Simple Steps to Improve Employee Performance Goals

When a workforce is struggling to meet performance goals, it's a symptom of a larger problem. Whether that's poor leadership, bad communication or a lack of clarity about expectations, everyone suffers when goals aren't met and performance management is poor. Consider these questions:

  • Is the leadership team leading by example? 
  • Does the team know what's expected? 
  • Are performance goals clear? 
  • Does the team know they're falling short? 

Every business has objectives; thriving businesses not only have them documented, but also tracked and measured. To attract and retain top-tier work teams, you need to offer employees the challenge of worthy goals and the satisfaction that goes with attaining them. Here are three simple steps to improve goal-setting for performance management. 

Performance Reviews and Goal Setting

Step 1: Lay It All on a Two-Way Line 

Engaging and motivating employees begins on day one and continues throughout the employee journey - and it needs to go both ways. Obviously, leaders need to communicate expectations and individual goals so there are no misunderstandings later down the road, but if that's the only communication about goals, you're missing a major opportunity to make a bigger impact. 

Get Employee Input

Goals need to be attached to a stakeholder, and for businesses, there are at least two: the employee and leadership. Ideally, both parties will sit down to discuss the status quo and mutually agree upon appropriate goals. By getting input from the employee, you'll achieve goals that: 

  • Are clearly communicated 
  • Have employee buy-in 
  • Factor into the larger company strategy 
  • Are personally motivating 
  • Are challenging but attainable in the eyes of the employee 

The organization's mission should also be made clear on day one, so employees know what they are continually working toward. Without a clear mission, employees can lose direction and their performance can suffer. 

Step 2: Get SMART Goals 

There's a gold standard when it comes to setting goals, and it's aptly called SMART goals. This best-practice approach spells out how to set effective goals: 

  • Specific: Include dates, resources and/or dollar amounts you'll need to accomplish them. 
  • Measurable: Identify appropriate metrics so employees can track progress and measure success. 
  • Achievable: Make them challenging, but doable. 
  • Results-based: Align with company strategy by relating to something that is necessary, of value and supports the company's vision. 
  • Time Bound: Determine a completion date for the goal. 

What SMART goals achieves is a clear pathway forward, not just toward what the goal is, but also whether or not it's been met. Her's an example of a SMART performance goal: A carpenter will design, build and install kitchen cabinets for six houses of the same kitchen size in six months, while meeting customer expectations and staying on budget. This is SMART: specific (describes the job); Measurable (six); Achievable (on track with a similar workload), Results-based (customer expectations reflects on the company); Time-bound (six months). 

Set Short - and Long-Term Goals 

Short-term goals are powerful in that they have a day-to-day impact that gives employees a more immediate feeling of influence. It gives them the power to break up longer-term goals so that incremental steps are better accounted for. Short-term goals also help management celebrate the small wins and correct performance mishaps. 

Long-term performance goals have father-reaching impact. They allow for a more strategic approach to performance, and are more broadly a part of the larger business goals. When setting long-term goals, employees should be encouraged to consider their own career goals, as well as how their contributions to the company can grow and positively impact business. 

Step 3: Track Performance 

Performance goals 101: track the goals. 

  • Were the performance goals met? 
  • Why or why not? 
  • How has this employee performed versus the performance goals? 

If you take the time to set performance goals, tracking the goals and holding stakeholders accountable to the outcomes is a must. Without the follow-up, the goals are more like hopes and dreams. If your leadership and employees crafted quality goals, measurable outcomes should be identifiable, and a solid Performance Management software will make everything simple to keep track of. By tracking outcomes, your business will be able to:

  • Better identify succession plans 
  • Pinpoint leaders 
  • Set proper goals for new employees 
  • Add to the onboarding process 
  • See performance trends 

Setting performance goals for employees is an important part of performance management strategy. With a smart performance management software like the BirdDogHR module, you’ll be able to house each component of an employee’s performance in one spot. It makes life in HR easier and increases the performance of your people. Set up a free demo today to see how your business strategy could improve with a simple HR adjustment.

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