Knowledge workers feel out of step with their own organisation

Many knowledge workers don’t feel they share common goals with their employer and colleagues, according to a study of 17,000 people by Slack. The State of Work Report summarises the findings, including the effect of this feeling of a lack of ‘alignment’ on organisational and personal performance and the role of technology in aligning people around shared goals.

The report claims that many people want to confront this challenge, but need support. It concludes that “in a world of increasing automation and complexity, a human-first approach can still be the most strategic of all”.

The report claims that one in ten knowledge workers worldwide feel out of alignment with their employer, although in the UK it is as high as 15 percent.  Just a third agree with the notion that they share the same vision as the rest of the company.

The report claims that those who feel more aligned are also more optimistic about the organisation’s objectives and tend to be more focused on higher value activities. Aligned workers are almost twice as likely to expect “significant growth” in terms of both jobs and profitability, compared to unaligned colleagues. Conversely, unaligned workers are three times more likely to expect the significant falls in the both revenue and headcount.


Key findings

  • 1 in 10 global knowledge workers believe they are ‘unaligned’ – putting them at odds with their company’s strategy, vision and operating principles. This represents 38.5 million knowledge workers.
    • 15 percent of UK workers believe they are completely unaligned with their organisation’s mission.
  • Qualities of unaligned workers include:
    • Only 34 percent believe teams are working toward a shared vision
    • 70 percent of aligned workers “agree” or “strongly agree” that they would like to feel more aligned with their company’s vision, values and operating principles.
  • Aligned workers are the most connected to a company’s vision and strategy, approaching their work with optimistic purpose and more likely to focus on high-value business activities.
    • Globally, 90 percent know what success looks like and understand what they need to do to be successful
    • 86 percent understand their company’s strategy and 88 percent have a clear understanding of how their day-to-day work contributes to their company’s strategy
  • The difference between aligned and unaligned workers has a significant impact on business prospects.
    • Aligned workers in the UK are nearly 2x as likely as unaligned workers to expect “significant growth” in their company’s revenue and workforce.
    • Unaligned workers in the UK are 3x more likely than aligned workers to expect “significant decline” in their company’s revenue and growth
  • Organisations can nurture alignment through a clear and frequently communicated strategy and a thoughtful approach to information overload.

The benefits of an aligned workforce are readily apparent. The catch is that aligned workers are already inundated:

  • Aligned employees are the most likely to have 10 or more meetings a day and the most likely to send or receive hourly emails, messages and phone calls.
  • Additionally, 64 percent of aligned workers report spending 30 minutes or more switching between apps each day.
  • And things aren’t slowing down. Eighty-one percent of aligned employees report using more apps than they did five years ago.
  • 73 percent expect the number of apps they need to use to increase further


Two paths

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Aligned workers are simply more excited about their organisation’s future prospects and feel empowered to make strategic decisions and take action[/perfectpullquote]

The report concludes that: “We can find ourselves on one of two distinct paths at work: aligned or unaligned. If we’re aligned with our company’s vision, values and ways of working, things are generally great. According to the data, aligned workers are simply more excited about their organisation’s future prospects and feel empowered to make strategic decisions and take action.”

We crave connection to the big picture. Understanding the big picture is no longer solely the domain of executives. Our analysis showed that without insight into a wider vision, we struggle to connect and collaborate. When we’re not in sync with our company’s goals, we tend to feel more pessimistic about where our company is headed, and that’s reflected in our perception and experience of our workplace across a wide range of factors, from collaboration to productivity to compensation.”

Fortunately, alignment is not a finite resource. It’s available to all of us, worldwide, and through fairly simple solutions, especially considering the complexity of work today.”

Companies can set a clear strategic vision and communicate it frequently. We can adopt tools and techniques to navigate the daunting flow of information we face every day. And perhaps most importantly, we can continue to engage each other in the tasks that only we, as humans, can do well.”