Industry Insights

Why setting goals and creating clarity are key to better business in the UK

The last year and a half has really tested how well organisations in the UK—and around the world—are able to communicate goals and create clarity for their teams. Without strong goals to work towards together, teams flounder and can’t do their best work, especially considering the amount of sudden change and stress people have experienced.

Here’s an example:

Asana’s Anatomy of Work Index discovered that 61% of people’s time in the UK is spent on work about work—tasks like searching for information, attending status update meetings, or sifting through email threads—rather than the skilled work they were hired to do. Not only is work about work cutting into productive time, it has other serious consequences:

  • 26% of deadlines are missed
  • 87% of employees work late
  • 157 hours a year are spent in unnecessary meetings
  • 227 hours a year spent on duplicated work

How do we solve these problems and help teams be more productive? As I’ve seen in my own career, a lot of it comes down to clarity throughout the team and company. When employees lack the bigger picture of how their work ladders up to the company’s mission, they become more disconnected and disengaged. In fact, over a third of employees (36%) say that knowing how their work adds value to the business is key for motivating them to deliver their best work.

Although saying “clarity is key” may sound like an easy remedy, the real question is, how do you actually give everyone the clarity they need?

I know that having the correct collaboration stack is a critical part of connecting the dots and keeping employees engaged. But it isn’t about having a ton of tools at your team’s fingertips—it is about having the right tool (or set of tools). That’s one reason I was so excited to join Asana, even though I had to do so remotely and in the middle of a pandemic. Having all of our collaboration in one work management tool—Asana—helped create alignment and efficiency across our organisation even when I couldn’t meet my new team in person.

What company-wide clarity solves (especially for distributed teams)

Without the natural flow of information that takes place in an office, staying aligned can be even harder. When we have distributed teams, we need to be more intentional about coordination to ensure nothing falls through the cracks. We also need to ensure teams have the same access to information, whether they are in the office, at home, or hybrid.

When teams lack alignment and information, two things happen:

  • Overwhelmed employees: We know, for example, that 75% of knowledge workers in the UK experienced burnout in 2019 and missed 21% of deadlines each week. On top of that, there’s increasing noise from the number of apps each employee uses. In the UK, knowledge workers switch between 10 apps 26 times a day, making focus and flow extremely difficult to achieve on an individual level and scattering information throughout technological silos.

    Streamlining that tech suite and ensuring it is well integrated is key to managing work effectively on both the team and organisational level. If people are battling just to keep on top of deadlines or endless notifications, they don’t have the headspace to create clarity or set meaningful goals.
  • Goals change and go uncommunicated: Especially since the onset of the pandemic, many company goals have had to change—and continue changing.

    Frequent changes pose two problems. First, as an employee, it is difficult to know if and when goals have changed. Second, even if employees do know what their goals are, few organisations are effective at setting and then communicating how those changes affect teams and people. No wonder employees feel disengaged. Why do companies have trouble communicating goals and changes effectively? I think it is partly due to using the wrong tools. We found that the majority of leaders and organisations still rely on email to track goals, rather than a dedicated work management platform like Asana.

By consolidating your collaboration tech stack and getting goals out of email, organisations can make strides in creating alignment across all teams, helping alleviate overwhelmed employees and communicate changing goals. But how does this look in practice?

What company-wide clarity looks like

One Asana customer I love to talk about is Awin, the world’s largest provider of affiliate marketing. They’ve been a leader in this area of creating clarity and have transformed the way they work dramatically.

We first connected with them because the company needed a way to collaborate and coordinate work more effectively given the rapid acceleration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Plus, they had set an ambitious goal to make a four-day work week reality for everyone in the company.

Over time Awin grew its Asana usage to nearly 900 users of their 1,100 employees to manage all types of projects worldwide. Across the business, Asana created a huge increase in transparency and boosted cross departmental coordination. Automation features, in particular, have helped eliminate routine tasks like status updates for many people across the company, cutting out a lot of work about work.

Overall, the increased transparency offered by Asana has been a huge win for Awin. Being able to see project plans end-to-end and visualize which tasks are dependent on one another has allowed employees to better manage their work and resources. It’s now easier for global teams to communicate and cross-departmental coordination has significantly improved.

Ultimately, Asana has helped Awin to pilot its goal of becoming a four-day-week company at a time when many knowledge workers at other businesses were struggling simply to keep their heads above water. Although other companies may not be ready for a four-day work week, what they can learn from Awin is how to establish clear processes to streamline work across the organisation.

Want to learn more about the importance of clarity in an organisation? Watch Simon O’Kane’s 15-minute webinar with Computer Weekly.

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