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Goal Alignment Takes Work and Communication that Counts

A recent Aberdeen Group study on human capital management trends found firms with HR departments that are aligned with business goals are able to better plan for future talent needs and integrate workforce and talent initiatives. If Aberdeen is going to call out what should be an obvious business success factor, they must have found that insuring business goal alignment is a competitive advantage that only some organizations achieve. In other words, most organizations are not managing to achieve goal alignment between senior executives and HR executives.

Goal alignment - Not a one-way street

Here’s a common mistake: These arrows must point in BOTH directions. Information and recommendations flowing up underpin goals flowing down.
image source: www.peoplestreme.com

How can HR’s goals get out of alignment with organizational goals, if departmental goals are founded on strategic goals that come from “the top?” In fact, given that the Human Resource function is designed to support organizational goals through the sourcing and retention of talent, it should strike all of us as obvious that aligning HR goals to organizational goals would be a priority. Jack Welch, during his successful tenure as head of General Electric, famously had his top HR executive deeply involved in strategic matters to achieve that alignment.

How can such a clear connection be missed by so many organizations?

The most common way that HR goals drift away from strategic goals is when the developers of the strategic goals do not clearly and transparently communicate those goals (and their rationale) to the people running HR. Without clear and regular communication (Communication that Counts, in our Foundations of Excellence philosophy), a department head has to create their own goals in a vacuum.

Of course, great communication is a two-way street: HR leaders must actively seek this information, asking not only to understand the motivations behind the goals, but also for a chance to participate in their development.

How can HR best contribute actively to goal-setting? Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Provide data to help senior executives understand the gaps that may exist between the human resources available, and those needed to achieve particular goals.
  • Work with other departments to help them provide productivity data to support strategic planning.
  • Gather data on the relative benefits of training and development targeted at retention, and the costs of higher turnover on productivity.

HR Daily Advisor provides a list of starting points for collecting HR metrics for C-suite impact. We think the training and development section should also include detailed tracking of individual productivity improvements during and after training initiatives, with dollars assigned to each item as either savings or new revenue.

At the end of every financial quarter or year, HR should be able to report how its activities supported organizational goals by improving skills, productivity, retention and cost-containment (for benefits, say.) Senior executives will appreciate the insight into how best to align human assets with organizational goals, and how the work HR does raises employee engagement and, therefore, productivity.

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