When you give your employees goals, you’re putting structure around what they should be doing and what you expect from them. With clear, effective goals, employees know where they stand — whether they’re meeting expectations or possibly falling behind. Handled properly, gals also help align employees with the business and their coworkers, which boosts engagement.
Include Employees in the Goal Creation Process
Involving your employees in the goal creation process helps improve engagement in many ways. When employees have a say in the work they perform, it gives them a degree of ownership over their jobs — and, ultimately, their careers. Most employees have an idea of how they’d like their careers to develop, and if they’re assigning goals to themselves that are related to their continued growth, it makes them feel like they’re on the right path and that the company is supporting them. Similarly, employees indicate where their interests and strengths lie when they assign their own goals, which helps you see where to focus your efforts to increase productivity overall.
Your own goals (as a manager or department head) are important, but be careful not to overburden your employees or hold them to impossible standards. Since employees are more familiar with their workload and maximum capacity, their goal measurements may be more accurate than the ones you create. If they come back with a metric that is too low, you can always increase the number to motivate employees to work harder, but at least you’ll have a better idea of what they consider realistic.
Work SMARTer, not Harder
Any goals you assign should be SMART. SMART is an acronym for:
- Specific: The goal is focused on an area or task, not generalized
- Measurable: The goal includes a metric, survey or audit that confirms whether it’s been met
- Achievable: The goal increases employee output but is still possible
- Relevant: The goal ties into the company plan or objectives
- Timebound: The goal has a clear end date
If you’re following the SMART guidelines, your employees should have a clear understanding of what needs to be accomplished during the year.
Additional Considerations when Creating Goals
Keep in mind that assigning stretch goals is a fine balancing act. You want goals to be aggressive enough to motivate employees and boost their performance. But if goals are too aggressive, employees can get discouraged and disengage. Set a handful of core goals, but only one or two more far-reaching stretch goals per year.
If you have multiple stretch goals that must be met for the year, consider doling them out to a team rather than a single employee. Meeting stretch goals is easier when you have multiple hands on deck. Group goals also encourage employees to work together, helping to strengthen teams and departments. Plus, workers may learn some new skills in the process.
One final recommendation is to incorporate your company mission statement or core values into employee goals. Tying these values into your employees’ performance can make your workforce feel more connected to the company and their coworkers.