Two Things You Must Do to Align Employees with Your Strategic Goals

March 16, 2015 | David Lee | HCI
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One of the most important responsibilities of a leader is to show employees how to align behaviors, activities and priorities with the employer’s strategic goals. To achieve this alignment, leaders must clearly communicate a Behavioral Vision.

Behavioral Vision consists of the habits and behaviors that are necessary for an organization to execute its strategic vision. These behaviors are the action steps that translate vision into reality and turn business goals into business results. No matter how brilliant the strategy, if the employees do not live it every day through their actions, it will remain no more than wishful thinking.

So, what’s the problem? Harris Interactive and Franklin Covey surveyed over 23,000 employees and discovered that the vast majority of those employees don’t know which actions or behaviors on their part actually contribute to their employer’s goals. According to the survey, only 2 out of 10 employees report having a clear line of sight between their tasks and the goals of their team and employer as a whole.

What does this mean? 80% of employees don’t know how they can best contribute to their employer’s success. They don’t know which behaviors, actions or activities generate the most value. When an employee can’t see the big picture, it becomes easy to “major in the minors”—to spend time on tasks that provide little economic value while neglecting high value-generating activities.

These employees spend time perfecting a report while never finding time to interview clients about how the firm can better serve their needs. They help a new customer fill out paperwork for a loan, but never explore that new customer’s other financial needs. They briskly and efficiently process a new patient’s paperwork while missing the opportunity to create a branded, differentiated patient experience.

How can HR executives and management teams align employee actions, behaviors and activities with the organization’s strategic goals? In other words, how can employers help their employees help them?

First, Reverse Engineer Business Results into a Behavioral Vision

When you determine a specific desired result, the first task is to reverse engineer that result into actionable steps that will make that result possible. Identify the types of behaviors and activities that are necessary to turn that vision into reality. The cornerstone of this concept is turning abstract concepts into concrete actions.

For example, Baptist Healthcare System is known for their transformation from mediocre to extraordinary in the healthcare field. CEO Al Stubblefield cites the identification of agreed upon behaviors as playing a central role in this transformation. Ideas that began as abstract—“We agree to treat each other and our patients with respect”—became actionable by defining respectful behaviors and expecting employees at all levels to execute those behaviors. If a patient asks a staff member for directions, the staff member is expected to bring the patient there, not just try to explain it and move on. Baptist Healthcare Systems went as far as to create “theater of the mind” training videos that demonstrated these behaviors in action and provided examples for employees to emulate.

Second, Tell Everyone About It

To keep employees engaged and enthusiastic, organizations must share stories of success and be open in demonstrating how employees execute the Behavioral Vision on a daily basis. The Ritz-Carlton is a prime example of an organization that uses storytelling to create and share the Behavioral Vision on a daily basis. At Ritz-Carlton, two major principles that underpin their customer service philosophy and brand promise are, “Anticipate unexpressed needs,” and “Create wow guest experiences.” To ensure that employees stay focused on delivering this promise and to ensure that employees know exactly what this promise looks like and sounds like in action, managers continually share Wow stories with employees. Even if it means dressing up as the tooth fairy for a little girl on vacation who thought she might miss out on her prize. (Learn more about that story here.)

Action Plan

  1. Reverse engineer your business goals and strategic initiatives into actionable behaviors. Make the abstract concrete. For maximum benefit, include both general and position-specific behaviors.
  2. Gather stories about employees living the Behavior Vision through their actions, and make sharing these stories a regular part of employee communication.

David Lee is the founder and principal of HumanNature@work and the creator of Stories That Change. He's an internationally recognized authority on organizational and managerial practices that optimize employee performance, morale, and engagement. He is also the author of "Managing Employee Stress and Safety," as well nearly 100 articles and book chapters. You can download more of his articles at, contact him at, or follow him on Twitter at