It is that time again in many organizations; the much anticipated annual Performance Review Process is in full swing. In all my many years of working with managers, I am always amazed at just how many of them put as little effort as they can into this critical process. Reviews are done late, goals are never created, and conversations are fumbled. My favorite blunder is when the employee actually receives the increase in their paycheck before their manager has even gone through their review with them. Talk about de-motivating!
As with many organizational processes, the appraisal process can be a duel edged sword. It provides you with many opportunities to reward, encourage and acknowledge your people’s contributions, but is also holds an equal number of places where you can seriously drop the proverbial ball. Since this topic is too big for just one post, I am going to break it into a couple of posts. Today I am going to concentrate on effective goal setting.
Most companies require that all individual’s have a set of written goals on which they can be reviewed. But we all know that just because the company requires it, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it always happens.
New hires, or people hired mid-year, are often left in the dark when it comes to performance goals. They may get a copy of their job description with their new hire packet, if they are lucky. But that is not the same as performance goals, and without them they are left to fend for themselves until their first formal review. More than anyone, this group can benefit from a set of well written goals. It helps them to understand the expectations in their new job and directs their energy to activities that are important. And if for some reason they turn out to not be a good fit for the position (which you can usually identify within the first year), their initial goals can become the measurement tools used during the performance improvement process.
Senior level and long term employees are also likely to go without goals. With their level of experience and knowledge it is easy to be lulled into thinking that goals are an unnecessary evil and even a waste of time for them. But this group often needs a good challenge to help jolt them out of their comfort zone and their well practiced routine. Some have been doing their job for so long that they could almost phone in their performance. They need to continue to be stretched and encouraged to try new things, and well written goals can help accomplish this.
Without a set of well written goals in place, managers are forced to back into a performance review. In other words, the appraisal consists of a summary of what the employee actually did, rather than what they were supposed to do. These reviews tend to be “toothless” as it is really difficult to hold someone accountable to performance standards that they didn’t actually have in writing.
So, as you go through the Performance Review Process this year, here are some things to remember about effective goal setting:
- Goals should follow the acronym S.M.A.R.T.
a. Specific – Not just “increase sales” but “increase sales to $100,000”
b. Measurable – You must be able to measure the progress and whether the goal has been achieve. If you want someone to “build better relationships”, how will you measure that?
c. Attainable – This is about difficulty. If it is too easy of a goal, they won’t be challenged by it. And if it is too hard, they may get discouraged right from the start. Finding the balance is a bit of an art.
d. Realistic – This is about competency. Do they have the knowledge, skills or tools to accomplish this goal? If not, can they acquire what they need in time?
e. Time-bound – Is there a date or time frame associated with the achievement of this goal? Is it by next year, or in two months? Make sure you have a date in writing.
- Activities are not goals. “Make 10 calls to prospects a day” is an activity in a goal to increase sales to $100,000. Great goals are big challenges that can’t be crossed off in a day. If you are having trouble making the goal a SMART goal, or find that it can quickly and easily be accomplished, you probably have an activity, not a goal.
- If the job changes mid-year, write new goals. It is silly to try to write someone’s appraisal at year end using goals that are no longer valid. Goal setting is a living and breathing process, if something changes during the year, change the goal!
- Everyone gets goals. No exceptions.
And if you are sitting here reading this and your manager has not given you your goals yet, go get them! You might be inclined to think that it’s sort of a blessing not to have them, that you can’t be held you to too many expectations at review time since you did not receive written goals. I’m sorry to burst that bubble for you, more often than not it is a curse rather than a blessing. Your manager has expectations of you whether they are in writing or not, so wouldn’t you rather know what those expectations are now, rather than finding out during your review that you missed one?
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