In business, we talk about alignment a lot. But what does alignment really mean? It you Google it, alignment is "arrangement in a straight line, or in correct or appropriate relative positions." So if we want to achieve alignment, we need to put processes in the correct order.
This is important because if we want to achieve our business goals, we need all of our processes to line up (or align). And as easy as that sounds, it doesn't always happen. In a report from Bersin by Deloitte, just over 33 percent of U.S. companies identify critical roles based on business goals. The same report indicated that less than 10 percent include talent management in business planning.
So, if organizations want to align talent management with their business strategy, they have to put talent first. That might seem obvious. The more challenging part is: What comes after talent?
The answer: Performance management.
4 Key elements of great manager/employee communication
By definition, performance management is the ongoing communications between a manager and employee that supports the strategic goals of the organization. There are four types of communications that organizations can encourage that will align talent management with the business. And the good news is most of these already exist in your organization, in some form.
1. Communicate the organization's "buy, build, borrow" strategy
The "buy, build, borrow" strategy comes from talent acquisition. It's the decision to hire talent from the outside (buy), develop talent from within (build), or use external resources on a contingent basis (borrow). This decision should be understood around the organization. Employees want to understand their career path and potential opportunities.
A common conversation related to "buy, build, borrow" is when an employee wants to be promoted (build) but they're simply not ready; so the company hires someone from the outside (buy). The manager can discuss with the employee the skills they need to develop for future opportunities. Another example is when employees take on tasks that it's more cost-effective to outsource (borrow). It's tough to convince someone that, just because you can do something, it doesn't mean you should.
2. Establish congruent goals
When goals are integrated, it's said they are congruent. A good example is that the organization's goals should be part of the department's goals, which should be a part of individual goals. It only makes sense for there to be a connection. However, in the book, "The Strategy-Focused Organization" by Robert Kaplan and David Norton, a "mere 7 percent of employees fully understand their company's business strategies and what's expect of them in order to help achieve organizational goals."
It's not enough to simply set goals. Managers and employees must discuss the reason the goal is important and how the goal fits (or aligns) with the business. Employees need to understand the value of their work to be engaged with it.
3. Train managers to provide coaching and feedback
The role of today's manager is to support the employee. It's not to micromanage them. Managers should tell employees why they were hired, how their work has been designed to bring value to the organization, and what they can do to be successful. And as our business world changes so will performance expectations, managers need to be skilled at getting employees to buy-into change.
Regardless of the company's position on the annual performance review, managers still have to provide feedback to employees on a regular basis and coach them for improved performance. This can involve regular one-on-one meetings or formal feedback sessions. Managers should be trained to give constructive and even sometimes tough feedback. They also need to give employees encouragement and recognition.
4. Create a learning-centered workplace
It goes without saying that there are times when mistakes will be made and goals will not be met. While there are consequences to those actions, those moments are also opportunities for learning. Organizations would be well served to use them to their advantage.
According to Dr. Scott Tannenbaum with The Group for Organizational Effectiveness, teams that conduct regular debriefs perform up to 20 percent better. And a group doesn't have to be a large number. It could be an employee and their manager. The debrief doesn't have to be long or complex. It can consist of two questions:
- What did you do well?
- What would you do differently?
Always make the employee answer the questions first and always make them answer question #1. Sometimes we're so focused on the wrong part that we forget to celebrate success. Even with a mistake, there can be a few right decisions.
Performance management vital for continued business success
Organizations that want to improve their bottom-line results need to align talent with strategy. The key is to use performance management. Training your managers to be good performance coaches connects talent and business. When employees understand the alignment between their work and business results, everyone wins.