Make Goal-Setting Meaningful
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Make Goal-Setting Meaningful

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: It’s time to set goals for the people I supervise for the next calendar year. Do you have tips for setting valuable and meaningful goals?

A: I hope your organization sets goals from the top down, so that each department and each employee has a pretty good idea of what you plan to focus on in the upcoming year.

Once you know the overall goals for the organization, setting department and individual goals is easier: Determine where your department fits into the organizational goals and go from there.

Goals help organizations stay focused on what’s really important and keep everyone moving in the same direction. They also help with employee engagement. Gallup’s research shows that employees want to know what’s expected of them at work.

I like to set goals with my employees—not for them. If employees are involved in the goal-setting process, they are more likely to work to achieve them, as opposed to when you hand goals to your employees and need to “sell” them on their importance.

Once you know the overall goals for the organization, setting department and individual goals is easier.

So, what to do? Share the organizational goals with your team and ask each person to draft two or three goals for themselves that will contribute to meeting them. You should also draft a couple of goals for each employee based on their strengths and areas they can develop further. Keep in mind that goals are not duties as described in job descriptions—they are above and beyond the routine.

You probably have heard of the SMART goal-setting process. It has been around for a long time and it still works. SMART goals are:

  • Specific. What will be accomplished? The statement should be specific and concise.
  • Measurable. How will success be measured? Are there metrics you can apply?
  • Achievable. Is the goal realistic? There is nothing more demotivating than a goal that can’t be reached.
  • Relevant. Does the goal move the organization forward?
  • Time bound. When does the goal need to be accomplished? Are there milestones to be reached?

I suggest that each employee should have four or five goals—more than that can be overwhelming and discouraging. One of the goals should be personal, such as completing a degree or taking a class by a specific date—something that will increase the employee’s value to the organization as well as providing the person with additional skills.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR. Do you have a question you’d like her to answer in “Ask the Expert”? Send it to [email protected].

Performance Management