Employee engagement has become the standard for understanding how employees feel about working at your organization. Organizational alignment is the next step in evolution beyond engagement.  

Organizational alignment and employee engagement both have their place. But if you want to see increases in performance and metrics, you want to look at measures that are organizationally focused, not employee focused.  

The differences add up 

Here are specific areas in which organizational alignment differs from employee engagement — and can affect the bottom line. 

Organizational alignment adds purpose 

Organizational alignment takes employee engagement and adds a layer of purpose.  
 
Employees may like what they do, but are their roles deeply connected to the reason the organization exists? To take an extreme example, say you hire someone to take nails out of boards to repurpose the wood. If they spend their days enthusiastically driving more nails into the boards, they may be highly engaged, but they are not serving the organization’s purpose. 
 
Clearly defining the role that your team has in making the mission and vision of the organization live and breathe takes everything to the next level. 

Organizational alignment is more relevant to your primary
business concerns
 

Most of the questions you ask about your business are actually central to organizational alignment, not employee engagement, even if that doesn’t seem apparent at first glance. 
 
For example, employee turnover is a significant concern for most organizations. It’s well known that most people leave their jobs because of their bosses. They may say that their boss was a micromanager, didn’t respect them, or didn’t have a clue. However, in the thousands of surveys we’ve conducted, we’ve seen that there’s a massive gap in the communication of mission and vision from second- to third-level leadership and below. And connecting the organization’s mission and vision to the daily execution of work tasks is what keeps people engaged in, excited about, and committed to their work. These “bad bosses” are actually not getting the support they need.

This is an organizational alignment problem, not an employee engagement problem. 

Organizational alignment better connects departments and
functions in a common purpose
 

Employee engagement only examines whether the individual is excited about and connected to his or her work. It does not address how to drive better cross-team performance and connection.  
 
Organizational alignment, on the other hand, focuses on mission and vision. It brings a common thread, a common frequency, and a common purpose to all functions and departments.  
 
When the top managers lead, communicate, and create in accordance with a shared mission and vision, the destructive conflict lower down in the organization is drastically reduced. 

Organizational alignment better relates to metrics and key
performance indicators 

Organization leaders commonly perform employee engagement surveys. However, they are often unable to connect changes in employee engagement to changes in performance. There’s only a sense of faith that employee engagement will lead to greater performance.  
 
Organizational alignment ties much more directly to issues that apply to the organization as a whole. Therefore, it connects much more clearly to operational metrics that measure organizational success.  

Key takeaways 

To add purpose to your employee engagement, look holistically at the questions and problems you’re trying to address. Connect departments and functions with a shared mission and vision. Then tie it all to the operational metrics that you care about — metrics that matter. That’s powerful stuff. 
 
Use these strategic approaches and ask relevant questions to take employee engagement up a notch so that it strengthens your organizational alignment: 

  1. Better utilize employee surveys. If you do conduct employee engagement surveys, think about how you actually use them to change your leadership style and the way your team interacts with other teams. What is the process like for you in that? Do you see any substantive changes as a result of these surveys? 
  2. Share results to promote a common purpose. If you’ve done employee engagement surveys, what’s been the process between you and your boss, or between you and HR, to put together conclusions that can be shared throughout the entire organization with a common language?  
  3. Learn from your data. When you look at some of your key performance indicators, especially those that involve working with other teams, what can you learn by digging more deeply into these numbers and the true reasons behind them? 

Art Johnson’s new book is The Art of Alignment: A Data-Driven Approach to Lead Aligned Organizations.