How to Set Goals and Enable Employees to Achieve Them

Here are some useful tips for effective employee goal-setting that are crucial for improving employee performance:

  • Align employee goals with business objectives
  • Identify competencies needed to accomplish the goals
  • Collaborate with employees to set goals, identify resources needed
  • Set Specific-Measurable-Actionable-Result oriented-Time bound goals
  • Set goals that are challenging yet attainable
  • Regularly monitor progress and help them stay on course
  • Recognize & reward employee who accomplish or exceed their goals

Introduction

Performance goals give employees a structure to perform and excel in the organization. However, employees may need assistance in achieving their goals at times if goals are not set right according to various metrics and parameters. Things start to become better when the employees start defining their own goals in consultation with their managers. Goals that are challenging yet achievable are the ones that act as motivators for the employees to exceed their performance. A goal that is unrelated, non-specific, or unachievable will cause employees to lose their engagement or interest and result in them not putting enough effort towards achieving it. When goals are relevant and practical, managers are incentivized to act as motivators. They monitor the employees' progress with more direct involvement required for employees who struggle to stay on track on their own. Ideally, this is where an organization must start setting the right individual goals to help its employees perform well. Let's look at how managers can help employees (and, therefore, the organization) set the right goals and achieve them.

Setting the right Business Goals for your employees

Setting the right business goals for your employees is a crucial responsibility of any manager. A manager will drive improvement in employee performance and also actively help strengthen the business by setting measurable and achievable goals. First and foremost, the employee’s goal must be aligned with the company’s short term and long term goals. This will help employees contribute to organizational performance and deepen employee engagement. You can even prepare guidelines and criteria for a successful employee performance goal setting to set a benchmark for all the managers and employees.

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Process of setting employee Goals

As a manager, how much do you think should you be involved in helping your employees set up goals and achieve them? The answer is ‘as much as possible.’ Failure to meet the goals reflect not only on the employee responsible but also her manager and the entire team. Hence, there needs to be a balance of involvement from the manager's side with the employee's ownership over the process of achieving the goals. The key is to actively participate while giving your employees the space they need to work and succeed on their own.

Here are some fundamentals to follow as you navigate on how to set the performance goals and motivate your employees to achieve them:

  • Set goals that align with company objectives: An employee's goals should be set up in such a way that they are aligned with the company's growth plan as well as the employee's specific abilities. When an employee realizes how her role and responsibilities can affect or contribute to the organization's growth, it becomes easy for her to focus and achieve her goals. This results in success for both the business and the employees. When you link organizational goals and strategic objectives with employee-performance goals, employees readily accept increased accountability. When employees know that they can make a direct impact on the organization's success, they will be more willing to take on more challenging goals. Hence, consistently communicating business goals can help them stay engaged with their goals. Also, regularly highlighting the company's mission and vision to the employees may help the employees stay on track with the company's objectives.

Goal Process

  • Invite employees to identify job profile based goals: Managers usually have certain objectives planned for each employee.  However, they will get insightful answers if they involve and ask the employees to identify goals that are niche to their jobs. Instead of just assigning the goals, participating in an interactive discussion and allowing them to choose goals, let them take ownership. By helping the employees choose goals aligned with the company's objectives, the manager will improve the performance and chances of success significantly.

Goal Job Profile

  • Set SMART goals: The idea of goals is to help employees improve their performance. It is therefore equally important that the goals are understood and defined clearly. Poorly defined goals lead to confusion and poor performance. It is, therefore, important that the goals are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Result-oriented, and Time-bound (SMART). SMART goals bring in the much-needed clarity, inspire commitment, and provide employees with a sense of ownership in achieving their goals. SMART goals define clearly what needs to be achieved (specific), remove subjectivity (how to measure it), outline what needs to be done (actionable), set achievement (result), and sets a time frame for achievement (time-bound).

    Many times goals are broadly defined and hence are unable to specify actionable. For example, ‘I want to grow my business’ is a broad goal.

     Here’s how this can be converted into a SMART goal that helps define specific actionable:

    • Specific: I will acquire 3 new clients worth more than $100,000 each
    • Measurable: I will close contracts worth a minimum of $300,000 from new clients
    • Actionable: I will acquire these 3 clients through digital channels
    • Result-oriented: The goal clearly identifies results expected
    • Time-bound: These 3 new clients will be acquired before the end of the next 6 months

     

SMART Goal

  • Emphasize on attainable goals: Performance goals sometimes fail when the objectives are either too ambitious or simply unachievable. This could be due to the mismatch between the employee's competencies and the availability of resources. Setting an unattainable goal for an employee can lead to frustration resulting in a lack of motivation for further improvement. Therefore, a goal should be mutually agreed between the supervisor or the manager and the employee. The manager must know the employee's level of competencies and what they can achieve. An employee can apply all the five elements of SMART goals listed above to define their goals.
    Also, goals achieved by employees previously with similar training and experience have established benchmarks. Thus, such goals can be considered attainable to form new goals. This emphasizes that new employees in the same position to create a new benchmark. This will directly motivate an employee's positively to act.

Attainble Goal

  • Real-time monitoring: Tracking your employee's progress regularly will help you understand and identify any troubles early on. Such identification can help course correction if needed. But managers who forget to communicate their employees about the progress regularly face issues during the year-end performance review. Reviewing long-term and short-term goals weekly, even of high-performing employees, can make them more dynamic and involved. They need ongoing feedback and coaching from their managers, especially with challenging goals or in tasks that they are doing for the first time. Managers can stay updated on the performance and deploy effective feedback processes with a proper employee performance management system. It also helps to keep track of employees’ performance and identify where they are in achieving the goals.

Goal Tracking

  • Link goals with employee competencies: Most organizations fail to explicitly consider employee’s competencies in the context of the goals assigned to them. Different goals need different competencies at different employee levels. Competency-based goal setting can help managers (and organizations) develop organization-wide competency availability. They can link it to employees’ performance as well as career development. This way, you can link their competencies with the organizational goals and help them achieve work goals.

Goals & Competency

  • Reward employees who achieve their goals: Nothing can be more motivating to employees than appreciation and recognition of their achievements. Recognition of employee achievement is also extremely important in improving employee engagement. Employees who meet their goals or exceed them need to be recognized. Not only does such a recognition honor the employee's efforts, but it also demonstrates that the company values hard work and commitment done at an individual level. It further provides an incentive for the rest of the staff. And when diligence and timely efforts are noticed and rewarded, employees legitimately feel engaged and get incentivized in making extra efforts in achieving targets. An engaged workforce is probably the biggest asset of any organization.

Reward Employees

  • Identify gaps needed to achieve the goals: Most of the employees manage to tackle obstacles to achieve their goals in time. But some employees do struggle for various reasons and need guidance to stay on course. Traditionally, this happens only after the performance review happens. If an organization practices annual reviews, this means a whole year has already gone, and there is no time for correction. It is critical for the manager to step in regularly and early enough to have an in-depth discussion with employees to understand and identify gaps. As a manager, discuss what is going wrong, and help the employees find a solution. Give them a direction to readdress the issues or help them get better training.  “A stitch in time saves nine.”
Gap

 

Final Thoughts

Setting goals is an excellent opportunity to co-establish performance goals with your team members and align them with organizational objectives to increase the chances of achieving them. Specific-Measurable-Actionable-Result-oriented-Time-bound (SMART) goals bring in the much-needed clarity in the entire performance management process. Aligning goals with competencies at each level and linking them to employees’ career development can bring in long term benefits. Recognizing employees’ goal achievement and suitably rewarding them is equally important for improving their engagement.

Deploying an employee performance management system that helps you implement these functionalities is extremely critical to setting & achieving those goals.

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