Can this simple change to onboarding improve alignment?

Before we talk about onboarding, how about a good, short story?

President Kennedy was visiting NASA. During his tour, he walked over to a janitor who was mopping the floor, and asked him what he was doing. The janitor responded, “Mr. President, I’m helping to put a man on the moon.”

That janitor felt that was he was doing – mopping floors -  was genuinely helping NASA to achieve its goal – to successfully send an astronaut to the moon.  It’s fair to say he was strongly aligned with NASA’s goal.

The challenge to getting employees aligned

Companies run more efficiently and are more effective when its employees are aligned with the business goals.  But building this alignment is often a challenge, because employees may have preconceived notions about their roles and the impact they have.  And creating alignment can involve changing those views. And change?  Well, it’s never easy.

But how about taking this approach:  Avoid the need to need to change.  Create the alignment before preconceptions take root.  Give an employee a clear line of vision from their role to the company’s goals, before the employee has a chance to establish their own views and preconceived notions.

That means creating the alignment when the employee’s mind is most open, and a “clean sheet of paper.”

According to Lois Miller, Group Head of HR and Solutions at MasterCard, “Employees will never be more in love with your organization than the day they start work. And one of the primary goals of a good onboarding program is to maintain that enthusiasm.”

What better time to create alignment, that when the employee is enamored with the organization?!

Onboarding - the right time to align

Add a step to the onboarding process that very purposefully establishes alignment.  Have the hiring manager – or someone more senior – sit down with the new-hire to literally connect the dots from what he or she does, to the organizational outcomes.

For that NASA janitor, for example, that may mean literally drawing out a map that connects clean floors with a positive appearance of the physical workplace.  Then connecting that positive physical appearance to the positive state of mind in the NASA employees.  Then connect that positive state of mind to an increased ability to think creatively and solve complex problems.  And the ability to solve complex problems is what’s required to successfully put a man on the moon.

All the dots connect, and the employee has a clear vision of his or her role, to the organizational outcomes.  That’s alignment.

This exercise of connecting the dots for alignment can be easily incorporated into the onboarding process for all employees.  It may be tempting to limit the exercise to “higher value” employees who are higher up in the organization, but that would be a mistake.

According to Seth Godin, taking steps to create alignment at the lower levels of the organization can be especially important.  Because the lower levels are “not the bottom; they’re the foundation.”