By: Leslie Stevens-Huffman
Line-of-sight refers to employees having a greater visibility on how they are contributing to your organization’s success. Moreover, connecting contract engineers, as well as employees, to a project’s mission and your firm’s business strategy increases engagement and the likelihood of success. In fact, Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace report states that companies with engaged employees and engaged customers enjoy a 240 percent jump in performance-related business outcomes compared to those with neither engaged workers nor engaged customers.
However, only 20 percent of workers say they understand how their tasks relate to the organization’s goals and strategies according to expert Stephen Covey and maintaining line-of-sight can be challenging when contract professionals come and go throughout the course of a project.
“Don’t underestimate the impact of contract professionals on a project, especially if they have direct contact with customers,” said Ed Krow, principal of Implementation Management Group. “Engineering managers can reap the benefits of alignment by securing a contractor’s buy-in from the outset.”
Make it Personal
Outline the goals of the project and the contractor’s role during the vetting process. Describe the project’s impact on stakeholders and explain how it supports your firm’s strategy to ensure that contractors are a good fit both technically and culturally.
“Contractors need to be vested in the outcome of the project from day one,” said Krow. “Propose a benefit or some sort of hook to secure a contractor’s commitment and create a shared vision.”
Factors that influence an employee’s level of engagement vary per individual. Perks that resonate with contractors might include the promise of future work, referrals and recommendations, the opportunity to acquire marketable skills or earn a bonus.
“I believe in tying deliverables to pay whether the workers are regular employees or contractors,” Krow added. “Offering professionals incentives tied to project timelines, budgets or other benchmarks can significantly boost productivity and results.”
Model the Way
Engineering leaders are responsible for translating how specific initiatives, tasks and projects contribute to the organization’s success.
“The key to being a good role model is sharing information with the entire staff and tying daily project updates, goals and the attainment of milestones to the bigger picture,” says Cindy Stuckey, CEO of Making Performance Matter. “Line-of-sight requires constant communication and reinforcement. When in doubt, employees take their lead from their manager’s words and behaviors.”
Other best practices include sharing your personal goals with your entire team to foster a culture of ownership and accountability. Build cascading organizational objectives by mapping them across the organizational structure and various project teams. Write personal notes and meet with individual engineers and project teams to reinforce why their work is important to stakeholders and how it is helping to further the organization’s mission.
Execution can become misaligned with the firm’s strategic goals in dynamic, project-oriented environments. When you have superb alignment, anyone could drop into your organization and see how their daily activities benefit stakeholders and support the company’s mission.
Although most managers have the best intentions, they fail to maintain line-of-sight because they don’t have a “way to manage the pieces,” Stuckey says. “Managers need a defined management process and visual reporting tools to maintain focus and to integrate their organization’s strategy with the daily activities of their employees,” she adds.
That’s why more professional service firms are utilizing automated tools and web-based performance management programs that link organizational business goals and initiatives to the execution of daily activities. A web-based system makes it easy to adapt goals on-the-fly and allows everyone to view and monitor progress.
If time and budgets are tight, any process or tool that closes the gap between strategy and execution can help busy engineering managers maintain alignment. Examples include strategy maps, cascading scorecards and dashboards. However, employing an effective goal setting process that creates specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely (SMART) goals for full-time engineers as well as contractors is a simple, easy way to support alignment.
“Engagement tends to soar when contractors and full-time staff see how their individual and team contributions relate to the bigger picture vision,” Krow said. “Developing a performance-based system that encompasses the activities of diverse personnel is a logical first step in converting plans into actions that ensure the achievement of strategic objectives and goals.”
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