Setting objectives for employees can seem like a daunting task. Ideally, objectives ladder up to company goals. They should also work in parallel with what other members of the team are doing. You want everyone marching forward in one direction, not split off de-emphasizing their impact.
For managers, this is a big task. Objectives shouldn’t be taken lightly because they are spelling out the course of your employee’s focus the next few months, quarters or year. So how do you create objectives that align employees with company goals, team goals and their own talents?
Following are a few ways to think about it.
Don’t create company goals in a vacuum
Any objective you create will be set based on what your company goals are. I am a firm believer that company goals should not be something that just the higher-ups create. If your company’s goals are unrealistic or out-of-touch with what employees deal with every day at work, you are not going to be able to create effective employee objectives.
Company goals are something that all employees should want to and be able to achieve. The goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.
Take a look at your company goals first and foremost. Make sure that your goals aren’t disguised as broad-stroke visions or huge missions. If they are, work on getting those actionable first before setting individual objectives.
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Know who should lead the conversation when
While managers may have specific objectives in mind for each of their employees, they may be surprised by the eye-opening answers they’ll receive if they ask employees to identify goals for themselves.
At Kin, objective setting is not a one-person job. Managers and employees sit down together and discuss what objectives should be set for the year. One thing that’s important when it comes to objective setting is letting the employee lead the way. If an employee understands the company’s goals, they likely have a good idea of how their role can help them achieve it with a little coaching from their manager.
There is a huge difference between imposing goals on an employee versus having them create their own. At Kin, we encourage employees to lead the objective-creation conversation with their manager’s guidance. Once objectives have been set, managers step back in alongside the employee and lead the conversation to develop an action plan to achieve them.
Aim for small improvements rather than dramatic leaps
In his book Atomic Habits, author James Clear outlines an incredible story about British Cycling, the governing body for professional cycling in Great Britain.
It was no secret that British Cycling was awful in 2003. In 110 years, close to zero British cyclists ever won any major event. Only one British Rider won a single gold medal at the Olympic Games in 1908. As far as the Tour de France, no British cyclist had won the event in the last 110 years.
Desperate to break their losing streak, British Cycling hired Dave Brailsford as its new performance manager. When Brailsford took over, he implemented a philosophy called the “aggregation of marginal gains.” The idea was to break down how British Cycling operated into little pieces, then improve each piece by 1%. Over time there would be a significant increase if all the improved pieces were put back together.
He got right to work. His team redesigned bike seats to make them more comfortable. They put rubbing alcohol on the tires so they would grip the road better. They asked certain riders to wear electrically heated material over their shorts so their muscles would stay at the ideal temperature while riding. They tested different types of fabrics in wind tunnels so they could determine what type of indoor racing suit would work best. They even went as far as to paint the inside of the team truck white, so they could better spot bits of dust that would normally slip by without being noticed. That dust could slowly degrade the performance of finely-tuned bikes.
After just five years, the British Cycling team dominated major global events. They won an amazing 60% of the gold medals available at the 2008 Olympic Games, and went on to win even more in 2012.
The moral of the story? Make small improvements with purpose versus massive changes that likely won’t be adhered to for long. Your employee’s objectives don’t need to be quantum leaps forward. They need to be small, achievable, repeatable things that will help the company be more sound, self-sufficient, productive and, ultimately, successful.
When all of your team’s objectives are combined with this in mind, you’ll be shocked by how fast you hit your company’s goals. Once you put that habit in place, your company’s potential is unlimited.