Finding alignment: why businesses succeed when workers engage in a common mission

Team alignment is incredibly important for the success of any business. While organizations put a lot of focus on hiring the right people and executing the best strategy, it is alignment that keeps staff engaged in driving your company in the right direction.

That’s the conclusion from Slack and GlobalWebIndex, who recently surveyed over 17,000 workers in their State of Work report.

While most leaders would agree that people are the most important part of their accounting business, few have clarity on what drives the best employees. In the Slack report, team alignment stood out as a primary factor. Their findings found that:

  • 90% of aligned workers know what success looks like at their company

  • 86% understand their company strategy

  • 75% feel empowered to make decisions

An accounting firm thrives when team members can make decisions and move things forward autonomously. You have better quality work and a more positive environment for the rest of your team. This study makes it clear that an aligned team is going to move faster and deliver higher quality output, than a group of individuals working separately.

What makes an aligned worker?

When your employees take ownership of their roles and have pride in helping your accounting firm grow, of course, your business is going to benefit. This is what aligned workers do. But what is it exactly that makes someone aligned?

At a simple level, alignment in a team means two things are happening simultaneously. 

  1. A worker understands the goals and direction of a company

  2. The worker understands how their work contributes to those goals

When those two things happen simultaneously, a worker is not only going to do their job but will seek out ways to help the business. Now you have a worker who is not only showing up waiting to be told what to do but is actively engaged in solving problems. 

An aligned worker is not only better individually, but will also be a better collaborator within the team. Effective collaboration requires a shared vision and complementary work toward a common goal. With alignment, a team can trust each other and move forward more effectively. 

What makes an unaligned worker?

Unaligned workers feel disconnected from the big picture in their company. They are more likely to work in silos and are more likely to complain about a lack of clarity in their projects.

According to the State of Work report, unaligned workers are “12 times more likely to rate morale and employee satisfaction at their companies as ‘very poor.’” 

This means unaligned workers are not only producing less quality work but are viewing the company and teammates through a lens of negativity.

What to do now: 3 steps to create team alignment

Start at the top

You may be tempted to quickly evaluate every employee to determine their level of alignment. Before communicating with your team, the best first step is to ensure you have alignment at the top of the organization. 

If you’re the owner, this means first clarifying the vision and mission of the company. Make sure you are clear where the company is going and write down the primary focus areas. 

Success in team alignment means clarity in strategy and repeating it often. Start with the leadership team and once you are all on the same page, you can emphasize communication with everyone in the team.

Emphasize clarity in all communication

Businesses can easily fall into a trap by focusing so much on their work. You prioritize great work and evaluate based on tasks, speed and what’s been completed. This is not a bad thing, but focusing only on tasks can come at the expense of context.

Your team needs to focus on clear communication to create alignment.

Setting expectations for a project: When you create a project, make sure everyone knows what they are doing and why. How does it connect to a larger purpose

Collaborating in context: Do your projects often get lost in a long email thread? Make sure you have tools in place so that communication happens in proper context and remains clear.

Employee job descriptions: Evaluate the job descriptions of your team. Is the focus purely task-based? How can you adjust these to help the employee connect their work with the team’s mission?

Focus over distraction: Alignment is harder to achieve than ever because of the volume of information workers receive. Create an environment that emphasizes clarity and focus. Don’t have an immediate response expectation where workers are constantly interrupted by messages. Instead, encourage focus on the tasks that truly move the company forward.

Modify your hiring

Building a team typically focuses on finding the right talent for the right position. How much does your hiring focus on how someone will fit in the company’s vision? 

Hiring is about the skills, but you also want a team member who is on board with where the company is going. As you find talent, talk to potential employees about their goals and what they are looking for. 

You may find someone is not fully aligned with where the company is going and you can catch that before they come on board.

You may not be able to put all of these tactics into place in a day, but your firm will benefit greatly from an added emphasis on alignment. Take a look at your team and how they work. If you have unaligned workers, start now in refining your communication. Take the steps now to bring the mission of the company closer to the actual work your team is doing.

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