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BLOG: Cascading goals

Communicating your organisation's goals with employees is a key strategic move

The best laid organisational plans will come to nothing if the people within the organisation don’t know about them. Successful companies pull out all the stops to make sure 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 aren't 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 everyday lives of employees, the company strategy needs to be filtered down to each level of staff".

At Top Employers Institute, we globally certify excellence in employee conditions, and evidence from our 2017 Certification Programme clearly demonstrates that successful companies in 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 percent of the executive management of Top Employers in 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 97 percent of Top Employers on the continent use a goal-cascading method to ensure individual performance goals and objectives are aligned with the broader organisational strategy.

Communication is critical here: 100 percent of the surveyed Top Employers in Africa have processes in place to communicate the organisation’s strategy with employees, with 95 percent 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.

Old Mutual, which has 14 certified Top Employer operations in 13 countries across Africa, combines meticulous goal-setting and clear communication with rewards for good performance to achieve a winning strategy. Gareth Evans, Head of Old Mutual Emerging Markets HR Integration and Delivery, explains: “Organisational goals are carefully crafted through our strategy planning and are reviewed annually as part of business planning. This is particularly important to ensure the ongoing relevance of goals and to take into account the external business environment and macro-economic conditions.”

Staff at all levels are an essential part of this process, which Evans describes as “highly engaging and inclusive”. “Individual goals are fundamental to the organisation achieving its overall targets and we follow a very thorough process of cascading goals and ensuring calibration and alignment,” he says. “The setting of employee goals through the score-carding process is also highly integrated with the employee development and talent practices. This contributes to ensuring a holistic and impactful talent outcome is achieved with absolute alignment to organisational objectives.”

The Top Employers Institute’s research confirms that employee buy-in is key. A total of 96 percent of Top Employers in Africa ensure employees play an active role, by providing input for their individual annual goals. Flexibility is equally important – over 98 percent of the Top Employers certified allowed for the adjustment of objectives during the year, depending on changing business needs.

The process is meticulous but extremely worthwhile, Evans believes. “If line managers and employees do not understand the broader organisational strategy and objectives you will always experience challenges in setting and aligning goals. This is why executives and leaders at Old Mutual spend a lot of time ensuring that our people are part of the business planning process and that there is deep understanding of what we as an organisation are trying to achieve,” he says.

Goal-setting can be a challenging process, and Old Mutual continually up-skills HR professionals, line managers and employees. “We provide very comprehensive capability building through our employee on boarding programme, as well as in our management and leadership development programmes,” Evans adds.

Elliott says that the experiences from Old Mutual and other Top Employers on the continent 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," Elliott says. “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.”