Aligning workforce and strategy can be the difference between winning and losing in business. Here are 10 tips to improve workforce alignment.

What is workforce Alignment?

Making sure that everybody understands the purpose and objectives of the organization, as well as their holistic role in it.

Why is it important?

A soccer team like Barcelona has impeccable talent management and strategy alignment leading to an impressive trophy cabinet. The business world is no different. It’s even more dynamic than sport. An accelerating pace of change leads to continuous changes in strategy and thus to enormous challenges on getting the right talent; AND aligning that talent to the objectives of the company.

Who cares about Workforce Alignment?

I’m 100% sure your CEO does! CEO’s are – just like any other human – afraid of failure. And any CEO understands clearly that success is the combination of a strong strategy and a strong execution. Strategy is always close to their hearts. CEOs are often personally involved in creating and adjusting a strategy, but workforce alignment is paramount to successful execution.

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The role of HR

Talent Management is often considered an HR task. Alignment, strangely, is not. But we are talking about alignment of people. And who knows better how to align and engage people than the Human Resources department? Here are some tips:

  1. Increase Transparency: How do people align to something they can’t see? Sharing objectives is the first step toward aligning workers to them.
  2. Increase Accountability: Next, make the performance against those objectives transparent as well. This way people can discuss and correct underperformance as a community, and people will hold each other accountable.
  3. Do not overcomplicate: There is a thin line between alignment and over structuring. Setting SMART goals and KPI’s are a means to a goal, not a goal itself. Don’t fall in the trap of setting goals for the purpose of setting goals. The objective is to align. To have all hearts beat the same rhythm.
  4. Cascade the strategy in a smart way: Cascading goals roll top-down from CEO to individual employees. The upside of cascading is that you can align quickly. The downside is when people copy and paste goals, which does not help the workforce to come up with ideas themselves. So management leaders should go first, setting a strategy, and then everybody else can follow, connecting their ideas to the strategy. It’s an agile process and there should be room for ongoing insight!
  5. A yearly performance review is not going to cut it! Somewhere in history somebody invented the annual performance review. Why so many HR organizations religiously follow this outdated procedure is a mystery to me. Reviewing performance is an ongoing process. Discover what the best interval is for your teams to evaluate performance.
  6. Use Workforce Analytics: Analytics can show you the progress of alignment and the effect of it. For example, measuring the percentage of aligned objectives versus not aligned objectives shows you in one view the maturity of your organization’s alignment. Any goal connected to company/CEO goal is considered aligned; everything else is not.
  7. Involve contractors: Alignment of the workforce is not only about employees on your payroll. Contractors are just as important.
  8. Embrace technology: Explaining the strategy once a year in a town hall meeting isn’t good enough. To repeat it on many different levels, you’ll need social media tools to make sure you optimize your touch points with the workforce. Embracing technology is the only way to do this quickly and efficiently.
  9. Do not trust technology alone: Technology is facilitating, but it cannot help with the message itself, the heart and soul of the organization. Talk about why people want to be aligned with your company. Reach people in their hearts, otherwise messages go in one ear and out the other.
  10. Social collaboration is more important than anything! People must work together toward a goal, but the goal doesn’t have to be pre-defined. Never let goal management trump creativity.

Below a short video on how we within SAP SuccessFactors look at alignment. I hope it inspires you to automate, but remember that automation is only a part of it. Alignment in its purest form is all about culture.

I’m looking forward to your feedback on Twitter. I leave you with an ancient thought that still is the foundation to involving people and thus aligning people to what you would like to achieve.

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