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Setting Goals for Your Employees

Setting Goals for Your Employees

As a manager, the important thing is not what happens when you are there, but what happens when you are not there.

~Ken Blanchard

I am continually surprised by how many businesses do not set any goals for their employees. Without goals, there is no accountability, and employees will just do what they think you want or, even worse, put forth the minimum effort required just to keep their jobs.

Every leader must set expectations and goals for the individuals they manage so they know what they need to work towards. Rather than just dictating these objectives, however, I believe you can achieve better results and improved morale by allowing employees to develop their own annual goals.

When you involve employees in the goal-setting process, they are more invested in the outcome. I believe this increases the likelihood goals will be met.

Related Article: 6 Key Business Goals for Company Leaders

Of course, as the manager, you reserve the right to tweak the goals if you are not happy with what the employee brings you. In my experience, however, tweaking is only needed 20 to 30% of the time. The other 70 to 80% of the time, this process works out very well. I have also found that as staff becomes more experienced with this process, they get better at setting meaningful goals. The percentage of employees who exceeded my expectations with their proposals increased over time.

That said, however, both you and your staff should understand this process is going to take time. It may take a few attempts to get to a place where the things staff thinks should be their goals align with your expectations. That is why I recommend you both prepare goals and objectives the first year. Then you can compare what you have and iron out the differences. This gives both sides an opportunity to understand the goals, what is reasonable and what is not. This first year should be thought of as a learning experience for both parties.

The second year, employees should present their plan to you. Then, in a one-on-one meeting, you can have open discussion with them and make suggestions about how they can improve their goals.

From the second year on, you should still go through the exercise of identifying the goals you want to see each employee achieve. That is the only way you will be able to determine if the goals they propose are in line with your strategies.  You must insist that employees submit their proposals a week before you plan to discuss their goals with them. This will give you time to compare their goals versus yours and try to understand the differences.

Managers should understand some employees are really going to struggle with setting goals. So often, employees get used to reacting to issues rather than planning for them. This reversal may be hard for some. One way to assist them is by providing a sample that shows what you expect goal presentations to look like.

In the end, ensuring every employee has a clear understanding of their individual goals and expectations will make your job as the leader or manager so much easier. When your employees know what they are working toward, they will need less hands-on supervision, so your management team can work more efficiently.

You can do this!

Published: August 12, 2015

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Jerry Osteryoung

Jerry Osteryoung is a consultant to businesses—he has directly assisted over 3,000 firms. He is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship (Emeritus) and Professor of Finance (Emeritus) at Florida State University. He was the founding Executive Director of the Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. His latest book, coauthored with Tim O’Brien, “If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book,” is a bestseller on Amazon. Email Jerry @ jerry.osteryoung@gmail.com

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