One of our most popular blog posts of all time presented four great employee objective examples focused on how to integrate employee objectives and employee feedback into larger organizational objectives.
The post talks about the approach of Marnie E. Green, author of Painless Performance Evaluations: A Practical Approach to Managing Day-to-Day Employee Performance, took to create excellent objectives that helped employees perform better at work.
As a recap, Green sees objectives falling into one (or more) of the following four categories:
- Essence of the Job Goals
Define tasks that will be required to complete the job, should be very personalized to the individual position and employee.
- Project Goals
Activities that the employee should pursue with a clearly defined beginning and end.
- Professional Development Goals
What the employee will learn in the next six months and a year that will help their professional growth.
- Performance Goals
Very basic, but what time the employee should show up, what they should wear, etc.
In addition to these categories, we also introduced the idea of creating S.M.A.R.T. objectives, which help team members stay on track and have something to measure progress against. S.M.A.R.T. stands for the following:
- Specific (simple, sensible, significant)
- Measurable (meaningful, motivating)
- Achievable (agreed, attainable)
- Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based)
- Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive)
With these categories and measurements in place, we took it one step further and created a quick four step approach to develop effective employee objectives moving forward.
Review your company’s goals and understand how your position aligns to achieve them:
1.) When creating employee objectives, understand our company’s goals and how our work as employees can have a positive impact on those goals.
A recent study from 2017 by McKinsey & Company showed an uptick in businesses choosing to link organizational goals to team-performance goals. The companies that did had employees who were more engaged and accountable since they grasped the direct impact of their performance.
When you begin to create your own objectives, remember that your main goal is to drive the company forward within your own position. That means that your objective should ladder back up to one or more company goals.
If you cannot find a direct link between the objective that you want to achieve and one of your company’s goals, speak with your manager and let them know that you feel as if there is a disconnect. Oftentimes transparent communication like this can help uncover miscommunication or ambiguity within the organization’s messaging. Creating clarity here will not only help you, it’ll likely help others on your team as well.
2.) Understand how your employee objective relates to both your growth and the growth of the company.
Looking back at Marnie’s categories, they seem quite simplistic. That’s for a reason.
Employee objectives need to be clearly defined and easily understood by anyone who can read them. You want to be able to tell people what you plan to achieve and why without much opportunity for misinterpretation.
When you look at Marnie’s four categories, you can see how they would directly relate to company growth. Professional development goals, for example, may be something that would be unique to the employee and at first glance, centered around their own personal and career growth. However, beyond that, you can draw a clear line between how personal development and company achievement are connected.
An employee who wants to achieve a higher sales goal this quarter may take a professional development class on confidence in the workplace. This will not only boost the employee’s abilities at their job when they are delivering that big pitch to a mega-client, it will also help the company grow when they confidently land it.
3) Think realistically about an objective and the first few steps necessary to achieve it.
All too often, we get swept up in big ideas. This is especially true when you think about an employee objective and the amount of time it likely takes to achieve them. An employee objective could take a quarter, six months or even an entire year to complete. A timeline this long makes pie-in-the-sky thinking a quick go-to. Usually big visions at work are a good thing. But for objectives, we need to scope our perspectives a bit.
For example, as great as thinking big is, it can also create a lot of ambiguity. Objectives don’t have any room for that. Your objective should be something that you realistically can achieve in the timeline that you have set. You should also be able to easily envision at least the first two to three steps to get to that objective.
A great way to test this is to explain your objective to a colleague who isn’t in your division and has little insight into your job, then explain the first few steps you’ll take to achieve the objective. If they seem completely puzzled or unsure of why your objective matters, it may be time to go back to the drawing board.
4.) Anticipate potential roadblocks.
Since objectives take time to accomplish, there are many unknowns that could pop up and derail progress. It’s important to not only anticipate that this could happen, but have a game plan ready to get back on track.
Work directly with your manager to first establish check-ins throughout the objective’s timeline to ensure small problems are recognized and addressed quickly. For bigger problems, make sure you have ways to discuss getting where you need to go.
A recent article published by Darmouth College lays out a framework of questions to help you identify the problem and get back on track. Ask yourself and your colleague:
- What is the roadblock and how did it happen?
- What have you done already to overcome the roadblock? What have you not done?
- What can you realistically control or change?
- Do you need to adjust your goal?
- What additional resources or support will you need?
- If you are unable to make the progress you anticipated, what are the consequences and how do you know these consequences will actually happen?
- What have you decided to do next and when will you do it?
While you may never have to answer these questions, it’s important that you continue to make progress against an objective you set regardless of what life throws at you.
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