Are You Being SMART?

“I give employees goals but, when I ask about how they’re doing on their goals, I hear excuses about how they’ve been too busy or they are waiting on someone else before they can move forward, etc. How can I have them take their goals more seriously?”

Your HR Survival Tip

The first step in having employees take your goals seriously is to make sure you’re taking them seriously. While it’s fine for you to create the goals, you’ll find more cooperation if the employee has a say in what those goals might be.

There are three steps that will help you. You need buy-in from the employee regarding the goals to get them excited and in agreement with you; you need to structure each goal so they know what needs to be done and when; and you need a carrot.

Start with the initial buy-in by giving the employee a brief outline of what you are thinking. Then ask the employee to come up with some ideas about this. Set a time to finalize detailed goals. The structure of goals can make or break this project. Details will help both of you determine whether each goal was successfully accomplished.

  • Specific — Rather than saying you want significant, more, better, etc., say what you really want. Example 1: You must produce at least 25 widgets consistently each week. The work must be of high quality, with no returns. Example 2: You must increase sales next quarter by 5% and maintain that level going forward.
  • Measurable — Quantify anything possible. It creates a target for both of you, plus everyone knows what is being measured. Without something specific to measure, how does your employee know they have achieved the goal?
  • Achievable — Can this goal realistically be achieved or did you put the bar so high they don’t even try? It’s one thing to make the employee stretch a bit but it’s a problem if they need a ladder to reach the goal.
  • Relevant — Does the goal make sense to the employee and the employee’s job? Make sure the goal helps the employee move forward in gaining more knowledge, better skills, a higher level of productivity, or something else of value.
  • Timelines — I’ve seen goals written on annual reviews and, a year later, they wonder why the employee didn’t accomplish the goal after being given a whole year to do it. When you give employees too much time, they are more likely to procrastinate until too late. If the goal has value, it needs a deadline. Otherwise, you’re just making a suggestion. Don’t make due dates so tight the employee is completely stressed or has to work extra hours just to meet that date.

You and the employee should sit down and discuss any goal. Everything can be broken down into steps that will get you to the end result you want. Help the employee see this and work out smaller steps and deadlines to ensure the goal is reached by the final deadline. If an employee is new to goals, it’s also helpful to have weekly meetings to discuss any progress and problems that have come up.

Goals usually help your business grow. You want employees to have a successful experience in reaching their goals so the company meets its goals. However, most people need a carrot. What is the “carrot” for your employees to motivate them to achieve the goals? And what happens when they aren’t successful? Are you building the goals into your compensation or bonus programs? Give employees their “why” for achieving the goal and watch their faces… are they excited or are they trying hard not to roll their eyes and sigh? That look will usually tell you if you’ve created a good goal program for your employees.

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