Research has shown that there is a clear connection between collaborative goal setting and employee engagement. Unfortunately, most companies aren’t capitalizing on this connection: Only 13% of employees strongly agree that their manager helps them set performance goals. But among millennial employees whose manager does help them define goals, 72% are engaged. And when a manager holds their reports accountable for performance goals, engagement rates increase by 2.5 times.
High engagement isn’t a trivial matter, as Gallup analysis found that business units in the top 25% of employee engagement are also 21% more profitable, 17% more productive and have 10% higher customer ratings.
Numerous executives in a Harvard Business Review report point to the importance of aligning employees with company goals and objectives, but in a survey of almost 400 employees, 60% reported feeling uncertain about their company’s mission, vision, or values. How then can companies more effectively communicate their strategy and relate their big-picture goals with the individual goals of employees?
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Upper management is responsible for crafting and communicating company objectives, while middle management should take the lead in helping employees set goals that directly relate to and support those major objectives.
Goals should be set down in writing, with a clear plan of action and measurable steps to track progress. All of management needs to be fully committed and unified around major objectives before messaging trickles down to lower levels of the organization.
The Harvard Business Review report highlighted a number of active and passive measures that companies take to communicate and embed goals throughout the organization. Active measures included executive management briefings, all-company meetings, goal-related conversations during employee assessments and performance reviews, and messaging during training and leadership development.
Passive measures for communicating organizational goals include recruitment and employee familiarization, corporate social media messaging, corporate intranet communication, and posting detailed job descriptions.
Quarterly, biannual, or annual surveys are a great tool to get a pulse on whether employees understand company strategy and how their role impacts the organization.
The HBR study highlighted the annual survey that a North American banking chain uses. Employees are asked to respond to the following statements:
- In the last seven days, someone has recognized me for my work
- I have the tools that I need to perform my job
- My supervisor cares about me
- There’s someone at work who encourages my development
- I know what’s expected of me at work
- My associates are committed to doing quality work
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9 out of 10 HR professionals surveyed said that an employee recognition program made a positive impact on employee engagement overall. And recognizing positive contributions and strengths not only makes employees feel more valued, it can also boost productivity. Gallup found that strengths-based feedback—which can inform future goal setting—increases productivity by 12.5%.
While employee engagement is a complex amalgamation of factors, making collaborative goal setting and goal visibility a company priority is the first step to success.
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