At a glance
By Beth Wallace
Every year, organisations and employees alike focus on setting goals and establishing KPIs.
Studies have shown that committing to a goal can help improve employee attention, effort and performance – and that challenging and specific goals can drive employee engagement.
To achieve the best outcomes, individual goals should align with organisational goals.
This is known as goal congruence, when the goals or objectives of different individuals, departments or levels within an organisation are aligned, typically toward a larger common goal.
According to Kevin Dwyer, managing director of change management consultancy Change Factory, “Goal congruence allows efforts to be coordinated to achieve a common purpose”.
“This alignment enhances teamwork, communication and co-operation among the different parts of the organisation, leading to better overall performance,” he says.
The importance of shared goals cannot be overstated.
“Unclear goals can lead to a lack of motivation and a sense of disillusionment among employees,” says Dwyer. This can have a negative impact on productivity and morale.
A PwC survey of 540 employees across industries and companies found that only 28 per cent of respondents felt fully connected to their company’s purpose.
The survey also revealed a stark discrepancy between companies that were clear about their purpose and those that weren’t, with employees at the former being significantly more passionate, excited, motivated, satisfied and proud at work, compared to those who lacked direction.
Meanwhile, McKinsey research has found that 91 per cent of organisations with effective performance management systems claim that their employee goals are linked to business priorities.
In an organisation that achieves goal congruence, employees can see how their individual goals fit into the big picture. This promotes accountability and can lead to better performance, because employees understand the impact of their work within the organisation.
Here are the top ways to implement goal congruence.
1. Set objectives and key results
For Claire Gray, leadership and team coach at Thriving Culture, using objectives and key results (OKRs) as a goal-setting framework can help.
Organisations use OKRs to define objectives and establish key results that indicate if those objectives have been achieved.
“It’s about being really clear about what the most important things to focus on right now are and making that visible,” Gray says.
2. Seek input
Gray encourages leaders to seek input from employees about how they can contribute toward organisational goals.
“In the past, when we used a balanced scorecard approach, goal setting was cascaded down the organisation – ‘these are your goals’ – and it felt forced,” she says.
“Now, it is more about how teams can contribute toward the overarching goals of an organisation. In that way, you get a lot more alignment, because people are empowered to focus on the things that matter most and are not going off in silos and doing their own thing.”
Dwyer also suggests supporting employees to ask questions.
“The more they understand – or you, as a manager, understand – the easier it is to align goals,” he says.
3. Share organisational goals
Clearly defining and communicating organisational goals to all employees is vital, so that everyone understands what they are trying to achieve, Dwyer says.
Open communication between employees and management can help to identify potential misalignments between individual and organisational goals.
It also provides an incentive for employees to work toward these goals and align them with their own.
Dwyer also proposes publishing and communicating a record of progress toward individual, team and organisational goals.
4. Designate accountable people
Gray also suggests designating accountable people.
Employees who are accountable for a given objective or initiative can help to “ensure you’re meeting and talking when things are off track, so you can ask whether goals need to be reviewed or refined”.
5. Align team goals
When developing individual goals, make sure they do align with the organisational goals.
“This will help to ensure that each employee’s actions contribute to the organisation’s overall success,” Dwyer explains.
Regular check-ins between supervisors and team members – and managers and supervisors – are a useful tool to confirm that employee performance goals are aligned with the team and organisational goals, Dwyer says.
Check-ins can also be used to discuss progress toward specific goals.
6. Share progress
Visibility and transparency are vital, Gray says. “Once goals have been set, make sure they are visible – whether that’s through online Trello boards or some other workflow management tool,” she explains.
Progress toward goals should be examined regularly, not just during an annual review process.
“Teams need to frequently discuss how they’re contributing toward achieving those organisational goals,” she says.