March 27, 2018

Do you have a job or a calling?

How many times have you heard people say “I hate my job.” What is it that they hate? Their manager, the company, the lack of vision? Maybe it’s that they are engaged in activity every day that is not in their area of skill or passion. There are any number of reasons why people hate their jobs. There are just as many reasons why people stay in jobs that they hate. What can we do about this pandemic?

One of the things I like about my job as a leader and a consultant is that I get to ask lots of questions.

Have you asked employees in your organization how much they like their jobs? One of our often overlooked responsibilities as leaders is to ensure we are deploying adequate resources to achieve our organization’s vision. This includes both monetary resources and human capital resources. Do we have the right people working in the right positions? Do they think of their work as a job or as a calling?

Martin Seligman wrote in his book “Authentic Happiness” about a custodian he met when visiting a hospital. The custodian was changing the pictures on the wall of a patient who was in a coma. Martin asked the custodian why he was doing this and his reply was “My job? I’m an orderly on this floor,” he answered. “But I bring in new prints and photos every week. You see, I’m responsible for the health of all these patients. Take Mr. Miller here. He hasn’t woken up since they brought him in, but when he does, I want to make sure he sees beautiful things right away.”

Did this custodian believe he was in a job, or had a calling? Clearly he had a calling, which was to help heal patients. A job and a calling are vastly different. Our calling as leaders is to help our employees live out their calling at work. There are three things which can help make this happen.

  1. Vision: Cast and communicate a clear, compelling and exciting vision.
  2. Alignment: Deploy the right people with the right skills and passion to achieve your vision. Link employee and manager goals with organizational goals which achieve vision.
  3. Resources: Ensure every employee is working within their calling and understands how it contributes to achieving the vision.


Vision: Do you know where your organization is going? As a leader, you may know it in your head, but if we asked all employees to write it down would they come up with the same answer? If not, get help from a skilled strategic planner. (GoalSpan can help you here). If you have a clear and compelling vision, do you communicate it fervently and with consistency?

Alignment: Does your budget reflect your organization’s will to achieve its vision? Often, we say we want to do things but we do not devote the time, talent and treasure to achieving them. Do you have the right people with the right competency in the right positions? Are you taking inventory of this periodically and making tough decisions to realign when necessary?

Resources: Ask each employee if they understand how important their job is in the company. E.g. delivery drivers are not just driving trucks, they are “delivering happiness with each order.” Call-center associates have an opportunity to “make each customer’s day a little brighter than it was before they called.”

These practices are pretty simple but the challenge is they are not easy to implement. They require a level of intentionality and “proactiveness” that is scarce today. If you are fully committed, however and you apply these practices correctly and consistently, they will result in higher levels of engagement, morale, purpose and ultimately operating income. Small change always yields big results.

January 04, 2018

The Importance of Aligning Goals

Low Hanging Fruit: Aligning Employee Goals with Company Strategic Goals

Three statistics reveal a startling disconnect in HR management.

  1. More than 60% of low-performing organizations do not compensate and reward their employees based on their performance. (1)
  2. 66% of organizations do not create employee goals which are aligned to the organization's vision. (2)
  3. Only 7% of employees really understand how their own work supports their company's business strategies. (3)

Each of these statistic indicates big opportunities that are often missed in organizations. These opportunities are low hanging fruit and to harvest this fruit requires attitudinal and business process shifts rather than significant spending on IT infrastructure.

Benefits of Aligning Employee Goals with Business Strategies

Aligning employee goals with business strategies is an often promoted concept, but the statistics indicate it is rarely implemented. Implementation is uncommon due to a lack of understanding of the tangible benefits that result. Organizations focus on urgent tasks which are often less important while not understanding the opportunity cost of inaction. Those companies that do implement experience substantial benefits.

Primary benefits are derived in three key areas: reduced operating costs, improved management and reduced employee turnover.

Reduced Operating Costs

A study published by Workforce Intelligence identified a "strong correlation between a company's financial performance and an effective goal setting process."(4)  Such a process enables coordinated employee actions in a uniform direction, rather than contradictory efforts that waste resources. Moreover, employees who see how their work increases their company's success, find ways to amplify that success by working more efficiently. (5) These companies clearly understand the premise in Jim Collins' and Jerry Porras' famous quotation "Building a visionary company requires one percent vision and 99 percent alignment."

Improved Management

By creating employee goals so their achievement furthers company strategies, managers are better able to

  • See how each employee contributes to achieving specific company goals
  • Measure how work is progressing
  • Discover duplicative work efforts (5)

This information enables managers and employees to more clearly see and talk about what is and isn't working well in achieving goals. This leads to increased employee engagement, which results in improved profitability. Companies with high-engagement levels enjoy an operating margin that is 17.5% higher than those with low-engagement. (6)

Reduced Employee Turnover

When employees clearly understand what is expected of them, see how their activities impact company success, own the results of their work, and know they are being rewarded for their actions, turnover rates go down and productivity rates go up. (7) Reduced turnover rates generate significant company cost savings. Long-term employees individually embody significant pools of assets within the company. Companies have invested hiring, training, and sometimes retention costs while employees have gained expert knowledge of their jobs and company. Their replacement can cost up to an estimated 213% of the employee's wages. (8)

Harvesting the Fruit Since few companies invest the time and effort necessary to align goals and strategies, companies that follow the steps below gain a very cost-effective strategic advantage over their competitors.

Leaders identify business vision and strategic goals - Once the organization's vision has been cast, create high-level strategic goals and strategies to realize the vision. 

Business stakeholders and HR cascade strategic goals into employee goals - Business stakeholders work with HR to ensure the goals and strategies at each company level are directly tied to and support the goals and strategies above them. (9)

Managers manage employee goals - In many organizations, managers often think employees value good wages most. In reality, employees primarily value full appreciation for work done. (10)  In other words, employees most want feedback. This requires managers and employees to document performance throughout the year, not solely rely on memory when preparing reviews. The latter almost always leads to

  • Lack of knowledge about the employee's actual performance levels
  • A less relevant performance review caused by recency
  • Decreased morale and increased frustration about the review process
  • Missing or less relevant growth and development goals

Implementing the steps above ensures your company harvests the fruit which the opening statistics reveal most companies leave laden on the low branches.



(1) i4cp, “Tying Pay to Performance,” 2011
(2)Watson Wyatt, “Aligning Rewards with the Changing Employment Deal”, 2007.
(3) Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton, “The Strategy-Focused Organization”, Harvard Business School Press, 2001.
(4) How Smart HCM Drives Financial Performance,” Workforce Intelligence Institute & SuccessFactors, 2006.
(5) Driving Success: The Incredible Power of Company-Wide Goal Alignment, HR Insider Series, SuccessFactors, 2007.
(6) Towers Watson: Global Workforce Study, 2012
(7) Managers Lose Talent When They Neglect to Coach Their Staffs, Wall Street Journal, March 19, 2007.
(8) The Center for American Progress.
(9) Mollie Lombardi and Madeline Laurano, Human Capital Management Trends 2013: It’s a Brave New World, Aberdeen Group, Inc., January 2013.
(10) Foreman Facts, Labor Relations Institute of NY (1946); Lawrence Lindahl, Personnel Magazine (1949). Repeated with similar results: Ken Kovach (1980); Valerie Wilson, Achievers International (1988),Bob Nelson, Blanchard Training & Development (1991), Sheryl & Don Grimme, GHR Training Solutions(1997-2001)

June 06, 2017

New GoalSpan Partnership with BambooHR

We are excited to announce GoalSpan's integrated partnership with a new strategic partner, BambooHR. Part of this relationship includes joining the BambooHR Marketplace and ecosystem. You will find GoalSpan's listing on this page.

BambooHR is the online Human Resources Information System (HRIS) that makes time for the work you were meant to do. We are excited to be integrated with this favored HRIS provider, because like GoalSpan, BambooHR is powerfully easy to use. Employee records added or updated in BambooHR are automatically pushed to GoalSpan every 15-minutes. Now you can avoid the hassle of maintaining multiple databases, all the while enjoying best in class software for both HRIS and Performance Management.

Click these links to take a test drive of BambooHR's Home Page or to receive a Live Demo.

May 04, 2017

Attributes of a Great Leader and Teammate

Even if you're not a sports fan, it's hard to avoid the media frenzy around the Golden State Warriors. Why are so many people attracted to what they see in this team and its exceptional players? It seems to go far beyond athletic talent, and is deeply rooted in the way they treat each other and their tenacious focus on a common goal.

Stephan Curry could easily be honored with the NBA's Most Valuable Player award again in 2017. When he was honored with this award in 2016, a press conference was held to ask him questions about this amazing accomplishment. I most appreciated the last question of the interview, which came from a young boy who was clearly a fan. He simply asked Steph Curry "What does it take to be great teammate?" The impressive thing was that Steph’s response is the stuff that we go to business school for. He answered, "That's a great question. You've got to be unselfish, know that the team is bigger than individual success. You've got to have that trust in each other. You've got to care about each other and be committed to whatever your goal is as a team. Everybody has a role and everybody has a part in the team’s success."

In four sentences he clearly articulated the critical ingredients for success:

  • Humility
  • Vision
  • Trust
  • Commitment
  • Alignment

There is a "gut" feeling many people have that attracts them to the Warriors (and especially Stephan Curry). Much of this feeling is rooted in how he answered the boy’s question at the MVP awards in 2016. He described Critical competencies are required for success, whether it’s in sports or business. Those competencies must be undergirded with a culture and core values which support the achievement of big picture vision – in this case the goal of achieving an NBA Championship. The MVP award is not the goal, but the bi-product of doing a lot of other things right.

So let's take a card from the playbook of the most valuable player, and an extremely successful Warriors organization. If we make sure we are crystal clear on our vision, values, and action plans, then we support that with the best people who can advance those core values and success is the by-product.

December 28, 2016

Performance Management: A Case for Change

A talented and skilled workforce is the key to any organization. Performance management guides employee behavior to align with organizational goals. This happens because job responsibilities and expectations are clear and lead to increased productivity. Better information results in improved compensation and promotion decisions.

The performance management system

Performance management systems help an organization with employee decision-making and employee development. Decision making uses appraisal information as a basis for pay increases, promotions, transfers, assignments or reductions in force. Performance development uses appraisal information to guide training, job experiences, mentoring and other developmental activities. These two activities should not take place at the same time. Pay discussions need to be separate from performance, training and development discussions. When these activities are combined, individuals walk away with only a memory of the pay decision and do not remember growth opportunities that were discussed.

Key traits of a successful system

A prerequisite for success is getting commitment and support by executives at all levels. This sends a strong message internally and externally about the valued behaviors. If the organization does not have a strong performance management culture, educating the executive team on their crucial role in leading the process and the importance of performance management may be needed. One way of accomplishing this is to involve key individuals in the design and implementation process. Another way is to pilot the new system with the executive team. To implement a new system successfully: communicate to all employees the advantages and rationale for a new system; train managers on the purpose of the review and how to effectively conduct one; and continuously review the process to ensure it is accomplishing objectives. 

Benefits of ongoing performance management

To create an empowered and skilled workforce companies need to go beyond reviewing employee achievements. Judgment should not be the sole focus of a performance system, but it should also emphasize ongoing support and improvement. An effective ongoing performance management process will:

• Drive business results and profitability: In order to give employees an understanding of where they fit into the company and how they contribute to the overall organization. Create company goals that cascade down through the company to individual goals. Aligning your workforce in this manner sets clear priorities and direction for each individual. It saves money and time by providing a clear path to achieve your mission. This promotes a focus on key business results and produces a financial gain which is not achieved without performance management.

• Improve management and coaching: Employees as well as managers need to understand how they fit into the big picture. This includes who and what they are supposed to manage. Allowing the manager to set goals with the employee and adjust goals as need saves the manager time. It also allows the manager to identify gaps in employee skill sets and offers a solution through consistent feedback and coaching, so the employee can achieve their goals.

• Promote job satisfaction and motivate your workforce: An effective employee performance management program will improve retention of your best employees, more quickly identify your lowest performers, and ensure everyone in-between gets the coaching, guidance and development opportunities they need to do their best work. By providing maximum opportunities for career growth there is a positive influence on employee loyalty. This also facilitates a relationship based on trust and empowerment between the employee and manager which improves overall organizational performance.


The main objective of a performance management system is to promote and improve employee effectiveness. With the support of the executive team and ongoing coaching, employees meet their company and career objectives. Performance management is an essential tool for companies who want to increase productivity and profitability. For more information on performance management, please visit contact us at

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