Get your employees to work smart, not hard

Seven steps to align them to your goals

You’ve heard the drill: “We are not making our goals this quarter, so we need to …!”

The pressure felt at the top can often cause the senior executive team to dictate direction when results are not occurring as expected. While most leaders understand employee engagement is important, they do not realize how this knee-jerk reaction completely sabotages efforts toward aligning employees to the vision and goals. 

There are seven steps to align employees to your goals to achieve results, including: Sell the vision; engage employees in goal-setting; align department goals and initiatives; create individual action plans; maximize transparency and accountability; communicate, coach and celebrate; and renew quarterly plans.

Sell the vision

When we properly align employees to our company’s vision, we do more than just put a plaque on the conference wall. In order for the vision to be a powerful guiding force, employees must understand the big picture and feel the desired customer benefit. This immediately creates a customer-focused culture with a strong purpose. Aligning the vision statement with the goals and important initiatives needs to be an ongoing process for it to be understood.

Engage employees in goal-setting

Engaging employees in the vision works best when it is a collaborative process. Who better to determine the “how” to get to the vision than the people who carry out the execution? Engage your key talent in a company and department S.W.O.T. analysis to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Not only will their input be helpful, but it also will get your talent to think like a business owner. From this input, you are able to not only build more meaningful goals, but also create key initiatives to address the weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Align department goals and initiatives

Now that you have built the company goals and key initiatives, it is time for department leaders to determine their department goals and initiatives by collaborating with their employees. Keep in mind: It is important for each department to add value to each company goal, even when it is not an obvious alignment. For example, accounting can have impact on revenue by creating innovative ways to qualify prospects, get financing, and by creating online methods to pay invoices quickly.

Create individual action plans

Most often, employees need coaching on how to create an effective plan that aligns to the department and company goals, even when the initiatives are clearly defined. When leaders facilitate an action plan discovery conversation, employees can create a quarterly plan of action that outlines exactly how they will impact goals. It is important that their plans have clearly defined deadlines and milestones. Collaborating in advance on these plans will assist employees in being more proactive, instead of reactive to daily demands.

Maximize transparency and accountability

Daily alignment is most likely to occur when there is a transparent system that tracks progress. While a project management system or an excel spreadsheet can help, oftentimes these systems are difficult to update or do not remind employees of important deadlines. Without reminders, employees begin to forget “why” they are doing what they are doing, and the purpose and deadlines are lost.

Communicate, coach and celebrate

Leaders who let go of micro-managing can focus on the continual communication of the vision and goals, and achieve greater success. Coaching and strategizing with employees helps them to work smart, not hard toward the goals. However, while process improvement is important in creating continual alignment, so is celebration of the milestones met. To make celebration meaningful, asking employees how they like to be recognized helps leaders to understand meaningful ways to celebrate progress.

Renew quarterly plans

Renewing action plans on a quarterly basis will keep your plan in focus. Having quarterly updates also ensures accountability and realignment will occur. Leaders can review the action steps from the previous quarter and discuss the next quarter’s priorities. 

Nothing is more motivating for an employee than to know how they add value. And nothing is more valuable for a leader than to know employees’ actions are aligned to his or her goals.  

-Susan K. Wehrley is the founder and chief executive officer of BIZremedies. She can be reached at 414-581-0449 or, or view the website at

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Susan K. Wehrley is an executive coach and business consultant that aligns executives and businesses to their vision, values and goals. She is also a regular contributor to Forbes. You can email Susan at, (262) 696-6856 or visit her website for more details.

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