How Three Engineering Managers Translate Personal Goals Into Company Success

Communication is key as team leaders look to grow contributors’ skills while excelling as a team.
Written by Robert Schaulis
September 2, 2022Updated: December 5, 2022

In an ideal world, balancing professional growth with company goals wouldn’t be a challenge. Projects would come into motion steadily in tandem with a quarterly skill-building exercise. Deadlines wouldn’t present impediments to onboarding or training. Coursework wouldn’t impinge on a delicate work-life balance. And promotions would proceed with the regularity of running water.  

In actuality, though, negotiating company goals and personal goals is work. One can’t set sail without rudder and expect favorable winds to carry them to their destination. In the same way that a sailor needs to trim sails and operate their tiller, an engineer needs to be intentional about developing the skills and staying abreast of the technology that will help them reach their personal goals. When individual and company goals do seem to align seamlessly, it’s usually a testament to the ample thought and preparation afforded those goals by management and company leadership.

Thankfully, an engineering team is not an angry sea, and engineering managers are working scrupulously to provide the propulsive tailwinds and friendly currents that assure successes at both the personal and team level. 

Built In Chicago recently spoke with three engineering leaders about the challenges of aligning personal goals with company goals and the best practices assuring that engineers develop their talents while contributing to their team’s success.  

 

Amy Allman
Vice President, Systems and Design

 

A key part of online industrial supply company McMaster-Carr’s continued success is maintaining clear expectations and aligning individual contributors’ goals with the greater goals of the company.

“At McMaster-Carr, we believe that alignment between individual and company goals can lead to a more engaged workforce that contributes high-quality work,” said Amy Allman, vice president of systems and design. “Our managers are expected to contribute to maintaining this alignment.”

By clearly communicating expectations and staying apprised of team members’ individual and team goals, Allman and other leaders at McMaster-Carr are able to help employees advance their careers while accomplishing company goals. 

 

In your experience, what are the best ways to create and maintain alignment between an individual’s goals, hopes and expectations and the broader goals of the company?

We must set clear expectations from the get-go. We communicate our goals for McMaster-Carr and what individuals can expect of a career with us in our recruiting conversations, during our structured company onboarding and through regular check-ins.

Listening to employees’ desires and concerns is a significant part of McMaster-Carr’s culture. Maintaining alignment requires leadership to understand the individual’s goals.

A mutually beneficial tactic we use on the systems engineering team is our annual interest survey. All engineering employees share the domains and technologies they are interested in learning or contributing to and the people who they are interested in working with, and they can also share their goals for the coming year. Engineering leadership uses these responses to staff teams that align company needs with individuals’ interests. Most individuals are placed on teams that align with their interests. We have conversations with all engineers about new team placements to ensure they understand the decision and how we think they can achieve their goals through the role.

 

How can managers get more proactive about ensuring misalignment between individual and company goals doesn’t develop?

Managers must understand each individual’s goals and desires by participating in conversations and other development activities. Managers are then responsible for assigning team members to work that balances learning opportunities with the need to achieve project results. Throughout the course of a project, managers use project plans to connect the work of individuals to our broader company and project goals.

Managers also encourage individuals to be curious about our systems and our business. Individuals are given time to participate in our organization’s technical guilds, reading groups and engineering talks and to attend conferences. These initiatives are highlighted annually in our Great Tech Employer plan. By staying abreast of employees’ involvement in these activities, managers can continue to develop their understanding of the employee’s goals and advocate for aligning their interests with company needs.

Managers are then responsible for assigning team members to work that balances learning opportunities with the need to achieve project results.

 

Why is it important to ensure individual and company goals remain aligned?

At McMaster-Carr, we believe that alignment between individual and company goals can lead to a more engaged workforce that contributes high-quality work. Our managers are expected to contribute to maintaining this alignment. First, managers must develop an understanding of individuals’ goals and desires through conversations and other development activities. Managers are then responsible for assigning teammates to work that balances learning opportunities for the individual with the need to achieve project results. 

 

 

Amanda Bolander
Engineering Manager

 

Everspring’s edtech platform allows educators and institutions to build and deliver online and hybrid courses. The company takes an expansive approach to career growth that involves career planning worksheets, constant conversation with managers and a focus on learning new skills. 

“As technologists, any individual learning that we do makes our team stronger. For example, while some goals — like learning a programming language that we aren’t currently using — don’t affect our bottom line today, they do offer a different perspective and might open the doors to change tomorrow,” said Engineering Manager Amanda Bolander. 

 

In your experience, what are the best ways to create and maintain alignment between an individual’s goals, hopes and expectations and the broader goals of the company?

Everspring’s company standard is to provide each team member with company and team goals before having individuals set personal goals for the year so that they can contribute in a way that makes sense for their role.  

The tech team takes it a step further by having each team member fill out a career and growth planning worksheet. This worksheet allows each individual to outline a career mission statement, long-term and short-term goals, areas where they might need training and any outside activities that may contribute to their career aspirations. This exercise helps us managers understand why each person has the goals that they do and where they are hoping to take their career. It also allows me to help them find opportunities within Everspring that contribute to this growth.

 

How can managers get more proactive about ensuring misalignment between individual and company goals doesn’t develop?

Throughout the year, things come up, priorities shift and sometimes we forget to talk about professional development and alignment. The best way that I have found to prevent this kind of misalignment is to bring the topic up during one-on-one sessions and have routine check-ins where we revisit team members’ annual goals as well as the career mission statements.

As technologists, any individual learning that we do makes our team stronger.

 

Why is it important to ensure individual and company goals remain aligned?

As we grow, our priorities change, and what we want our career to look like can also change. It is important for team members to have frequent conversations with their manager to provide insight into the overall goals of the company and team. Otherwise, it can lead individuals to feel as though they aren’t getting the growth that they need, which will ultimately lead to turnover. 

We want to make sure our teammates feel supported in their journey, and we also have to make sure we are doing right by the company. As technologists, any individual learning that we do makes our team stronger. For example, while some goals — like learning a programming language that we aren’t currently using — don’t affect our bottom line today, they do offer a different perspective and might open the doors to change tomorrow.

 

 

Snapsheet office
Snapsheet

 

Aunss Gheyouche
Engineering Manager

 

At Snapsheet, managers have made aligning individual and greater goals a serious priority. The insurance technology company’s engineering team puts a premium on clarity of communication — noting that the effective articulation of goals and objectives has outsized dividends in the way of company culture and teamwide outcomes.

“There are so many benefits from having individual and company goals aligned — increased transparency, employee engagement, evidence-based management and improved team performance,” said Aunss Gheyouche, engineering manager. 

 

In your experience, what are the best ways to create and maintain alignment between an individual’s goals, hopes and expectations and the broader goals of the company?

We have tried a couple of approaches within the company, one of them being objective and key results. What’s worked best for me is leveraging the two-way communication I have with upper leadership and my reports. I’ve tried to foster an environment where my team can bring feedback to me, and I then bring that feedback to upper management. This allows us to be aligned on what we are trying to achieve.

When company goals are shared, it is my job to pay close attention to those goals and translate them into targets for each member of my team. My team has a vision and a roadmap; I use that roadmap to identify opportunities for each of my team members. I know where my members are in terms of growth, so during our one-on-one meetings, we can review company goals and decide which goal will help them grow. Together we determine how we will measure the success of my team reports. The best way to keep alignment on goals and expectations boils down to communication between all the parties involved.

 

How can managers get more proactive about ensuring misalignment between individual and company goals doesn’t develop?

Managers have the responsibility to check that company goals haven’t changed on a regular basis — and check that each individual on his or her team has a clear understanding of their personal goals and how they fit with current company goals. By regularly asking those questions and looking at team members’ progress, we ensure alignment between individual and company goals. 

I also try to reach consensus on what should be delivered at the end of the quarter through our quarterly review process. The individual contributor and I agree on what should be delivered, how and why it should be delivered and how these goals align with the company’s broader goals. With that agreement in place, we have a clear idea of where we are going, and we’ve set agreed-upon expectations and how they will be measured.

Extreme clarity on goals is something I try to achieve within my team. I think it’s easy to get lost in the wording of specific goals, so being as clear as possible is crucial. I would rewrite individual goals until both parties have a clear understanding and have a well-defined process related to those goals and the measure and tracking of them.

Extreme clarity on goals is something I try to achieve within my team.

 

Why is it important to ensure individual and company goals remain aligned?

Laying down proper goals that align with company goals creates transparency on what we are trying to do and how employee performance will be measured. Employee engagement increases when team members feel they are doing meaningful work toward a shared goal that the company values, which leads to greater job satisfaction as well.

This also allows me to access metrics to assess individual performance, which is critical to a fair and just review. From there, I can make the right decision when it comes to my reports’ career and growth plan.

Last but not least, this alignment boosts the entire team’s performance in many ways. We end up with a concrete plan for what needs to be accomplished and how that will be measured. By tracking progress on a regular basis, we ensure that we are moving toward a successful quarter, and we can course correct to address low performance.

 

 

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