and knocks each ball out of the park, here are the four levels of organizational alignment every company needs to build and maintain:   

1. Employee-role alignment

The first level of organizational alignment requires finding the right fit for the position at hand. After all, an aligned workforce begins with employees who are aligned with their job functions. The wrong hire can burn a pretty big hole in the company’s pocket -- a $50,000 hole, according to a 2013 CareerBuilder study of more than 6,000 HR professionals.    

How to achieve it: To avoid making a costly bad hire, employers need to identify job fit during the hiring process. Rehearsed answers and tailored resumes aren’t going to tell an employer if a candidate truly has what it takes to align themselves with the job functions.

The best way to evaluate candidates for job fit is to test their skills beforehand. Whether it’s through an assessment test, mock assignment or trial employment, give job candidates some way to show off the skills listed on their resumes. Most important, regularly train and coach current staff to ensure that they stay aligned with their roles.   

2. Employee-goal alignment

It’s only natural for goals to drive us. What’s not natural, however, is for employees to be able to accurately set and regulate specific, relevant work goals that are aligned with those of the organization on their own. To set goals that line up with the company’s, employees can use a little help from management.  

How to achieve it: To achieve employee-goal alignment, employers need to make setting goals a collaborative process. Rather than leaving employees to their own devices, when it comes to setting objectives, work with them during quarterly performance check-ins to ensure that employee goals remain SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timely) and that they align with the overall company vision.

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3. Employee-team alignment

Once employees are aligned with their respective roles and work goals, it’s time to align employees with their teams. Does the employee understand the expectations of their supervisors, objectives and how they contribute to team success?

How to achieve it: Each employee should have goals that directly support team objectives. To properly align the goals of the individual with the goals of the team, employees need to have a clear “line of sight” when it comes to the team’s short-term and long-term goals.

In addition to holding weekly team meetings to discuss progress and ensure alignment, consider having team goals placed somewhere in the office for employees to see on a daily basis. Understanding the team’s mission will motivate employees by making it easier for them to see how their work contributes to team success.

4. Employee-organization alignment

The final level of organizational alignment falls on the shoulders of the company’s leadership: the alignment between employees and the company as a whole. This requires employees to see beyond their individual and team work goals. This is where they embrace the company mission and vision as their own.    

How to achieve it: Employees need to be able to see the big picture to understand how their work goals contribute to the overall company vision. Setting company-wide goals that employees will readily embrace and work toward is the first step. Goals should be inspiring for all and relate back to what the individual employee does best.

No matter how SMART goals are, they’re irrelevant if they aren’t actively communicated. This is a top-down process, meaning employers need to play an active role in communicating the company vision. Whether it’s through company-wide newsletters or calendars, weekly meetings or goal-management software, keep employees up to date on progress toward goals.

Related: 3 Characteristics of High-Performing Teams