In many companies, managers and other leaders assign goals to employees, then sit back and wait for results. This passive approach sometimes ends up with missed deadlines, incomplete work on projects, and a generalized disappointment in the employee’s lack of productivity.
This outcome could be the result of too much top-down goal setting, as opposed to involving employees in the process.
Is setting goals for employees really worth the effort needed for success? Only if you believe, as the talent management platform ClearCompany suggests, that goals “increase productivity, boost employee communication, create managerial accountability, and challenge top performers.” Furthermore, goals enable employees “to know where to focus and spend their time, which projects deserve more energy and attention,” and when these goals are achieved, serve “as a concrete example to prove their value to the company.”
If setting employee goals has so far resulted in less-than-optimum outcomes, consider these action tips for turning the process around:
Make sure employee and organizational goals are aligned.
How well do employees understand the company’s strategic plan for growth? In businesses, there’s frequently a disconnect between how employees and leadership see the company’s vision, and therefore individual and organizational goals are misaligned.
Instead, the emphasis should always be on setting goals that “are tied to the overall growth strategy of the company in order for them to be as effective as possible,” notes CBT Automotive Network. Employees with a concrete grasp of how their jobs fit into the broader scheme of things “will be more motivated and focused to achieve success” for themselves and their employer.
Collaborate on designating attainable goals.
When goal setting is only top-down in nature, the objectives may seem completely out of whack to the individuals charged with attaining them. “Sell every widget possible,” for example, is both too vague and too unattainable a goal for employees. Instead, have managers meet one-on-one with employees to put together realistic, attainable goals that benefit the organization and inspire individuals to do more.
Encourage setting SMART goals.
By now, everyone’s familiar with the SMART goal-setting model:
Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely
These elements should always be part of the collaborative goal-setting process. Invite employees to come up with 2-3 SMART goals on their own. In conversation, look to see where their goals align with goals you deem fundamentally necessary to company growth. Where these goals overlap the most is a good place to start.
Discuss how achieving goals supports career ambitions.
Many employees have ambitions about moving ahead within the organization. Both as a goal-setting tool and a retention strategy, seek opportunities to highlight how individual goals support the employee’s career advancement process. An in-depth conversation about where the employee wants to be (in a year, in five years, etc.) and what added skills are needed to get there can keep him or her more engaged in their job and contribute with greater enthusiasm to the organization.
Celebrate victories, large and small.
Part of the collaborative process includes celebrating when individual/organizational goals are achieved. Here again, work with employees to designate achievable goals. As Entrepreneur notes, “Taking baby steps and celebrating small wins that culminate in a large victory is more effective and motivating than trying to scale Mount Everest in a week.”
What’s the best way to recognize and reward these achievements? Answers vary, depending upon your company culture. TAB Denver West CEO Blair Koch contends that written recognition is very effective:
“Copying an employee on an email recognizing their great idea to a superior, or giving them a handwritten note thanking them for their performance, are gestures that can go a long way. Oftentimes, these simple acts of recognition can be every bit as powerful as a raise or promotion.”
Want to learn more about building a company culture that encourages collaborative goal setting? Register to receive our free TAB whitepaper, “Easy Ways to Improve Your Company Culture.”