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Organizational Alignment: People, Purpose, and Productivity

Getting everyone on the proverbial “same sheet of music” in an organization is the process of gaining organizational alignment. The effort to align can be equated to an orchestra learning a new arrangement. When everyone has the right music for their respective instrument – their organizational role – progress towards alignment can occur. The resulting sound – the organizational performance – can be exceptional when everyone plays their part in harmony with the other members.

Organizations large and small must confront the same human resource design and investment challenges in ensuring that their people:

  • effectively understand the organization’s values and mission,
  • know their role within the organization, and
  • are trained and empowered to fulfill that role.

These key attributes signify coherence in an organization. The more fully established and recognized these elements are the stronger the organizational alignment. These characteristics are at the core of determining whether or not an organization can sustain effective and efficient performance over time.

There are several lenses through which to consider alignment and its impact, including business goals and cost factors, the slope of the vertical or horizontal management structure, authority and span of control, and other organizational design concerns. Regardless of which optic you use to assess alignment, at the center of any organization’s performance will be the matter of how well its people are being employed, engaged, and empowered to effectively advance established goals and objectives. This lens reveals the alignment of people, purpose, and productivity.

Organizations that invest in fostering a culture of inclusion and communication aimed at encouraging workforce development, and the professional power of their people, improve their opportunity to perform well over time. Alignment of people and purpose requires getting everyone in the organization on that same sheet of music – working with mutual commitment to advance the organization’s vision, mission, and goals. How well this is accomplished will define how productive the organization can expect to be.

Forging and sustaining organizational alignment is no easy task, but one that is profoundly important and worth the on-going commitment at all levels – from the leadership to the new hire. The aforementioned culture should reflect the values and focus of the organization and illustrate how workers are key to maintaining a positive workplace climate that supports the entire enterprise.

There are three important actions that will contribute to gaining and maintaining the organizational alignment of people and purpose to achieve high productivity:

1.  Ensure that a thorough and introspective strategic assessment has been done for the organization. This vital strategic design investment should identify, inform, and underscore the organization’s values, vision, mission, and goals – all of which should be readily known and promoted throughout the organization.

Strategic thinking and outcomes should not be mysterious – they should be stated in plain language, to the point, and easy to understand and share throughout the organization. This is not a C-suite exercise but rather a holistic action to make the strategic message clear, concise, and compelling – for everyone.

2.  Ensure that a comprehensive “on-boarding program” is actualized and actively monitored that embraces each new employee and informs them about the organization’s values and priorities, as determined by and maintained in the above strategic design effort. A dynamic on-boarding program will plant the seeds of iterative and sustained success in furthering the organization’s culture.

The benefits of an on-boarding program will be evident over the long-term as new employees start-out more fully informed with tools to aid in their success. This must be much more than providing an organizational chart and map of the break rooms and exits. This is the professional “welcome wagon”. Make people glad to be there, well-informed, and eager to get to work and contribute to the organization’s culture of success.

3.  Ensure that the leadership and managerial members are committed to modeling the best of the organization’s expectations – they must be the culture that is desired and intended. This is the all-important “talking the talk and walking the walk”.

Sustained organizational success will be undermined, if not extinguished, if the leadership isn’t sincere and prepared to go the distance. The leadership must set the tone and be consistent in their adherence to the organizational ethos and climate. Nothing is more convincing than conviction.

At the end of the day, how well an organization realizes alignment of people and purpose will directly correlate to success or failure over time. If done well, remarkable outcomes can be attained and sustained. The organizational orchestra will make remarkably productive music.

 Steve Wischmann

President/CEO

Horizon Performance Solutions, LLC

The Power of Mentoring: Growing Your People

Developing people and supporting their growth and increased responsibilities are central themes in successful organizations. You can grow your organization’s capacity and cohesion by fostering and rewarding a deliberate mentoring framework.  This investment is particularly important given that roughly 6 out of 10 people look for new jobs because they feel underappreciated or marginalized.

In fact, research shows that people “leave their bosses, not their jobs”, a situation made evident by those 6 people typically seeking work in the same field but with a different employer, rather than changing careers.  The tone of the workplace atmosphere is set by the management – “the boss”.  It pays figuratively and literally to foster a supportive and positive climate at work.  The organization retains trained and experienced people and limits the cost of workforce churn.

Among the many things that can be done to positively influence the workplace and conditions for employees is to nurture their developmentMentoring is a direct acknowledgement of an employee aimed at cultivating their potential and guiding them to success.  The mentor provides counsel and guidance to the mentee.  This process grows the employee while building trust in the workplace – an invaluable dimension to a positive climate.

  • You cannot demand trust – you build it.

There are three terms worth sorting out to better clarify the role mentoring can play in your organization.  First, professional mentoring is hierarchical by definition and is meant to share the experiences and insights of a senior member with a junior member.  The mentoring relationship and process is typically somewhat informal but must be mutually acknowledged to be fully effective.  The mentoring relationship can last a very long time – often over a period of years.

  • The term mentor is derived from the epic Greek poem, The Odyssey, in which the character Mentor was asked by Odysseus to care for and guide his son Telemachus – to impart wisdom and counsel.

Second, workplace coaching is also seen as “training” and can be between workers of relative equality in the organization but with one being more established in the workforce.  This is often seen when a new employee is being shown the “who, how, and what” of a company or agency.  The process is relatively short-term and is meant to indoctrinate an employee into their new or expanding position.

Finally, professional coaching is a formal, goal-based process in which the recipient works to achieve greater capacity and professional growth through a mid- to long-term agreement with a coach.  The coach, who generally possesses considerable workforce development experience and training, is most often hired from outside the worker’s organization as this approach allows for greater freedom of expression by the client and increased objectivity by the coach.  Professional coaching is driven by identified objectives framed in a development plan.  This approach is particularly attractive to more senior workers through what is otherwise known as executive coaching.

Of these three common workforce development processes, mentoring provides the broadest benefit to both the professional growth of an individual and the strength of an organization for the following reasons:

  • it is framed by the professional enthusiasm of the mentee and commitment of the mentor;
  • it is relationship-based, meaning the mutual trust and commitment is found between the mentor and mentee and typically expanded upon in the process;
  • it harnesses the existing insights and experiences of the more senior staff;
  • it can be relatively informal and therefore flexible to the workplace demands and availability of both the mentor and mentee;
  • it can be sustained over very long periods of time; and,
  • it has no financial costs to the recipient

A workplace culture that encourages and supports mentoring will reap tremendous gains over time as, 1) experience is widely shared across the organization in comfortable professional relationships, 2) trust and confidence are enhanced within the workforce, and, 3) potential divisiveness between the senior and junior staff can be reduced.

Establishing a policy that values mentoring, and rewards it in various ways, will give your organization an additional tool to support your workforce and assist them in growing professionally, seeing additional opportunity, and forging better relationships with the leadership.  You can be part of reversing the workplace flight undertaken by so many people who quit their boss, if not their jobs.

 

Steve Wischmann

President/CEO

Horizon Performance Solutions, LLC