Quantifiable, realistic objectives work best

In today’s busy business environment, many managers and HR professionals can find it challenging to allocate time for employee goal-setting sessions. The reality is that goal-setting with employees is still a fundamental element of effective management.

Goals can focus employees, enhance their chances for success and sustain their motivation. Employee goal-setting is also an important part of an employee appraisal or incentive program because progress is not easily measured without goals.

To be effective, each employee goal must be quantifiable, attainable, mutually agreed upon by the employee and the manager, as well as crucial to the growth of business. If your budget permits, incentives can help make goal achievement more appealing.

Consider the following tips when setting goals for staff members:

  • Goals do not have to be linked to sales. Try not to assume that perks should only be tied to increased sales or profitability. For example, it may be important to cut costs or promote company awareness within a six-month period; in such situations, link bonuses to goals of this type rather than those of a more traditional, sales-related nature.
  • Include employees in the goal-setting process. Resentment can arise when goals are imposed upon employees. Involving employees in goal-setting can also contribute to increased responsiveness and productivity, being that they are often the best source of task-specific information.
  • Set checkpoints. At a minimum, do this halfway through the year to ensure that the goals still serve a purpose and are not outdated.
  • Quantify goals. “Do a better job” should not be a goal of any employee because it is vague and does not instruct an employee to take specific steps. Examples of better goals include the following: “Place at least three calls an hour to thank clients.” “Increase response time to Internet inquiries by 40 percent.”
  • Be consistent. Setting different goals for employees that share similar responsibilities can be confusing and throw the direction of a particular department off track. Additionally, this practice carries potential legal concerns that could result in charges of discrimination.
  • Avoid competition (unless in sales). You want your employees to grow business and work against competitors, not each other. Avoid things like contests for non-sales staff members. Instead, have your employees strive to meet a specified target within a set time frame and reward those who accomplish it. This way, all employees have an equal chance to earn comparable incentives.
  • Reward, reward, reward! Do not underestimate the power of compensation increases and/or status-symbol perks. You can motivate many employees toward positive action by rewarding those who take on additional responsibilities and perform above and beyond what is normally expected.
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