You began 2020 with high hopes and company goals for the year to come. We all did.
Sometimes, high hopes don’t turn out. As an entrepreneur, you’ve faced challenges and setbacks before. However the pandemic affected your business, you and your team did their best to turn a challenge almost no one saw coming into a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Or maybe you just did your best to stay afloat. Either way, you learned a lot in the process.
This year, we’re all looking forward to a return to some sort of normalcy. In preparation, the time is now to assess your company’s response to everything that’s happened since the start of the pandemic and ensure it’s on the best footing possible to reach the goals you’ve set for 2021 and beyond.
You’ll stand up to challenges better, and find it easier to reach your goals in the meantime, if your organization can internally align itself. To achieve that alignment this year, you’ll need to put some important pieces in place as soon as you can, like an internal communications strategy and a plan to get your employees to buy into your vision.
Here’s how to get it done.
Reflect on what your company has already done well
Start by building on what you achieved before “internal alignment” became part of your vocabulary. Every company has “wins” to draw upon for inspiration.
That’s even more true after the crazy year we just lived through. Chances are, you don’t have to look back very far in time to find an example of a shared goal that your team embraced — and aced.
For many organizations, executing a rapid yet orderly transition to remote work was the “big picture” goal that dominated 2020. There were companies that managed this transition well. These companies tended to have something in common: They had already aligned their internal goals.
Re-apply the success strategy
“One thing I noticed as I continue to reflect on 2020 was everyone at Nu Skin was able to pivot quickly,” writes Jeff Bettinger, SVP and global CHRO at Nu Skin. “A big portion of that is everyone was aligned on the company’s priorities…everyone understood what they needed to get done” during the transition, he adds.
In other words, the Nu Skin team easily managed what for many organizations was a seismic shift. This was due to the fact that everyone on their team was already rowing in the same direction. Consequently, when the time came to navigate truly treacherous waters, the company’s crew raised its oars as one and plunged ahead.
And if your team isn’t quite as well-aligned on company goals right now? Take inspiration from the flashes of alignment that shone through in recent goal-oriented campaigns. Maybe your HR, purchasing, and IT leads went to heroic lengths to procure and secure company devices for your entire work-from-home team in days. Or, your sales engineer and product lead worked overtime to land your company’s biggest contract to date. Not only that, but they landed this contract in those scary, early days of the pandemic, when businesses felt like the bottom was falling out everywhere.
Your roadmap to better alignment exists. You just have to find it.
Implement an internal communications strategy
Next, work on building a sturdy foundation for a better-aligned organization. Your first step here should be to implement an internal communications strategy, one that ensures every member of your team has all the information they need to do their jobs effectively, understand shared priorities and goals, and ultimately work toward those priorities and goals.
Effective communication is a not-so-soft skill that’s vital not just for internal goal-setting but for customer contact functions as well.
“Poor internal communication, along with poor coaching of frontline workers, can result in poor communication with customers,” writes Sara Jensen, vice president of business development at San Diego-based Innovative Employee Solutions.
Teams that don’t communicate well among themselves probably don’t communicate well with their customers. Additionally, because any strategic goals are related to growth, acquisition, revenue, or market development, teams assume effective communication with customers. A missing or inadequate communications strategy could put those goals out of reach.
Personalize organizational challenges and the changes they require
Sometimes, shared company goals are likely to require shared sacrifice. If this is ever the case, use your internal communications framework. This will assist in honestly and fully discussing the deliverables and implications with your team.
This discussion should acknowledge the personal dimension. These changes can be anything that will affect team members’ relationship with the company — up to and including layoffs. Just as importantly, it should show how the changes fit into the organization’s broader strategic goals. Or, it should show how they relate to a (well-communicated) shift in strategic goals. Most importantly, the changes should anticipate team members’ concerns. Companies can accomplish this by going the extra mile to address them before they cause unnecessary confusion and disarray.
How might this look in the real world?
Liz Kislik is a workplace conflict resolution expert. She describes one client that went above and beyond to help team members manage a significant benefits change. “When one client changed its health plans to keep costs down, it helped covered employees research their doctors’ eligibility and find new practitioners when necessary,” she says in an article for Harvard Business Review. “The employees were grateful for the individual attention and support, and were subsequently less resentful even though items such as deductibles and copays had gotten more expensive.”
Plan to “survive victory” — and do it all again
A well-aligned organization should expect to achieve its strategic goals. And it needs a plan for what happens next.
Business strategist Greg Satell calls this “surviving victory.” It means building upon that sturdy foundation for internal alignment. The alignment contains a sustainable and scalable strategy for future initiatives. These can be in the form of goals or even wholesale organizational transformations.
“Successful transformation leaders focus not only on immediate goals but also on the process of change itself,” says Satell. His work focuses on big companies that effected dramatic internal changes after “near-death experiences,” like IBM, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, and Experian. Finally, the core lesson — to create a process for achieving and building upon victories big and small — is universal.