Remember, your employees are not psychic

The best laid organisational plans will come to nothing if the people in the organisation don’t know about them. Successful companies pull out all the stops to make sure that top level strategy is properly cascaded and communicated.

At the beginning of the year, organisations traditionally renew their strategy, objectives and vision to make sure they stay at the top of their game. But all too often these plans go nowhere because they are not shared with the people who are expected to carry them out.

“Unless organisations take specific steps to cascade goals throughout the organisation and align these with employee goals, the best laid plans will come to nothing,” says Billy Elliott, Country Manager of the Top Employers Institute in Africa. “To drive true purpose and effectiveness in the every-day lives of employees, the company strategy needs to be filtered down to each level of staff.

The Top Employers Institute globally certifies excellence in employee conditions and evidence from its 2017 Certification Programme clearly demonstrates that successful companies in South Africa regard the alignment of organisational and employee goals as their number one performance management priority.

“If people understand that what they are doing actually fits into the bigger picture, and helps the company accelerate in the execution of their strategy, then you start to feel a certain kind of recognition and pride,” says Marilyn Rose Chaplin, Group Executive of Human Resources at globally certified Top Employer Dimension Data.

One hundred per cent of the executive management of Top Employers in South Africa in 2017 put performance goals in place and assist managers to cascade business goals and strategy to individual employees. Cascading goals is an integral part of managing performance. Some 94 per cent of Top Employers South Africa use a goal-cascading method to ensure individual performance goals and objectives are aligned with the broader organisational strategy.

Communication is critical here: 100 per cent of the surveyed Top Employers in South Africa have processes in place to communicate the organisation’s strategy with employees, with over 90 per cent ensuring information regarding the organisation’s strategy is freely accessible.

Notably, effective communication typically occurs across multiple channels, with the majority of Top Employers using a blend of ‘Town Hall’ meetings, roadshows, staff meetings, newsletters, bulletin boards, employee magazines, video and TV messages and/ or intranet messages.

Five-times certified Top Employer Merchants SA combines meticulous goal-setting and clear communication with rewards for good performance to achieve a winning strategy. Miranda Hall, Head of Organisational Development, Industrial Relations, Remuneration and Benefits, says it’s this multi-pronged approach that is particularly effective.

“One of the main challenges is in the interpretation of high-level strategic imperatives into language that is understood by all levels of the organisation. If that is done successfully, then every individual in the organisation knows how their jobs, however junior, contribute to the overall goal,” she explains. “We believe an engaged employee who is rewarded, treated well, and whose career aspirations are met, will declare their satisfaction by recommending our company as a great place to work.”

The Top Employers Institute’s research confirms that employee buy-in is key. A total of 99 per cent of Top Employers South Africa ensure employees play an active role, by providing input for their individual annual goals. Flexibility is equally important – over 98 per cent of the Top Employers certified allowed for the adjustment of objectives during the year, depending on changing business needs.

Carol Kilkenny, Director of Human Resources at adidas SA, adds that there are no short cuts to setting, aligning and cascading organisational goals and that organisations must be faithful to the process in all its complexity.

“adidas South Africa forms part of the Emerging Markets for adidas and we are all aligned to the global five-year strategy, Creating the New. This overall strategy has 11 strategic priorities, to which we are fully aligned. From these strategic priorities, we create the relevant targets for our market, depending on your function and your role,” she explains.

“What makes it meaningful is that we are all bought into the same overall goal of driving net sales and NPS – and how we do this as a market, and a function within the market, is always aligned to two or three of the strategic priorities.”

The process is meticulous but extremely worthwhile, she believes. “Our goal setting process takes some time, and lots of discussion initially at a senior leadership level, and then these are cascaded down to all people managers, who then bring them to life for their staff in their personal targets – which will always align to the strategic priorities and the ultimate goal of net sales and NPS.”

Elliott says that the experiences from adidas and other Top Employers demonstrates that taking the time to invest in HR Best Practice Performance Management is an essential part of giving organisations a competitive advantage. “One of the main benefits of participating in the Top Employers Certification Programme is that it aligns organisations with HR Best Practice allowing both them and their employees to function at their best.

“For example, evidence from our Certification Programme shows clearly how the symbiotic relationship between employee and organisational goals is a key driver of business success. Others can learn from this!

“After all, in the long run it is more cost effective to invest in HR Best Practice Performance Management that gives your people the best chance of success” he says.

This year’s certification programme for Top Employers is now open for participation. For more information on how to be certified as a Top Employer