In HR we often talk about strategy, but we usually focus on organizational goals and only involve people in leadership positions.
This may work well for leaders, but it often leaves managers and employees disconnected from the organization's strategic vision. Many organizations attempt to close this gap through top-down communication, but these attempts often fail because they have little meaning for employees. A strategy only drives everyday thinking and behavior when it's personal.
How can leaders build a bridge between strategy and the everyday work?
One-on-one meetings between managers and employees are a fantastic opportunity to link strategy to daily tasks. One of the goals of ongoing performance conversations should be to bring your strategy to life, making it relevant and meaningful in your employees' everyday work and decisions.
Here are three ways you can connect individual performance to strategy in a performance conversation:
Make strategy personal
Individuals are often disconnected from the strategic vision of an organization because they can't see any links between their everyday work and the company's business objectives.
So how can managers and leaders make strategy more personal? The easiest way is to sit down and have a conversation with an employee about their role and how it impacts the business. Managers should come prepared with some specific questions that will help the employee connect what they do to the bigger picture of the organization
Being able to clearly align an individual's everyday work and goals with the strategy of the organizations gets people to think in new ways and see new possibilities. It makes it easy for employees to see how their contributions matter. Doing so makes alignment with the organization's strategy personal, which sets the foundation for increasing both engagement and personal satisfaction.
Get specific on the connection between individual goals and organizational strategy
Consider how an employee's decisions, actions and innovations are informed by and contribute to realizing the strategic vision of your organization.
Jack may have led a team that successfully implemented a whole new system for customer service support. You could say the goal was achieved because the system is now up and running. Or you could take the performance conversation one step further and discuss how the new system directly contributes to a larger strategic objective: treating customers as welcomed guests. That conversation gives you the opportunity to shape how your employees think about the work they do in a richer context. This will also potentially identify where the gaps may be and lead to ensuring there is a strategic focus for the next step.
Consider how employees can contribute to strategic progress
The nature of organizational design is that assignments flow from the top of an organization downward. There is an assumption that if everyone does their part it will all add up to success for the organization. However, given the complexity of the world we live in the top-down approach leaves leaders vulnerable to blind spots.
People on the front lines have a unique perspective given their skills, experience and view into the organization. Inviting employees into a strategic conversation about their work allows leaders to benefit from their unique point of view. If you teach people to think strategically about their work, they will see ways to solve problems and opportunities for innovation that have the potential to elevate their performance - and potentially improve your company's bottom line.
Beth was struggling to keep up with an overwhelming number of projects on her plate. A strategic conversation about her projects revealed that some just weren't delivering enough value given the effort required. On the other hand, there was a new project that had great promise, but she didn't have time to work on it. Together, Beth and her manager decided to cancel several projects. This allowed her to focus on the new project, which ended up having a significant impact on multiple aspects of the organization's strategy. This led to a remarkable improvement in performance of her team the following year.
Imagine what would be possible if performance feedback conversations were elevated to strategic conversations that elevated performance not only for the individual, but for your entire organization! By making strategy personal, considering the full impact of an employee's work and listening to their insights, you can build a stronger, more productive workplace.