Clearly communicating the organization’s objectives and reporting progress engages employees to strive for peak performance.
Setting clear organizational goals helps concentrate employee efforts on achieving those objectives. The key is to ensure that the goals are well-defined, relevant and unambiguous. For example, the fuzzy goal of “improving product quality” leaves employees with little idea of where to begin. What is “quality”? What quality attributes are more important, or are they all equally important? How much should quality be improved? Is a 30% improvement sufficient? What about 2%? Is it to be improved this year? Or this month? As you can see, a fuzzy goal such as this gives little guidance for the employee on what to do and where to start.
On the other hand, setting a target of reducing failure rates on Product A by the end of this year gives employees something that they can get their teeth into. The latter goal forces a focusing of effort onto failures of Product A this year. There is no diffusion of employee efforts through constant debating about meanings, priorities and proposed changes in direction. To assist you in defining clear goals, we recommend you using the SMART method of constructing objectives. A SMART objective is Specific, Measurable, Ambitious, Realistic and Time specified.
Once you have well-constructed goals, your next step is to communicate them effectively to all impacted employees in your organization. If the goals are set by higher levels of management, then to be successful in focusing employee attention, managers will need to communicate them through all of the organization’s levels up to the front-line employee.
In working out what communication methods to use in reaching your employees, consider each of the following:
- shareholder, director and other company reports
- financial reports
- strategic plans
- operational plans
- company public web site
- company intranet
- department meetings
- team meetings
- employee performance management interviews
- notice boards
- email updates
- SMS (Short Message Service)
- MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service)
Employees who know that there are goal posts, and know where the goal posts are positioned, are much more likely to kick goals for your organization. When the higher levels of management communicate goals to front-line employees, it gives employees a sense of confidence that the organization is led by a committed and competent executive.
However, the most crucial communication about objectives comes from each employee’s direct supervisor or manager. Without this conversation, the employee’s efforts will weaken, as they perceive their immediate manager to be driven by other priorities. Build in regular supervisor-employee communication into the communication culture in your organization.
Engaging Employees in the Game
Another consideration to keep in mind when trying to keep employees focused on the goal is that employees want to know how the game is being played out. Imagine playing your favorite game and not knowing how you are going; whether you are winning or losing and whether the last game shot made any difference. For how long would you remain motivated to play your best?
Employees working in their jobs are no different. Any combination of the methods listed above for communicating goals can also be used for reporting progress on gameplay. However, team spirit is best encouraged when performance results are displayed in a public place, such as the main corridor or team meeting room.
Where possible, display progress reports graphically, using line, bar or pie charts. The Trend Line method, for example, is an excellent format for visually displaying progress over time. Whichever charts or tables you use to present information graphically, keep readability in mind. Minimize the amount of superfluous information and keep jargon and technical terms to a minimum. Display just enough information to get the message across.
Once again, each manager’s conversation with their direct reports is critical to maintaining focus on results. Results should be discussed openly with employees and the team, answering any questions as they arise. To get maximum impact from these meetings, make sure managers foster discussion on how to remove roadblocks and improve results.
Where an employee or the team is directly responsible for outcomes, you can concentrate their efforts even more by getting them to collect the performance data and report the results. Whether you are implementing a change initiative, running an important project or rolling out employee training, setting goals and reporting progress towards achievement are vital activities. Doing so gets employees engaged and motivated to generate results for the betterment of your organization.