How to Help Your Employees Set Goals

November 8th, 2019

You want your employees to fulfill their assigned tasks with energy and commitment. But if you’re a great employer, you also want something more: you want your direct reports to look into the future and make moves now that can both help the company and build their careers. The status quo is fine, and it’s okay to simply punch in, complete the day’s work, and go home. But excellent employees want to set long term goals and focus on growth. And excellent employers want to help them do this. Here are a few simple moves that can help you keep their attention on the horizon, not just down at their desks.

Conduct personal check-ins.

At least once a month (ideally much more often), sit down with each of your direct reports individually for an informal chat. Ask them how they feel about their current work. Do they find it appropriately challenging? Can you help with these challenges? And if they’re ready for more responsibility, how can you help them choose a direction and obtain the training and exposure they need to move forward? These chats should give you some insight that can help you connect them to the right mentors and opportunities.

Keep the goals SMART.

Smart coaching leads to smart goal-setting. Which means choosing goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. It’s easy for employees—especially those with minimal work experience—to wander off the rails when it comes to goal setting, and loose, poorly formulated goals can lead to disappointment and discouragement later on. Rein in goals that are not realistic, and shape goals that are not well defined. Help place timelines on vague goals, and keep workplace goals focused on the workplace.

Attain the minimum standard before climbing higher.

Everybody’s human, and it’s common to encounter an employee who sets his or her sites on brilliant achievements (he wants to be the CEO!) before mastering ordinary ones. (His last several reports were subpar, he often shows up late, and he hasn’t earned the trust of his teammates.) This employee needs a clear performance improvement plan that can get him on track to basic competence. Set a two-week, three-month or one-year plan that leads to success with clear consequences for falling short. If he gets where he needs to be, he can start setting his sites on the next level.

Become an advisor and confidante.

If your employees don’t like or trust you, they won’t share their personal information with you, including their personal career goals. To get them to open up honestly, listen before you talk. When they tell you something, commit it to memory. And most important: give them advice and coaching that works in their benefit. Avoid advice that benefits the company at their expense.

For more on how to coach and manage your teams in ways that bring out their best, turn to the staffing experts at PSU.

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