How to align remote teams with strategic goals

Mark Lewis
June 27, 2020
min read
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Strategic goal setting post pandemic

Many organisations are revisiting their strategic goals for the coming 12 months. This time it needs to be different because we have a less stable post pandemic environment and the traditional way of goal setting is unlikely to be effective.

The traditional approach to goal setting is locked into an annual cycle, often with a top down cascade and individual KPI’s that are kept private between employees and their managers.

While we’ve seen a shift towards more agile goals and greater transparency in recent years, the truth is the old way of doing things has a lot of momentum and many employees have felt uncomfortable sharing their strategic goals transparently with other team members.

In light of the pandemic and many of us working form home, now is an ideal opportunity to revisit the way we approach strategic goal setting without the pushback we might have experienced in a pre-covid world.

1. Agile not annual

Some organisations are opting for quarterly strategic goals at the company level. We saw Atlassian shift to a “a series of four quarters” in FY 21 rather than planning for a full year. However, for many businesses, the high level company goals can stay on an annual cycle, but it makes a lot of sense to have team and individual goals on a quarterly cadence.

This quicker cadence provides an opportunity to more frequently review the relevance of goals in light of a rapidly changing environment and ensure teams are working towards what the business needs most.

2. Align not cascade

The hybrid work environment relies on engagement, self-motivation and trust. Asking team members to identify their own quarterly goals that align with team goals will have a significant impact and create a much more empowering approach to strategic goal setting.

This does not mean free reign to choose any work, employee goals should be negotiated or tweaked with managers to ensure maximum impact, alignment and realistic targets within the quarterly cycle.

3. Transparent not private

When team members are working in a hybrid environment, you need to rely in more overt communication to keep teams connected. While people have traditionally been reluctant to share their goals publicly with colleagues, this is less relevant in a hybrid environment.

In the absence of continual connectedness that comes from being in the office all the time, teams need to work differently to build trust. Sharing strategic goals has big benefits, not only does it communicate what you’re working towards, but also improves collaboration, accountability, and the chance of more successful outcomes.

4. Recognise not remunerate

Historically, KPI’s have often been tied to remuneration or bonus payments. However, this process is being phased out rapidly as the unintended consequence of employees negotiating the lowest possible KPI’s in order to secure their bonus payment is now widely understood.

Furthermore, there is a wide body of research that shows financial incentives for knowledge work can actually hinder creative and critical thinking – the very skills required to solve complex problems.

Instead, leading organisations are encouraging employees to set ambitious strategic goals without the fear of losing remuneration. Establishing frequent feedback loops ensures team members feel valued and recognised for their achievements in-the-moment, versus waiting until the end of the year.

5. Coach not assess

Getting to the end of a year and assessing if KPI’s were achieved is awkward and often unfair. Modern leaders are switching to a coaching style relationship with team members where they check-in and ask forward looking questions. Eg. Is there anything that might prevent you from reaching your strategic goals? Is there anything I can do to help ensure your success?

Conducting a regular check-in for strategic goal progress helps keep high priorities front of mind, identifies problems early, and builds a more connected manager-employee relationship – perfect in a more unstable and less predictable world

6. Tools & freedom not tick the box process

By giving employees the autonomy and flexibility to make choices and act in a way that aligns with the company's overall mission you recognise that employees are professionals who can be trusted to do their jobs without constant supervision or micromanagement. It also recognises that the organisation can provide the resources and tools that make peoples jobs

Once goals have been set 1-on-1 templates are commonly used for goals check-ins, with the focus on a coaching approach. Having a range of templates available to choose from gives employees the freedom to customize their meetings to their specific needs and preferences. For example, an employee may choose to use a template that focuses on goal-setting and performance metrics, while another employee may prefer a template that focuses on professional development and career growth.

At the same time, having a set of templates to choose from provides a framework for the conversation and ensures that important topics are addressed. This approach ensures that the conversation remains productive and relevant to the organization's goals and values. You can explore 1-on-1 templates used by leading companies in our 1-on-1 templates library.

This approach can lead to greater engagement, motivation, and job satisfaction among employees, as they feel empowered to take ownership of their own goal progression and career growth.

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