Sunday, March 7, 2010

Employee Retention: Goals Alignment

Business Strategy

2010.03.07_Goals So far in this series, we’ve seen the importance of retaining employees in the post Insuring Employee Retention, where I also wrote about the multiple factors necessary to decrease, if not eliminate, your employee attrition.  The first of these was understanding your employees’ personal and professional goals, described in the posting  Employee Retention: Be a Goal Miner. The idea there was to insure you understand the whole picture about the human behind the resource and his / her motivations.

Following that discussion, the natural question is how can you align a person’s goals with your company’s?  This is especially important if your employees entrust you with their personal goals that seem to diverge from your company’s.

Let’s look at an example in explaining how to address this issue.  I recall going through one of these goal mining sessions with an employee and learning that he wished to open a restaurant within 10 years.  At first glance, it seemed this person had no place in our organization.  After all, we both worked in a software development shop and he was a project manager.  We in no way provided food services to our customers.

However, we dug deeper and talked about the reason he wanted to start a restaurant.  He wanted what most entrepreneurs want: the freedom to make his own decisions, to take risks and be responsible for the consequences.  He also had a passion for food and the catering business.  He loved being a part of people’s celebrations and those intimate moments when they break bread with friends, family or coworkers. 

As a software development project manager, we needed him to focus on managing risks and timelines.  He needed to create project plans, help achieve project goals and, in the process, remove any project blocks. These skills were designed to increase our client satisfaction and create new direct and indirect business, while helping the company’s profitability through timely delivery of solutions.

How can these goals be aligned? I’m sure you’ve already guessed the answer.  The same project management skills necessary to think through and weigh risks, make critical decisions and benefit or suffer the consequences, find the path that insures customer satisfaction  and company profitability were the skills he needed as an entrepreneur. 

Knowing his goals and how they aligned with our company’s we agreed to give him increased autonomy and responsibility over time and with each success so that he could practice making critical decisions as he would in his own business.  At each quarterly review, we looked at how far along he was in achieving his learning objectives that would get him closer to starting his own company.  We also created incentives in the form of extra time off, to spend with family or planning his restaurant operation, and performance-based bonuses that were tightly coupled with how profitable each project turned out.

With every project, he learned how to become not just a better manager, but a critical thinker and leader, considering the overall profitability picture for our company and our customers.  In the process he also learned what it meant to find a mutually beneficial solution for a company and its customers.  He became customer-focused, rather than project-focused, and learned to automate where he could or find efficient processes for common problems.

The end result was that he was continuously motivated to be a diligent project manager since he knew what he was learning would benefit his long-term goals.  Simultaneously, we benefited from his efforts since he continuously searched for and found ways of improving our company profitability though better customer relationship management, team motivation, and process improvement techniques. 

What’s more, our willingness to invest time with him and other employees created a company buzz about how much we cared for each employee.  In turn, as more results came in, as we made and delivered on people’s growth goals, the organization’s morale, productivity, profitability, and overall customer and employee satisfaction grew.  It seemed, people loved coming to work at a place where the leadership wished and made efforts to make their lifelong dreams come true!

The lesson here is that even if an employee’s goals seem as divergent as starting their own business, you can form a plan that teaches that person the skills they seek while benefiting the company’s bottom line.  What’s required is patience and the willingness to forgo the urge to dismiss such initially perceived incompatibilities when discussing personal and professional goals with your employees.

What Do You Think?

Feel free to comment below about this post or your ideas on employee retention, in general.

Related Posts

Insuring Employee Retention
Employee Retention: Be a Goal Miner

Photo Credit: lululemon athletica