“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment”
Setting Work Performance Goals with Your Employees
If you are in a leadership position, you are constantly faced with the challenge of keeping your employees motivated and productive. Most companies use work performance goals as a means of evaluating employees. However, from the employee’s point of view, they are often looked on as an arbitrary and rigid means of doling out raises. That is because many organizations fail to use goals properly.
Goals are most effective when the individual expected to meet them has a part in setting them. As a manager it is important to put yourself in the place of the employee and ask yourself these basic questions:
- What kind of goals would motivate me in this position?
- What sort of goals would make me happier and more productive in this position?
With these two questions in mind and with the help of the following pointers, employees will no longer view goals as mere management tools but rather as they should be: personal motivators for success that can help your employees succeed.
1. Include employees in the process
But give them guidance along the way. As their manager, you know best what they need to achieve in order to meet company objectives. But having them contribute to their own goal setting in a meaningful way will also help motivate them to meet the performance goals for their jobs. Failing to reach a goal we set for ourselves is always harder to swallow than failing to reach a goal we think leadership arbitrarily set for us. On a side note, having the employee help set goals will give you valuable insight into what motivates each individual.
2. Set deadlines
Open-ended goals promote procrastination. Many companies employ quarterly goals in conjunction with long-term annual goals. However, short-term goals will also provide an ongoing metric of the employee’s progress. Deadlines should also be set according to the rhythm of the metric they measure. For example, if you are servicing clients on monthly contracts then the goals should naturally have a monthly deadline. In such a case, weekly or bi-weekly goals will help the employee keep on track with reaching their objectives.
3. Make goals measurable
For goals to work they must be tied to some quantifiable data. That way when the deadline arrives there is no question whether the goal was reached or not. If you are unsure of how to measure success, enlist the help of your employee.
4. Give feedback
Regular feedback is vital in helping your employees reach the goals set for their work performance. When speaking to them, look for opportunities to give encouragement. But don’t allow the feedback to be one-sided. Listen to any concerns or suggestions the employee may have. Open communication may make the difference between a goal that is simply reached and one that is blown out of the water.
5. Reward success
Make the reward worth the work needed to obtain it. Again, consider what the employee will value. Some employees respond to cash incentives, extra time off, or gift cards. Others may prefer the public recognition of receiving an award. Who wouldn’t like to display an art glass award on their desk? Allowing the employee to help determine the reward will motivate them to work toward achieving it. Get creative and change rewards frequently so they don’t become routine.
6. Tweak as needed
Some goals will remain the same as long as the company is in business. These strategic goals reflect the core values of the company. But many goals are dynamic and should reflect the changing responsibilities and talents of the employee. Pin job performance goals to areas where the employee can improve. Finally, as the employee gains experience and additional responsibilities, make sure their goals grow with them.
A note on failure:
If an employee fails to meet their goals, it is not the end of the world. Of paramount importance is the attitude of the employee. Did their failure result from a lack of activity, or did they give their best but simply come up short? If an employee has put forth noticeable effort and still failed it would be counterproductive for a manager to humiliate or punish them. Failure from inactivity is what should be punished.
Performance goals are a benchmark of success. As long as an employee continues putting forth effort to reach them, they should continue to receive support from their managers. If you are having a hard time with this idea, consider some of the great failures in history. These would include the likes of Einstein, da Vinci, and Michael Jordan. Although known for their successes, these individuals had greater failure rates than their peers. But they kept striving toward their goals and eventually reached them.
Dennis Phoenix is a human resource specialist and avid business writer. He writes primarily on topics ranging from business relationships to employee satisfaction for Able Trophies.
Talkback: How have you increased the effectiveness of your employees work performance goals? List your ideas below.
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“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do that.”
Client Charles Asks: I have a real problem with attrition. I ask my team if there’s anything wrong. They all say everything is fine. But then then resign and leave for another job. The cost of training new hires is just killing me. I have to find out how to retain my employees. Can you help?
Coach Joel Answers: Charlie, I’m pleased that you have several things right. You are aware of the high cost of replacing good workers. Not just the cost of hiring and training, but also the cost of lost productivity while the new employees learn.
And you are looking for a real solution to the problem of employee retention. It’s often hard for employees to feel free to open up about a problem. Here are some reasons workers might not be free to share concerns or problems with the company.
The company culture does not encourage free speaking. It might be that any criticism of the company is met with repression.
- The boss may not really encourage criticism or negativity. If employees have an issue with the leadership style of the boss, it’s unlikely they will be forthcoming with reasons why they are leaving.
- Co-workers or other leaders may be caustic and unhealthy for workers and it’s easier to leave than try to change the system.
Charles, since you have not had success with asking your employees for honest feedback, try asking those that are leaving. Many companies have success with a survey about employee retention after their resignation.
Here are some ways to do that.
1. Create a written survey. First, you want to set a program in place. You can’t just say, “Jack, on your way out the door, do you want to tell me why you’re going?” Talk to HR. Make a list of questions you’d like answered. You want your questions to be easy to answer and to invite an honest response. They might be something like this.
- What motivated you to seek a different job?
- What elements of our company or team could be improved upon?
- What changes might have encouraged you to stay?
- If you had been the manager, what would you have done differently?
- What three (or more) things would you recommend to create happier employees?
2. Hold an exit interview. Second, after the resignation, you need to structure time for an exit interview. I would recommend giving the employee the retention survey before meeting with him.
And I suggest reviewing it and having a little time between seeing the survey and talking to the employee. Criticism is always tough to take. Your initial reaction will likely be defensive. This is not productive.
If you want to solve your retention problem, you need to find out why your employees are resigning. The purpose of this exit interview is to find out more. Do the answers to the survey leave you needing more information?
Suppose Jack says, “Everyone was so negative” Wouldn’t you like to know who “everyone” is and how that negativity was demonstrated?
3. Collate results. Just because Jack says it, doesn’t mean it’s true. But if several of your departing employees mention a problem, you have some answers to your retention problem.
Charles, you will not solve this problem overnight. But if you survey employees about their retention after their resignation, you are more likely to get truthful answers. Even if the results are uncomfortable, you have a starting point to change and improve.
Are you struggling with employee retention? Executive coaching can change organizational dynamics and make great changes in productivity. Contact Joel to see if coaching might be an answer to your team’s attrition.
Talkback: Have you ever used a survey for employees after their resignation? How has it helped you to retain your workers?
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“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.”
~ Helen Keller ~
Client Stephanie asks: I’m really disappointed! I paid a lot of money for a business career development program. It promised to give me all the knowledge I needed to really move my career forward. Then I invested all this time and effort. And I really haven’t seen any results at all. I feel cheated.
What should I look for in career development programs, so I can really see my business career take off?
Coach Joel Answers: First, you need to set realistic expectations for all business career development programs. They are not the be all and end all of career advancement. They can play a key role in growing your skills and knowledge, but they have limits.
Typically they give you knowledge and skill sets, but they don’t always tailor the class to your needs. Nor do they analyze your progress in a real-job way or give you opportunities to implement what you’ve learned.
Even after the course you need to practice implementation, gain visibility and influence, and work with your boss to find places to put your new skills into practice.
Assuming you are doing everything right, here are some valuable keys to uncover strong business development programs—programs which might help with your career growth.
1. Not all programs address the same thing. Some focus on new graduates and helping them find jobs or learn about career opportunities in different businesses. So if you’re just out of college, these may be great programs for you.
If you are further down the experience path, these programs will not move your career along. So as you investigate a program, ask who its intended participants are. What are the specific skills, knowledge, abilities they will teach?
2. Evaluate your own career goals. Stephanie, look at the current skills you have and the areas you need to improve. Will this particular career development program address the weak areas you want to strengthen?
Don’t hesitate to call the school or company offering it and ask in depth questions. This is your time and money. You need to see that it profits you.
3. Will you get knowledge or application? Simple book learning or even audio or video learning can only take you so far. Do you have a chance to apply what you learn? Do you have interaction with other employees, role playing, modeling and other ways to practice your new found skills?
4. How much feedback will you get? Sometimes we cannot see our weaknesses. We might think we are being direct. Others may see it as an attack. Will your business career development program give you the kind of feedback that will be meaningful to you?
Stephanie, you may find your career needs more individual attention than a career development program can give you. At times you’ll get more rapid advancement through a mentoring program or a coaching program.
Your business may also have a strong career development program you are not familiar with. It may let you try out different areas in the company. It may help you work on new skills, find new opportunities to grow, and give you frequent feedback. Check with your boss or HR department.
5. Look at the credentials of the business offering the career development program. Do they have a history of success? Can you talk to other graduates and learn the strengths and shortcomings they found in the program? Are they well known?
Do they have books, articles, or other resources you can review for free? Then you can see their philosophy, teaching style, and content. You can see if it will be a comfortable fit for you.
Stephanie, I know it hurts to feel you’ve wasted your money. However, every experience can be a learning experience. Now you know what to look for in strong business career development programs.
When you search again, you will have the fundamentals necessary to make a good investment choice.
If you are uncertain whether a career development program would help you advance at this stage in your career, contact Joel. He will help you see the best path for you to use to advance your career.
Talkback: How have you invested in business career development? Have you used a program you thought was effective… or not very effective?
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“What every genuine philosopher (every genuine man, in fact) craves most is praise — although the philosophers generally call it ‘recognition’!”
~ William James ~
Hey managers, do you remember way back when in the distant past (about five years ago) when the economy was steamrolling along. Those were good times weren’t they? Or were they? Business was booming, but at the same time, it seemed like employees were in a continuous cycle of moving from one job to the next. Unless you were some sort of managerial superstar, you likely found it difficult to hang onto good employees for very long.
Since that time the reverse has been true. In the interim, have you become content with the fact that your employees are going to stick around out of a lack of other options? Well it’s time to wake up. The economy is coming out of its long slumber and so should your efforts at keeping and rewarding your employees. Below are some ideas for rewarding your employees and keeping them motivated and loyal.
1. Offer flexible hours
Recognize that some employees have circumstances that would be greatly improved with a little flexibility on your part. Do you have an employee that needs to get their children off to school in the morning? Allowing that person to come in a little later to accommodate their schedule builds loyalty. Similarly, you could accommodate the schedules of those that typically face a long commute because of rush hour traffic.
2. Give public awards
Offering public awards for reaching specific goals is another way to keep your employees motivated and engaged in the workplace. Something as simple as a plaque or an acrylic award will be appreciated when accompanied with a sincere thank you. Make sure the awards are appropriate to the recipient. The more useful they are the better they will be appreciated as well.
3. Provide a meal
Recognize a well done team effort with food. Everybody loves to eat and socialize, so this could be a useful way to say thanks and reap the benefits of a team building experience. If you want to keep it simple have someone bring in a variety of sandwiches or desserts during a meeting or other event. Or go big and have a hot meal catered. If you want to get out of the office take the team out to dinner.
4. Give employee’s some time off
Show your appreciation for your employees by giving them some time off throughout the year aside from their sick and vacation days. Get creative. Give them time off to volunteer for their favorite charity. Or as a bonus, take an employee to lunch on Friday and then give them the rest of the afternoon off. Perhaps some would prefer to come in late on a Monday instead. These sorts of experiences will create loyalty and keep your employees less likely to jump ship when another opportunity comes along.
5. Buy into your employee’s continued success
Invest in the future success of your employee by helping them better their careers. Make room for advancement from within the organization. Help them grow, even if doing so may lead them to opportunities outside your company. An employee that feels stagnated in his position is going to eventually move on.
Anna McCarthy is an HR specialist who writes on topics ranging from business communication, productivity, employee satisfaction, and corporate awards.
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“Leaders aren’t born they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.”
~ Vince Lombardi ~
Geoffrey’s been totally focused on doing the best job he can. He’s been very intent on making sure his job gets done, and done right. He felt sure this would help him advance his career more quickly.
But when his boss didn’t seem to value Geoffrey’s contributions, he got concerned. What did his boss really want? Why wasn’t doing his job, good enough?
His goal was executive leadership. To do that, he realized he needed to make some changes.
He needed to make sure his work corresponded with the priorities of his boss and of the CEO.
Here are four things Geoffrey did to align his views with the current executive leadership.
- Assess. Spend time thinking about what the CEO might be thinking about. Put yourself into his place. What do you think keeps him awake at night? What worries him? What are the challenges he faces? When you look through his eyes you get a sense of what his priorities are and where he’s focusing his attention.
- Interact. Communicate with other peers and listen to their sense of what is important in the company. Geoffrey needed to get beyond just his work. He needed to reach out and connect with others. As he asked their views on the top goals and values of the company he did two things.
First, he learned what to focus on to make his work valuable to his boss and move his career forward. Second he showed respect and interest in the opinions and leadership views of others. As he engaged them, they came to know and trust him as well. He widened his sphere of influence.
- Ask. Geoffrey was direct. He asked his boss and the CEO what their values and priorities were. He did this during meeting times in a public arena. He also requested weekly or monthly one-on-one feedback times. During those times, he discussed the company and CEO priorities and how he could best align his job with those priorities.
- Communicate. Based on the feedback Geoffrey got from peers and boss, he formulated a plan. He wrote down the work he needed to do and how it supported the priorities of the boss. Then he shared it with his boss—and the CEO, as in the case of Geoffrey’s small company—for their feedback.
This increased his visibility with the boss and the CEO. It showed Geoffrey was concerned about giving value to the company and making his work productive and effective. It also allowed for corrections quickly and easily if Geoffrey’s assessment was off course.
When Geoffrey started implementing this plan of action, he saw immediate results. He focused his efforts on the things that really mattered to the boss and CEO and received high praise. His interactions with his peers harvested trust and acceptance. Geoffrey is acting like an executive leader and is moving toward that leadership position.
For help on how you can step up to executive leadership in your work and capabilities contact Joel.
Talkback: What have you done to insure your work is aligned with the priorities of your boss or CEO?
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