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If you see a painting hanging crooked on a wall, do you feel the need to straighten it? Doesn’t it nag at you until you finally set it right? Most of us possess an innate desire for things to line up. Team alignment is really no different.
We all want our teams to be cohesive, coordinated, and collaborative. Every member of the company, from the top down, craves this alignment. Only when you achieve it can your business be at its best.
To help you get there, we’ve broken down what team alignment means, why it’s important — especially in a remote context — and actionable tips to help you get and stay aligned.
Team alignment is when every member of your team understands and supports your shared vision and goals, knows how you’re going to help the team achieve them, and understands and is happy with their own role in that journey. If that feels like a mouthful, that’s because team alignment isn’t a simple thing. It takes constant effort to make sure everyone is on the same page.
You’ll notice the above definition is essentially split into two kinds of alignment. First, there’s alignment of purpose — vision, goals, and how you’ll achieve them. Everybody in your business should know what these are on all three levels: personal, team, and company. This is what most people think of when they hear about team alignment. But there’s a second, often-ignored piece of the puzzle: alignment of people.
It’s one thing for everybody to understand what you hope to achieve as a company, but rallying your team behind that is another challenge altogether. This requires people to believe in the approach and understand the role they and their colleagues collectively play. It isn’t enough to know the end destination; you need to all be rowing in the same direction.
Team alignment has a huge impact on the overall performance of your business. ClearCompany found that a remarkable 97% of employees and executives agree that the outcome of a task or project is negatively affected by a lack of alignment.
On the flip side, aligned teams see a ton of benefits:
Aligned teams perform better. Teams that are not aligned end up going in circles, can rarely come to decisions and either don’t deliver work or deliver work that does not successfully feed the strategy. When teams are aligned, they’re set up to perform. Everyone has the information they need to make the right decisions, work quickly, and prioritize work that actually contributes to company goals.
Aligned teams are more engaged. When your team is aligned, each individual member understands the importance of their role and the roles of their colleagues and believes in the team vision. This creates a sense of camaraderie and belonging. People feel as though they’re part of a collective in which everybody is working towards the same thing.
Aligned teams are more collaborative. It’s a lot easier to collaborate when you’re coming at a problem with a shared outcome in mind. People are more willing to compromise and to support one another because they’re all aligned on goals and what it takes to get there.
According to SAP, only 7% of employees fully understand the goals of their business and how they’re expected to contribute to achieving them.
A team lacking in alignment is like a shopping cart with one bad wheel: it’s a lot harder to move in the right direction.
Here are a few telling signs that can help you find out where your team is on the alignment spectrum.
|Aligned teams||Misaligned teams|
|Projects delivered on time and on scope||Frequent missed deadlines and scope creep|
|Team and company achieve goals||Team and company repeatedly come up short on goals|
|Efficient execution of work||Repeated or overlapping work|
|Clear tasks and clear communication||Miscommunication and confusion are common issues|
|Defined channels for project management and communication||Endless meetings and email chains|
|High team engagement and high employee retention||Low team engagement and high employee turnover|
Beyond these signs, one of the best ways for you to determine whether or not your team is aligned is to ask them. Don’t overthink it! Our CEO asks random employees about our company goals and values every week in our team meetings. These pop quizzes are a fun way to ensure alignment and keep this key information top of mind. You can ask more specific questions and dive into potential reasons for lack of alignment in your 1-on-1 meetings.
Team alignment isn’t something that you build and then stop working on. You need to be constantly communicating and engaging with your team to make sure goals and expectations are clear and they’re happy with their seat on the ride. This is especially true during times of change.
Officevibe surveys are a big part of how we maintain team alignment at Unito.
“I’m a big believer in culture and mission as invaluable tools to scale fast AND smoothly at the same time. When everyone is aligned on those, work moves fast with minimal management needed. However, things like culture, mission, and values are very hard to measure objectively. The alignment score we get from our Officevibe surveys is an easy way for us to make sure we’re communicating those effectively throughout the organization.”Marc Boscher, CEO of Unito
Every week, each member of the team receives a Slack message from the Officevibe app prompting them to answer a new survey (you can learn more about Officevibe’s integrations here). These surveys include questions directly related to alignment, as well as job satisfaction, personal growth, relationship with manager and peers, and happiness — all of which can be clear indicators of alignment at both the team and organizational level.
Officevibe then gathers the responses and for each category gives team managers and business leaders a clear report with a score out of 10. With the help of these reports, we’re able to track employee alignment and engagement at a glance, and raise the red flag quickly if we see our numbers drop.
We also look at the scores of other teams. If a different team is excelling in an area where your numbers are low, you can ask that team’s manager for advice on how to improve. In general, teams with high Officevibe scores in alignment (or any other area) are encouraged to share best practices so the entire organization can learn from their success. It’s a great way to build a culture of constant improvement, and give employees a voice that gets heard and acted on.
Building and maintaining team alignment has never been easy, and now the reality of remote work is throwing new challenges into the mix.
Are you wondering how to align your remote team and set them on the right path for success? Here are some team alignment ideas and strategies that you can put into place right away.
Alignment is dependent on your ability to communicate information at all levels of your organization. It’s so easy to fall into information silos, especially in a remote work context when everyone is working in their own physical and digital spaces. The more transparent you are with your information, the more aligned your team will be.
Highlighting the need for clear communication and transparency in your company values is a way to immediately shed light on its importance. At Unito, we have commandments that represent our values. These are oft-repeated in meetings, they’re taped to the office wall, and all new hires are taught them to emphasize their importance. High on the list of commandments are:
Through these commandments, communication and transparency are ingrained in our work lives as soon as we join the team. We see it in how open we are with sharing and getting feedback on our work. We see it in how 1-on-1s are a cherished, valued experience rather than a dreaded one. And we see it in how highly aligned we feel as a group.
Goals are the guiding light that everyone in your organization follows. You need that light to be prominent and visible for everyone to see. The key to goal clarity is documenting everything, and making that documentation accessible. This approach is also aligned with the organizational transparency mentioned above.
So what’s the best way to clearly document your goals? There’s no easy answer here, as you’ll need to find the approach best suited to your team and your work environment.
For goal clarity, one common approach is to create goals using the SMART model:
Using this model to craft your goals can go a long way in building clarity, but also getting buy-in, as people know that they’re working towards goals they can actually achieve.
Officevibe actually developed an entire goal-setting framework that incorporates the SMART model that you can use to brainstorm, set, and document your goals. The Officevibe platform also helps managers set and monitor individual goals (learn more about that here) and document them in a single place in order to keep track of progress on action items.
One final tip about goal-setting: involve your team. When everyone is involved in setting the goals, they’re more likely to support them, understand them, and remember them.
The average enterprise now uses an astounding 288 different SaaS apps. We rely on these tools to get organized, increase productivity, and better collaborate, especially while remote. But with so many tools comes the potential for information silos and hidden work — both of which can wreak havoc on your team alignment.
The solution isn’t to try to force people onto a single tool. It’s to identify the key tools that will help you build and maintain alignment while allowing employees to work where they’re comfortable.
Thankfully, there’s no shortage of options.
Team alignment doesn’t come easy. It’s something that takes constant work and managers carry the bulk of that load. But, as the saying goes, “the hardest things in life are the most worth doing.”
The benefits of having an aligned team are immense: more efficiency, more collaboration, higher performance. You can crush your goals while keeping your team happy and engaged. That’s something worth investing in.
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