5 Noteworthy Tips for Successful Employee Goal Setting

Setting goals...it’s easier said than done, especially if managers want those goals to actually be achieved. When it comes to setting employee performance goals, the road to effectiveness is even more difficult to map out. Did you know that, according to a 2014 Towers Watson study, only half of the participating organizations say they effectively work with employees to set individual performance goals? If you’re wondering why employees are only reaching 10-20% of their goals, now you know one reason.
The problem is, there are so many reasons employee goal setting isn’t being done effectively by management. Instead of looking at what not to do, let’s look at what managers can and should do to achieve successful employee goal setting

#1. Align Employee Goals with Company Goals

As thoughtful as it might seem, managers don’t just exist to help employees reach their own professional goals. The idea is that those goals should align with the overarching goals of the organization. This is not news!

CC-Click-ToTweetBird-01.pngThe first step in achieving company goals is getting rid of this misconception:

However, alignment can be difficult if managers don’t understand the strengths, weaknesses and intrinsic motivators of their people. One surefire way to familiarize managers with these elements is regular communication with team members. They should try to increase communication to at least once a week, especially during big projects and track each employee’s progress to identify strengths and areas of improvement.
Read more about aligning goals in our whitepaper here.

#2. Collaborate with Employees to Set Goals

According to recent research done by Gallup, only about half of employees understand what is expected of them and even more concerning, managers aren’t even sure of what is expected of them! That’s sort of like spending money on a precious new puppy and then expecting it to potty train itself. If employees aren’t aware of what they should be working towards, they are just existing, not developing. Managers can combat this to by including employees in the process of goal setting. They should be just as aware of their strengths and weaknesses as their managers are so they can constantly assess their work, set milestones and think about the big picture. Doing so will help them plan reasonably attainable goals with managers.

CC-Click-ToTweetBird-01.png Failing to communicate goals with employees is like expecting a new puppy to train itself:

#3. Make Employee Performance Goals Attainable

Shoot for the stars isn’t really an analogy that works in performance management. Managing employee performance is all about practical, attainable and realistic goal setting. While having ambitious goals shouldn’t be a bad thing, it can negatively impact employee morale and engagement. Managers should assess each employee’s strengths and craft goals based off individual development. One thing that should be avoided is expecting each employee to meet the same goals. They are not the same person and goals should reflect that. Personalization is key.

CC-Click-ToTweetBird-01.pngWhy you can't and shouldn't create the same goals for every employee:



 #4. Increase Engagement with Career Discussions

Tying employee performance goals to the big picture plays a big part in engaging and motivating employees to work toward goals. In fact, Gallup’s Q12 research found that, “clarity of expectations is perhaps the most basic of employee needs and is vital to performance.” Take that idea one step further with career discussions. When assessing and discussing employee performance goals, managers should “feel out” an employee’s attitude towards their current role and see where they hope to be in the near future with the company. Keeping employees looking to the future will make goal setting (and achieving) more meaningful and motivating.

CC-Click-ToTweetBird-01.png Learn how to "feel out" an employee's attitude toward their current role to assess new goals:


#5. Recognize Goal Achievement (or Lack Thereof)

Recognizing employee performance goal achievement (or any goal achievement really) is another motivating factor to continued goal success. Employees will be engaged and motivated from the above tips, but often times, realizing the success of professional development can take time. Managers can keep employees engaged by rewarding them when they’ve met goals. Rewards can come in the form of a bonus, a pay raise, an extra day of vacation, the possibilities are nearly endless. At the very least, managers should take time to personally recognize their team’s successes, whether it’s in one-on-one meetings or in front of the entire company or department.

CC-Click-ToTweetBird-01.png There's more than one way to present rewards to your employees. Here are just a few ideas:

On that same note, managers should work to assess why employee performance goals aren’t being met. Fifty-four percent of employees feel their managers help remove obstacles to doing their job well. That number should be 100%. Just as understanding strengths and weaknesses is critical to successful employee performance goal setting, it’s just as important to help employees fix their mistakes or identify areas where management is failing their team.
Employee goal setting is at the core of planning and achieving organizational goals. This is an area that has been notoriously put on the back burner or not effectively carried out. With the right outlook and these tips, managers can start improving how they help employees set performance goals and ultimately, get their organization one step closer to meeting goals.
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Goal Alignment

Laura Baker
Laura Baker
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As ClearCompany's HR Business Partner, Laura focuses on all things HR including managing employee benefits, onboarding and engagement initiatives. With a keen focus on best-practices, she serves as a strategic partner to the leadership team by acting as a trusted resource on a wide variety of human resources topics including policy interpretation, creating and recommending enhancements to the HR process, and career development.

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