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How to set goals and promote employee development

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Last editedMay 20212 min read

From daily tasks to annual performance reviews, setting employee goals should be a regular part of your business plan. Here’s how to set goals as part of employee training and development, along with a few common pitfalls to avoid along the way.

SMART goal setting as part of employee development

Why are goals so important in business? You should constantly be striving to meet company objectives, both on a team-wide and individual level. Setting SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, results-driven and time-bound) goals is a big part of this.

Ideally, employee performance goals will fit into this SMART framework of being both challenging and specific, with everyone working towards a larger outcome together. Setting actionable goals boosts performance, because it’s really motivating to see how your work is paying off in real-time.

How to set company-wide goals

For goals to be most effective, they should involve employees from start to finish. However, you can get the ball rolling with an executive brainstorming session. Think about what you want to achieve in business. How do you see your organization growing and changing over the next month, year, and decade? You need a combination of long and short-term goals to experience positive growth.

Another factor to consider at the company-wide level is measurement. Which metrics will be used as indicators of success? How will progress be tracked and evaluated? Think about these factors before sitting down to involve the whole team. Discuss your company’s objectives, using these as the roadmap for individual goals and targets.

How to set employee performance goals

At the individual level, give employees the autonomy to advance their own development. This involves setting their own employee goals, designed to sit under the umbrella of your established company objectives.

Linking these individual goals to business objectives is a key component of performance management. It gives employees a sense of purpose when they can see how their individual actions contribute to wider goals. This not only encourages accountability but boosts performance at the same time. Setting realistic deadlines both at the individual and team level takes accountability even further.

Tips for employee training and development

When working goal setting into your employee development plan, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

1. Track measurable progress

We’ve already mentioned the need to make goals measurable. No matter the metric, take the time to track progress along the way. This keeps your team focused and gives you the chance to fine-tune your strategy if needed. Tangible progress also keeps the team motivated.

2. Adapt goals to changing situations

No situation in business is static, nor should it be. If something’s not working or a previously realistic goal becomes unrealistic, change it. Don’t wait for the annual performance review to revisit goals; this should be something completed along the way.

3. Use failure as a learning experience

It’s a fact of life that you won’t be able to meet every single goal. Some goals are long shots, others might suffer from unexpected competition or market conditions. The trick is to turn failure into a learning experience, embracing it as part of employee training and development. When there are problems, revisit goals together to navigate your way through.

4. Schedule regular reviews

Your employee development plan should include regular check-ins with each team member. Find out how they’re doing when it comes to meeting goals. Are their professional needs being met? Are they feeling overwhelmed with the tasks they’ve set, or are they ready to take on additional responsibilities?

5. Encourage professional growth

Finally, focus on skill-building as part of your employee development plans. Goals should focus not only on business growth, but also professional growth. Encourage your team to attend workshops, seminars, and online courses to grow their skillset. Ongoing talent management is a major benefit to your business, creating a skill-savvy network right in house.

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