Setting goals with your employees is an essential element of effective human resources management. There are a variety of reasons why setting goals are important. Goals can:

  • Focus employees on the purpose of your business
  • Enhance the company’s chances of success by applying your employees’ efforts to the company’s long- and short-term success
  • Motivate employees

Employee goal setting is also an important part of an employee appraisal or bonus program. Without goals, achievement is not easily measured. To be effective, employee goals must be clear and understandable. Each goal must be concrete, attainable, and critical to the growth of the company’s business. The tips below will help you and your trainers set good successful goals.

Set goals with employees
Employees are often the best source for information about what job-specific goals will contribute to overall increased productivity, responsiveness, or other business-related goals. Set aside some time to meet as a team. Brainstorm or have them think about it on their own for a few days, then meet as a team to discuss each team member’s ideas. Involving them in goal setting helps eliminate the potential for the resentment that occurs when goals are imposed.

Make goals specific and measurable
Don’t set goals such as “Do a better job.” An unspecific goal does not instruct what steps an employee should take. An example of a constructive goal is “Increase response time to customer calls by 30 percent” or “Cut customer complaints by half.” Make sure each goal is specific and concrete.

Make sure goals are attainable
We all have a tendency to set goals too high. I know I do sometimes. When you set unattainable goals, it can lead to frustration and lack of motivation. It’s your job as the manager to ensure that the employee goals are realistic.

Reevaluate goals frequently
At a minimum, you should reevaluate goals every six months to ensure that they still make sense and that employees are on track. It’s possible that events have transpired that make some goals unrealistic, or employees have gotten so far off track that they need your help to refocus.

Watch your timing
It’s common for managers to set annual employee goals at the beginning of the year. However, goal setting can be done anytime, such as before a busy season or at an annual company meeting. A suggestion I was given from another manager was to be careful to set an employee’s goals on a calendar year and not on his or her anniversary. This way it makes it easier for you to evaluate his or her performance prior to the annual evaluation, so he or she has a little time to refocus and show how hard he or she is working toward his or her goals.

Avoid rivalry
You want your employees to work against your competitors, not each other. Avoid activities such as contests as part of your goal setting. Instead, have your employees strive to meet a specified target within a specified period, and reward those who meet it. Doing this will provide all of your employees with incentive to share information and help each other obtain their goals. A form of team building, you could say.

If you haven’t set goals with your trainers yet, set up a team meeting soon and get started. The sooner the better!
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