As a manager, you know that setting goals is a key part of driving employee engagement and performance. What may not be as clear, however, is how exactly to establish these goals and monitor your employees’ progress during 1-on-1 conversations.
Taking a collaborative approach to goal setting will help you better leverage each of your team members’ strengths, and inspire a sense of personal commitment and accountability from employees. We’re here to help, with simple and actionable advice for developing clear goals that will both motivate individuals and contribute to team objectives.
The best individual employee performance goals feed into the goals of the team, and ultimately the goals of the organization. Creating this alignment is what drives the overall performance of a workforce, and gets everyone working towards a shared vision.
Individual goals → Team goals → Organizational goals
When it comes to setting individual goals, it’s all about finding the connection between a team member’s professional development ambitions and the company’s bottom line. When this is achieved, it nurtures that sense of purpose for employees, where they feel that their role contributes to something bigger than themselves.
Why take a collaborative approach to setting goals?
Setting individual goals with employees should help them envision not only how they’ll contribute to team objectives, but also how they’ll apply their strengths and develop their skills. The best way to ensure this is to actively involve employees in the process of goal setting. Modern performance management calls for continuous learning and opportunities for growth, and people want a say in their development trajectory. Yet according to our Pulse Survey data,
34% of employees do not feel appropriately involved in decisions that affect their work.
When you work together with your employees to determine their professional milestones, it creates goal commitment. In other words, it sparks their intrinsic, personal motivation to accomplish their goals. Not only that, making goal setting a dual effort shows people that you trust them to connect their expertise to the team’s goals and the company strategy. Foundations of mutual trust between managers and employees are essential to having authentic feedback exchanges and meaningful conversations about performance.
Having the right management tools to help you in your own role makes you more equipped to set your team members up for success. That’s why we’ve laid out some basic guidelines to help you set and track meaningful employee objectives. Follow these, and you’re sure to see a boost in how your team members apply themselves as they strive toward their goals.
First, lay the groundwork to have meaningful conversations with your employees about their role within the team, their skill set (hard skills and soft skills), and the areas that they’re most eager to develop. Schedule 1-on-1 meetings with your team members, and ask them to prepare by doing a self-reflection on their strengths.
Take the time to talk through your employees’ reflections and gain a deeper understanding of how they view their work and their contributions to the team.
With a common understanding of your employees’ strengths, you’re ready to launch into setting some goals together. Aim for no more than three goals per person, and find a balance between goals that are directly related to team objectives (performance goals) and those geared more toward developing their expertise (development goals). The SMART goal acronym is helpful to keep in mind: are goals Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timebound?
Once you’ve established goals with your employee, discuss what they’ll need to achieve them, such as tools, resources, or support from their colleagues or a coach. Create an action plan and delegate tasks to set them up for success.
Coach employees to achieve their goals
Just as your team members’ personal involvement and commitment to achieving their goals is essential to their success, so is your ongoing support along the way. According to our Pulse Survey data,
1 in 3 employees report that they do not have someone at work who helps them grow and develop.
Develop your coaching skills to help employees achieve their goals, and set them up with a mentor in their area of expertise. Have recurring 1-on-1s with your employees to discuss their progress and troubleshoot any blockers that may arise. Remember that goals can shift along with the team priorities and company strategy, so it’s important to re-evaluate them on a regular basis.
Touch base on goals regularly with your team members—maintaining ongoing communication with them is the best way to set, track, and celebrate goals.
Despite having clear goals and being personally motivated, there will be times when employees fall short of their objectives. It’s understandable to feel some disappointment as a manager when this happens, but your employee is probably disappointed as well, and reprimanding them is unlikely to have any positive effect. Instead, use your next 1-on-1 to connect with your employee and get to the root of what went wrong, so they can learn from the experience and find a new path forward.
Give your team member the space to work through the issues and come up with their own solutions. Asking open-ended questions such as these helps create a safe space for them to share context or roadblocks that you might not have had visibility on. Remind your employee that you’re there to help, and that if the goal was off-base, you can readjust it together.