Aligning Strategy with Employee Values for Improved Organizational Performance

Values Vintage Letterpress Type in Drawer

The word “VALUES” written in vintage metal letterpress type in a wooden drawer with dividers.

Part 3 of 4 part blog series discussing employee motivational challenges.

Tackling strategy, and the corresponding projects, in a manner which fits with the organizations’ larger culture, leads to employees with enthusiasm (and even passion) for their efforts. This is about helping employees feel part of an effort which is bigger than themselves. As a result, your workforce will be connected and committed to your efforts.

You are providing your workforce with purpose since their efforts have meaning for them. Employees signed up for a tour of duty with your organization because of your culture, mission and values. If you are asking your employees to execute a strategy or carry out projects which are inconsistent with fundamental tenants of who they are, employee motivation will plummet.

Garth Morgen (1986) sums up the ability of organizations to chart their own destiny perfectly in his classic book Images of Organization:

“By appreciating that strategy making is a process of enactment that produces a large element of the future with which the organization will have to deal, it is possible to overcome the false impression that organizations are adapting or reacting to a world that is independent of their own making. This can help empower organizations to appreciate that they themselves often create the constraints, barriers, and situations that cause them problems.” [p. 137]

Case and Point:

The Situation: A nonprofit organization I worked with launched a state-of-the art technology learning center in the heart of a booming metro area. The center attracted mainly business people who worked near the center who had no problem paying top dollar for the Internet and application training.

The Challenge: The center was exceeding goals in terms of usage and financial results. Who could find any fault in such a successful endeavor? The answer is mission driven employees at the nonprofit who were advocates of the organization’s educational efforts aimed at disadvantaged populations. This new effort, aimed at serving the business community, did not fit with these employees’ values, nor their belief about the mission of the nonprofit.

The Outcome/Lesson: All the success in the world was not going to move the employees of the organization to be fully behind the business focused technology project. How could this effort be fully embraced when it was not fully aligned with the mission of the organization? Over time, the educational efforts of the nonprofit shifted back to serving the core audience.

Key Questions: Sense of Purpose and Connection
• Is there a clearly articulated and understood employee value proposition?
• Are there mechanisms in place to help ensure that the strategies being considered are aligned with the employees’ values and beliefs about the purpose and mission of the organization?
• Do employees feel their work adds value to the organization?

Note: The views expressed in this blog are my opinions and do not in any way reflect the views of my employer.

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Gaining Employee Buy-In for Improved Organizational Performance

Part 2 of a 4 part blog series discussing the importance of addressing employee motivation for improved organizational performance.

This is about establishing a business case for change. Your employees need to understand the importance of the effort at hand in order to buy in. We must craft the focus, direction, and integrated operational drive essential to achieve objectives. Our objective is to establish the rationale for change, provide clear strategic direction and results in clear, consistent policy.
If your workforce does not recognize the importance of their efforts, why would they put energy into making them succeed? What is called for here is a compelling argument for change and making the case for why the change needs to happen now.

John Kotter (Harvard Business Review, 2007) says the first step to motivating an organization to act is to establish a sense of urgency. His advice first published in the Harvard Business Review in 1995 previewed his 1996 classic book Leading Change. Kotter says that the key to find a significant opportunity and use it as a vehicle for getting people motivated to make the change in their organization:

“They then find ways to communicate this information broadly and dramatically, especially with respect to crises, potential crises, or great opportunities that are very timely. This first step is essential because just getting a transformation program started requires the aggressive cooperation of many individuals. Without motivation, people won’t help, and the effort goes nowhere.” https://hbr.org/2007/01/leading-change-why-transformation-efforts-fail/ar/1

Case and point: I led a change effort to roll out a new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system for a sales force. The sales team were silent at the initial planning process meetings since they clearly did not understand the big impact that a new CRM system was going to have on their jobs. At a meeting with all of the salespeople, I projected the generic CRM system customer data capture screen. The sales people immediately started asking questioned, providing feedback, and even shouting complaints! Yes, mission accomplished. They were now engaged.

Key questions:

• Are the goals clearly defined and communicated?
• Is the importance of the work being carried out effectively cascaded to your operating groups, team and individual levels?
• Can your employees clearly articulate how their projects fit into the larger strategy?

Note: The views expressed in this blog are my opinions and do not in any way reflect the views of my employer.

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