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Aligning teams for a bright future of work

The most important consideration of the transformed workplace is employee well-being. Other things, like teams staying aligned in common purpose, can help as well.

New York drops its mask mandate for restaurants and other public places. Senseless aggression continues in Ukraine. To call our modern condition “complex” is obviously a big understatement. But it’s that kind of complexity that makes thoughtful analysis of how we all work in the future more necessary than ever.

Solid analysis abounds in LinkedIn’s latest "Top Voices" series, which highlights
some of the most influential leaders focused on the future of work in the wake of the pandemic. From the article:

Whether you’re trying to find new ways of communicating with a global team or figuring out how to build trust among colleagues you’ve never met in person, these creators are sharing best practices for how both workers and companies can make the transition more manageable.

To be clear, the most important consideration of the transformed workplace is employee well-being. The transition has been hard on everyone. Mechanisms that help people cope, for example, by fostering human connection, should be first on the list.

That said, there are a few key things that can help facilitate a bright future of work. One that we’re focused on is enabling teams to stay aligned in common purpose. It’s hard enough, under ordinary circumstances, for businesses to be sure that they’re building something customers really need, and that everyone across the enterprise gets it. Reduce in-person communication and, no great mystery, you make a hard situation even harder.

Technology is helping. Chase Warrigton, one of LinkedIn’s top voices, calls out in the Harvard Business Review how, for example, collaboration tools like task boards help teams prioritize their work in a way that’s aligned with longer-term goals.

Here’s another side of it: the voices of customers, partners, thought leaders and others – perspectives that can guide businesses to build what the market cares about – live within the recorded content they create. Those companies just need to be able to find and share those insights internally so every employee is aware and aiming toward the same goal.

Let’s say your CMO was on three industry panels, two podcasts, and a webinar last month. And across all of it, the subject of protecting consumer data (for example), came up frequently. Now let’s say that the same issue also came up on no less than eight customer Zooms last quarter.

At that point, it would be pretty safe to say that the issue of protecting consumer data is something that a lot of people care about. And if your business was equipped to address it – from how product is developed to what marketing talks about next – you’d clearly have something worth rallying around.

You just need a way to find and share the insight across your organization.

But can team alignment and the future of work change your organization's mindset?

Why aligning teams is important

Team alignment is achieved when cross-functional teams and individual team members work toward the same vision, understand their personal and group goals, and see how their contributions connect to a broader organizational purpose.

According to Gallup, when teams are aligned and engaged, organizations benefit from increased productivity, improved communication, higher employee engagement and retention, faster decision making, and increased agility to respond to external forces.

Team alignment is not easily achieved. A study by McKinsey found that while 72% of leaders said they involved employees in developing the organization's purpose, only 56% of frontline employees agreed. This disconnection is what hinders team alignment and drives disengagement.

Why aligning teams can be tough

It's crucial to check whether your teams are misaligned as soon as possible.

If this has gone unnoticed, the time taken to remedy the misalignment will be much longer and harder.

Missed goals

Does your team keep missing pivotal goals? For instance, if the sales team agreed to increase leads by 20% each month, but the trends decrease, are they misaligned with other goals?

For example, maybe they could have achieved the 20% increase in leads, but they did not give the marketing team the input they needed to launch new sales pages that would help to convert into new leads.

Over-communicating

Several team leaders encourage over-communication, particularly for first-time remote companies and employees learning to adapt for the first time.

However, over-communication can cause friction within a team - who does not get fed up when those Slack messages keep 'knocking' on your desktop?

As they say, too much of something can have an adverse effect. When there are too many meetings, Slack notifications, and emails, people seem busy but don't get any productive work done.

Overworked and not achieving goals

Your team is overwhelmed and overworked but feels like they didn't accomplish anything. It can be tough to identify immediately, especially when your team is afraid to speak up. That's why one-to-one meetings and monthly check-ins could save team leaders a lot of headaches. It's your team's health audit.

Regular one-to-one meetings with someone from the HR team may provide a better overview of how the team is performing and feel about their alignment within the company. Typically employees don't speak freely about their experiences to their direct managers for understandable reasons.

What is the future of work?

Team alignment is always critical, but with the onset of increased remote work, it is now more critical than ever.

Upwork research says that 36.2 million Americans will work remotely by 2025. This is an 87% increase compared to pre-COVID-19 numbers. While virtual teams have distinct advantages, remote team alignment can be challenging to maintain.

As the data continues to suggest, the impact of COVID-19 will have lasting implications for businesses and professionals. That companies say remote work continues to be going better than anticipated, and it's even improved since the start suggests that companies are learning that they have underestimated the potential benefits and perhaps overestimated the costs of working remotely.

It is no surprise that the future will include more remote communication and more remote working for the foreseeable future.

It's why the future of work is changing, and team alignment must be more critical than ever.

How the future of work is changing team alignment

Team alignment is all about setting goals.

Without it, you won't know precisely where and where to do next. Ultimately, the team's ability to achieve goals is how well a team manager measures team alignment and how employees understand the company goals. For instance, only 14% of employees understand their company's strategy.

Once business goals are clear, each team manager must ensure that they are broken down into smaller, actionable goals.

For example, suppose you're a marketing manager whose goal is to increase the number of users signing up for your software. How will a brand content manager turn this into their individual goal?

Each employee must have the company goals broken down into daily and quantifiable tasks when individual goals are clear. Examples could be:

  • Daily: Tweet three old blog posts per week on Twitter with different snippets
  • Weekly: Publish one new webinar/podcast/video per week.

Furthermore, team alignment is not a directive that you set up once and leave to run automatically. The proceed needs constant evaluating and tweaking to get the best out of a team.

Regardless of the goal-setting framework, it would be best if team managers had the main team alignment map created so everyone can view their actionable goals. Using our tools is one of the easiest ways to manage your goals and keep the teams aligned without complicated spreadsheets and with fewer, better meetings.

Resources you'll love: 

If you’re interested in learning more about how AI is facilitating the future of work, we’d love to talk to you.

Photo by Adomas Aleno on Unsplash