Goal Setting for Professional Development in your SME -

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Goal setting at work can help improve productivity and morale, and can also create a better sense of community in the workplace. How exactly? Today’s article discusses what’s behind this,  including why goal setting at work works, and how management can help employees set goals that help them develop professional skills. 

Have you had a moment to think about your goals? Where do you see yourself in 3 years? We’ve all heard these questions before at work, whether they were asked of us or if we were asking somebody. “Why all this focus on goal setting?” you might ask. Well, that’s because setting goals is a good way to not only motivate yourself to a destination, but it’s also a foundation to structure how you do work.

The research backs us up on this. Setting goals is just a good goal to have! What’s even better is making sure goal setting is led by employee ambitions. Nobody wants to be forced into goal setting, so try to flip the script to make goal setting about what the employee wants the organization to do for them. You might discover some interesting talents in your workplace.

Read: How Managers Can Retain Top Talent

Let’s continue by looking at the benefits of goal setting and how managers can help employees with their goals.

Goal Setting: The Benefits

Goal setting for employees in an organization is crucial for several reasons, but it doesn’t have to be related to the business at all. Setting goals in your work is simple a good habit to have, as it keeps one motivated and encourages us to push further. Plus, there is no rush quite like checking things off a to do list!

So, what does goal setting do to a workforce? Well, a few things:

  1. Clarity and Focus 

Setting clear goals provides employees with a sense of direction, helping them understand what is expected of them and where they should focus their efforts. This helps them understand what they’re expected to deliver upon and how to get there.

  1. Alignment with Organizational Objectives

While goals should be about what the employee hopes to achieve in a specific time frame, having one of those goals be in line with the company objectives is a relatively good practice. When employees’ goals are tied with the goals of the organization, it creates synergies between teams who are dedicated to moving things forward. Working towards a common purpose increases peer to peer collaboration.

  1. Motivation and Engagement

Setting meaningful goals can increase motivation and engagement. When employees have goals that challenge them, yet are attainable, they’re more likely to be enthusiastic about their work, and are more likely to share where they are with their projects.

  1. Performance Management

Goals serve as a basis for evaluation and measurement. They allow managers to objectively assess performance of an individual. This helps them recognize accomplishments and help employees develop areas to improve.

  1. Prioritization and Time Management

Well defined goals help employees direct their efforts, which in turn helps them manage their time better. When an employee knows what they are working towards, they can more easily plan out the pathway to that goal.

  1. Continuous Learning and Improvement

Goals can promote learning and professional development. When someone sets goals that push them to learn something new, they’re more likely to try to learn these new skills. Don’t overdo the push to learn a new skill, rather reward them once they realize they’ve learned a new skill.

  1. Accountability

When you set goals, you’re answering to yourself. When employees have specific targets to achieve, they’re able to feel more accountable for their performance.

How Managers Can Help Employees with Their Goal Setting

Should a manager encourage goal setting in the workplace? Of course! The benefits of having regularly set goals are not only organizational, but also personal. Encourage your employees to share what their aspirations are, both work related and as it pertains to their personal lives, and then help them build goals to reach those aspirations.

  1. Open Communication

Creating a supportive and non-judgmental environment is the foundation to the goal setting exercise. Employees need to feel comfortable sharing what they want to do with their careers, and they need to feel confident in their wins and their losses. Part of a manager’s role is to lift their team up and help them develop. It can boost attrition, set positive examples for those who themselves may be managers one day, and boost engagement.

  1. Clarify Expectations

The next step in the goal making process is making sure everyone has a clear understanding of their role and what is expected of them. Help them understand how it relates to the company objectives, and then you can begin to look at how to go above and beyond.

  1. SMART Goals

SMART goals, a mainstay. Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound. Push your team to build goals with these elements in order to get past the habit of creating vague goals. It’s psychologically more rewarding to accomplish something, and SMART characteristics help create digestible, understandable goals.

  1. Help Break Up Goals

Break up big goals into smaller milestones, to act as stepping stones to a larger target. That way, each week there is a new achievement to celebrate. And, the demoralizing nature of often not hitting lofty goals is mitigated.

  1. Provide Resources

If the goals of your employees are going to require supplementary resources or support, you should offer support to employees through training, resources, or mentoring opportunities. Nobody wants to navigate new challenges alone.

  1. Celebrate Mistakes

If you don’t make a mistake, you’ve likely not learned anything! Yes, mistakes are humbling, but they’re part of the experience that comes with trying something new. Share your mistakes and help them see through setbacks experienced along the way.

  1. Be a Mentor

As an employer, you play a role in the development of the people you employ. That means you need to step up to the plate when employees are looking for guidance. Share your own experiences and help employees navigate obstacles.

Wrapping It Up

When an employee is motivated by specific, measurable and meaningful goals, the entire workplace benefits as a result. That’s just one of the many reasons why you should make sure to include goal setting in your next performance review.

Make sure you not only encourage goal setting but also make goals for yourself as a manager as they pertain to the goals your employees set. Whether that’s a goal to make sure you check in, or that you offer mentorship to 2 junior employees, meeting your team halfway will make them more open about their ambitions.

It is okay to have more than one goal, but as the list of goals grows, the diminishing returns principle does come into play. Try to aim for 5 – 6 goals per employee and adjust in the future if necessary. Smaller milestones can help people feel that they are moving forward towards their goals, regardless of speed. Goal setting is just one of the parts of the performance review process, a process we’ve discussed previously:

Read: Managing Performance Virtually

Our goal is to make this whole process more streamlined and functional for small and medium-sized businesses. We can help your organization with its next performance review, providing structured frameworks for goal setting and how to check in. Alternatively, if you’d rather we handle administrative tasks whilst you focus on employee goals, we are happy to support.