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Helping Employees Set Goals for Enhanced Performance

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Multiethnic colleagues sitting at desk looking at laptop computer in office

Employee goal setting is part and parcel to a well-run organization. Collaborating with employees on their goals shows workers they are truly valued, thereby elevating morale. A goal-setting system allows employees to realize their potential, increasing their motivation and productivity. Besides these and many other advantages to individual workers, goal setting that is connected to organizational ambitions accelerates company deliverables and objectives.


Helping employees set goals is not a one time process. Goals should be established and continually monitored, preferably as part of an ongoing performance review system. Learn how to get the most out of your employee goal-setting initiative with these three steps on helping employees set goals.


1. Tie Employee Goals to Company Goals


Employee goal setting is optimally motivational when it is connected to organizational objectives. Naturally, this means that employees must be aware of company goals and their position’s responsibilities. If there is a lack of clarity here, the first step is to create more transparency concerning company objectives and individual duties.


Helping employees set goals is an opportunity for the worker to better appreciate how their efforts contribute to company success. Giving greater meaning to one’s work boosts employee morale. Tying employee and company goals also helps to ensure that the entire workforce is aligned and moving in the same direction towards achievement.


To start, encourage employees to consider short- and long-term goals in the following categories:


● How it contributes to company objectives

● How it helps them to evolve in their current role

● How it aids in their professional development


During goal-setting meetings, the manager’s role is to assist the employee in identifying where the employee’s abilities and interests - both professional and personal - intersect with the broader strategy. Approach this process as one that enhances company culture and team collaboration.


2. Create a Roadmap for Challenging and Attainable Goals


After identifying broad categories of goals, the next step in helping employees set goals is to concretize them. As you work with the employee on developing goal specifics, discuss whether the targets strike a balance between being challenging and attainable. Aim too high and employee resentment and reduced confidence can ensure. On the other hand, being overly cautious with goals breeds mediocrity and missed opportunities.


Once challenging but achievable goals have been established, collaborate with the employee in creating a roadmap that should include the following elements:


● Ensure that the goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Based

● Break down large goals into smaller milestones and related tasks.

● Slate relevant milestones and events into a calendar.

● Determine key performance indicators to measure achievement.

● Review any skill gaps and arrange for corresponding training.

● Set regularly scheduled times to work on goals, such as one afternoon a week.

● Review possible risks and how they can be mitigated.

● Discuss potential contingency plans if risks cannot be avoided and roadmap changes must later be made.

● Identify the abilities of other team members who can aid in attaining goals and collaborate with these people for mentoring and upskilling opportunities.


3. Monitor Progress Regularly with Employees


Regularly monitoring goal progression ensures that employees stay on track. You can correct potential issues before they become problems that undermine goal attainment. This review process is also an opportunity to celebrate wins.


Employee goal monitoring can easily be incorporated into an ongoing performance review system. Such a system involves workers meeting frequently and regularly with managers to discuss their performance in an employee-empowering and highly-constructive way.


When developing rapport with employees, discuss what type of monitoring and feedback is most beneficial to them. Each worker may have different communication preferences that should be taken into account to make the entire goal setting and performance review process optimally advantageous. Regardless of individual preferences, a good rule of thumb when providing feedback is to be fair, honest and constructive.


Additionally, all employees should receive consistent and progress-driven assessments. Even high-performing workers need ongoing feedback and coaching. If you are struggling to provide this to an employee, take a step back and reconsider the employee’s goals. It may be that the goals are not challenging enough and that there is another way to motivate employees to realize their full capabilities.


Finally, the monitoring process is an opportunity to solicit feedback from the employee on ways their roadmap, and the overall goal-setting system, can be improved. When meeting with employees, encourage their input on whether:


● There are barriers to goals, or goals that conflict?

● The timeline remains doable?

● They are consistently prioritizing daily work in accordance with their goals?

● Additional resources are needed, and if so how are they procured?

● They need additional help from you or another team member?

● They have creative solutions or workarounds for challenges?


Employee Goal Setting for a Stronger Workforce and Company Culture


Helping employees set goals has a myriad of benefits that all work to elevate individual and company productivity and achievements. Holding employees accountable for goals they set engenders a feeling of control over one’s work, strengthening employee engagement. The collaborative nature of the goal-setting and review process also bolsters collaboration and camaraderie. All told, employee goal setting is part of a larger employee-first culture that helps workers grow and hangs on to talent.

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