Regardless of your industry, organisational alignment is critical in achieving long-term business success.
It’s not just about having a defined mission and purpose; true alignment needs to happen both top-down and from the ground up.
What is organisational alignment?
In its simplest form, organisational alignment means that everyone in the business, from the CEO through to every new hire, understands the business’ purpose, its mission and are actively working towards achieving this goal.
It’s all about understanding. Essentially, organisational alignment manifests itself in a clear, cohesive roadmap that everyone within the organisation understands, can follow and that they take responsibility for. Everyone within the organisation has to be on the same page, otherwise, alignment will never occur.
When an organisation is truly aligned it can achieve amazing things.
The benefits of organisational alignment
One of the immediate benefits of organisational alignment is that it delivers clarity—for everyone.
When a business possesses a clear vision and direction, employees understand how their specific roles and responsibilities impact the organisation’s overall mission. This provides them with a sense of ownership and accountability over their individual goals and a clear understanding of how their work aligns with the organisation’s purpose. This results in greater involvement and engagement with their work, which in turn boosts staff productivity, business performance, and profit.
The value of employee engagement can’t be understated. A 2017 Gallup poll found that engaged employees can deliver up to 21% more profitability for businesses.
Aon Hewitt’s 2018 Trends in Global Employee Engagement Study uncovers that just 65% of employees feel engaged in their workplace and are motivated to strive to give their best efforts—imagine the business results if 90% or higher felt engaged in their organisation.
Improved communication, trust, and empowerment
With greater clarity and engagement comes improved communication, meaning employees and managers are more open and honest with each other.
Improved communication ultimately leads to more trust. Not just in a vague, company-team-building-trust-fall type of way, but in that employees trust that they’re supported by their managers. They feel empowered to push boundaries, try new methods and to speak up when things aren’t right. There is trust both ways that communication can be open and honest.
This leads to employees feeling empowered to provide feedback to their managers. If they identify inefficiencies within the business, they feel that they’re trusted to provide alternatives, even if they’re different to the way things have been done in the past.
This level of trust and open, honest communication fosters a culture of growth. Employees and managers alike are challenged, which leads to improved skills and performance.
These days, particularly in the energy and resources industry, companies all over the world are trying to make the most of their costs and increase their operational efficiency.
Organisational alignment delivers efficiency. When individuals and teams understand their role within an organisation and where their accountability lies, performance invariably follows.
Organisational alignment delivers better relationships through the entire business, which results in greater growth opportunities. Alignment positions organisations as being more in control, which instills confidence in people and promotes a feeling of security, abundance and ultimately less worry. This results in greater business opportunities available to you. This enables you to build better relationships with suppliers and business partners and ultimately results in greater business opportunities.
Increased speed of decision making and execution
When done right, organisational alignment improves employee engagement, which fosters autonomy and empowers employees to make the right decisions on their own. This allows for more efficient decision-making, as decisions aren’t required to be sent up the chain.
Individuals are empowered to make decisions and take action quickly, as there is more clarity around who holds the right to make various decisions.
Aligned organisations enjoy quicker decisions and execution. Achieving true alignment allows organisations to focus less on deciding what to do and more on simply doing.
Thanks to a shared vision, buy-in with the overall mission and the ability to rapidly make informed, efficient decisions, aligned organisations demonstrate greater agility and are more able to quickly adapt to change.
In a resource-driven state like Western Australia, the market will always be changing. Mergers and acquisitions will continue to occur. With the current energy and resources climate in a state of flux, agility is crucial in enabling businesses to survive.
The aligned organisations, the ones who have rallied behind their technology, processes and their common purpose, will be the ones that are better able to adapt quickly to new directions, or new markets. These aligned organisations are better able to survive in uncertain, changing environments.
Research shows that employees who are aligned with an organisation’s mission, strategy and processes are more likely to be engaged at work.
Quite simply, organisational alignment connects employees’ roles to the strategic objectives of the organisation and the broader organisational identity. When employees feel more connected to the organisational identity, this instills more ownership over their roles, responsibilities and the overall success of the company.
The Achievers’ 2015 Workforce Survey found that globally between 60-70% of employees don’t know their organisation’s cultural values—or even what the company’s mission or vision is. This is a startling figure. If employees don’t know what their company is aiming towards and why, how can we expect alignment to be achieved?
Engagement drives commitment. Commitment delivers alignment. And alignment leads to improved engagement. It’s a wonderful cycle.
When a business achieves alignment, you can feel it. You’re working in an environment that’s proactive, inclusive and energetic; the culture has a buzz.
When your teams are all aligned around common goals and priorities, you create an environment that fosters trust, empowers communication and boosts performance. This energy is obvious for new recruits. You can feel it when you first walk in the door and it becomes part of your company’s narrative—a drawcard for high-performing talent.
Fewer wasted resources
Having skilled talent who are underutilised damages a business. When skilled workers see their talents go unutilised, this can often develop into apathy, which leads to lowered engagement and increased employee turnover. It’s a waste of capability.
An aligned organisation means that employees are being used to their best abilities. Staff and managers alike understand how their specific skills fit in with their goals, which align to the organisation’s mission and they feel like they’re using their unique abilities in a fulfilling way.
This feeling of fulfilment leads to reduced turnover—and ultimately, greater success.
How to achieve organisational alignment
Alignment isn’t a simple thing. It’s driven from the top-down but built from the ground up.
It’s up to business leaders to agree upon and communicate clear direction, values, and a company mission. There needs to be a purpose for the business to exist.
Once the organisation has its purpose, all teams and employee roles and responsibilities need to be aligned to this purpose. They need to be made clearly understood, so the entire team understands how they work with other teams and functions across the business.
Collaboration and communication is key. When all roles, teams, and functions within an organisation clearly understand their roles and responsibilities and how this fits into the greater organisational purpose—you’ve achieved alignment.
It’s a wicked problem to overcome. But when a business achieves this alignment, the benefits become clear.
The challenges in achieving alignment
Alignment doesn’t come without its challenges and this topic itself is so thorny that it deserves a whole separate article.
So while there are a number of challenges that organisations face on the road to achieving alignment, they boil down to a few key issues.
Everyone needs to be on the same page. Business units, teams, employees and leaders, all need to communicate. They need to understand what each other is doing and why.
The overall business goal, mission, and strategy has to be made easy to understand. Not simplifying to the point of losing meaning, but clear and concise. Everyone in the business needs to truly understand its mission, its purpose, where it’s heading to and why.
These days, more than ever, we’re working in a constant state of flux. Organisations are buffeted by the winds of change; achieving alignment can be tricky.
But it all comes down to having that clear, achievable roadmap to work from and the ability to work in a flexible, agile way. When an organisation has a clear target of where it’s heading and is set up to work in an agile manner, then it’s much better prepared to deal with whatever change comes it’s way.
Choosing the wrong talent for the organisation
Choosing hires who are misaligned with the business, even slightly, can have the effect of throwing the business off-course. It might be minor—in fact, it may not happen at all—but achieving and maintaining exceptional alignment all comes down to bringing the right people on board.
Choosing the right talent for your open roles is key because just as the right people grow your business, the wrong people are the ones that bring it down. Bringing the wrong talent into your organisation throws your business off course and impacts your ability to achieve true alignment.
Hiring the wrong talent costs you much more than money; they sap your organisation’s energy, sully your organisation’s culture and waste valuable time in search and training.
As Jeff Bezos famously said, “I’d rather interview 50 people and not hire anyone than hire the wrong person”.
Hiring the right talent is a craft. A CV can’t tell you if someone will fit into your culture or not. Hiring the right people who align with and deliver value to your business takes time, a well-planned strategy, unwavering commitment and a healthy dose of experience.
So if you can’t undertake the search yourself—whether it’s because you lack the time, or understand that you don’t have the skill to hire the absolute best—then partner with search experts that can.
How we help you take the first steps towards achieving alignment
At Lacuna Search, our role is to help you search for the right talent and find that one exceptional employee who is the best fit for your organisation. Our commitment and passion towards creating exceptional alignment is what differentiates us.
We’re responsible for that first level of organisational alignment. We ensure that the skills, values, and behaviours of every new hire entering your organisation are aligned to their specific role, your culture and that their skills and abilities align with your strategy and vision.
The first step we take in our ALIGN search process is to assess not only the role but your specific team and wider organisation. When business leaders can clearly communicate and define the performance objectives of the position, the company culture, and its vision and strategy—and then link it all together—it gives you and your new hire the best chance to thrive. Some companies may get worried about this, as most companies are still trying hard to determine what their values are.
But if you’re going through this journey and you don’t have the answers, whether it’s due to being a start-up, a recent company acquisition, or leadership changes, we can help you.
We help business leaders understand who they are as an organisation, what they want from their employees and what processes best determines if a candidate is a good fit.
It’s this purpose and clarity of communication that allows us to find the top talent for your company. This allows us to communicate the benefits of your organisation, so each new hire understands what it means to work for you. We ensure each employee understands their unique purpose within your company, giving them the best opportunity to play their part in delivering business-transforming results.
Alignment begins from the ground up, from the moment you start thinking about new hires.
By building alignment into your search method, you can actively align all new talent with your organisation, before they even begin their onboarding.
When done right the benefits of alignment are obvious and your business will achieve the success that everyone shares in.
Author: Kyle Giddins, Lacuna Search Director.