How to ensure team alignment, especially while working remote

Written by: Evan LePage from Unito | Illustrated by: Mathieu Labrecque
Published on September 3, 2020 | Reading time: 11m

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.

What is team alignment? 

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.

Why team alignment should be important to you as a manager

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.

Learn more
Picture of a team working together Graphic element - Yellow wave
Warning icon
We seem to be having trouble displaying this message.
*Try disabling your ad blocker temporarily and refresh the web page.

Signs of aligned vs. misaligned teams

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 teamsMisaligned teams
Projects delivered on time and on scopeFrequent missed deadlines and scope creep
Team and company achieve goalsTeam and company repeatedly come up short on goals
Efficient execution of workRepeated or overlapping work
Clear tasks and clear communicationMiscommunication and confusion are common issues
Defined channels for project management and communicationEndless meetings and email chains
High team engagement and high employee retentionLow 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.

Are your teams aligned? Here’s how we find out using Officevibe

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's Slack integration

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.

Engagement Report from Officevibe

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.

How remote work affects team alignment

Building and maintaining team alignment has never been easy, and now the reality of remote work is throwing new challenges into the mix. 

  1. Many companies and managers are still adjusting to this new way of work, and their teams have fallen out of alignment during the shift. Adjustment time is ok so long as you keep track of where things have gone off balance.

    Tip: Keep a daily journal of where you feel your team has been compromised by change, so you can implement intentional solutions.
  1. Remote work strips out a lot of the unplanned communication like water cooler chat and other interactions that help with alignment.

    Tip: Directly after important company or team announcements, book 30 minutes with your team to have a casual, open discussion.
  1. Remote managers often feel they’ve lost visibility into work and are unsure if their employees are focused on the right thing. They may struggle to maintain alignment as a result. 

    Tip: Losing visibility can result in the tendency to micromanage. Don’t. Instead, join in sporadically on your team’s dailies to keep up to date or hold weekly update meetings for the team to fill you in on progress and setbacks in an open discussion. 
  1. Finally, in a remote context, the negative impacts of misalignment — both performance-related and emotional — are amplified since issues cannot be resolved face-to-face and become bucketed with other sentiments of isolation, disconnection, and loneliness. 

    Tip: Create a safe space in virtual 1-on-1 meetings dedicated to discussing personal and professional difficulties. Normalize that feelings of uncertainty or frustration are ok by sharing your own difficulties, and searching for solutions together. 
Learn more
Picture of a team working together Graphic element - Yellow wave
Warning icon
We seem to be having trouble displaying this message.
*Try disabling your ad blocker temporarily and refresh the web page.

Three actionable tips to improve team alignment

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.

1. Make communication and transparency organizational values

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:

  • “Make mistakes but never hide them”
  • “Over-communicate asynchronously”

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.

2. Make your goals crystal clear and document everything

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:

Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound

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.

Get our free, collaborative goal-setting guide to set your employee on the right path.

Setting Meaningful Goals that Stick

3. Find the right team alignment tools

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.

  • Chat tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams help with alignment by opening up easy channels of communication between employees, regardless of their physical location.
  • Project management tools like Trello and Asana can help you nip misalignment in the bud by ensuring that everybody knows exactly what they need to be working on, and what their colleagues are working on.
  • A workflow management tool like Unito allows everyone to work from the tools they love while tearing down those tool silos, and makes work visible to everyone who needs it. Unito provides deep integrations between work tools, so you can track progress on work, collaborate, communicate, and ensure alignment across tools and teams.
  • An employee engagement tool like Officevibe empowers your business’ leaders to take on the hard work of alignment. From goal-setting to 1-on-1s, to Pulse Surveys that keep track of how teams are feeling in their day-to-day, Officevibe covers all the bases.

Time to invest in team alignment

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.

Learn more
Picture of a team working together Graphic element - Yellow wave
Warning icon
We seem to be having trouble displaying this message.
*Try disabling your ad blocker temporarily and refresh the web page.