Set individual goals for your employees

When it comes to setting targets for the financial year, most SMEs think "operations, growth, expansion, profits" and so on. These are all necessary elements of successful planning, but what about setting goals for your employees? Is it necessary, and if so, where do you start? This article can be used as a guide for individual goal-setting and measuring achievement.

You have a dream or vision for your business. And while you will steer the company towards realising that dream, your employees are the real drivers behind your company's success. This is why it's important to set goals for each employee, in line with your business strategy.

It may seem like too much trouble, but it's really not as daunting or as time-consuming as it sounds. Successful businesses have come to realise that setting directives for employees has many advantages:

  • It gives employees greater insight into the company's goals and how they fit into the picture
  • It boosts individual performance and co-operation between employees; every person knows what he needs to do, and who to work with to reach his targets
  • It provides accountability; your staff know how and when their performance will be measured
  • It keeps employees focussed as their progress is monitored and measured on a consistent basis. Hopefully, there is also a reward for a job well done
  • Your employees feel more involved in their own personal growth and that of the business

Setting the goals

Sit down with each employee to discuss their goals and get their input. Write down a clear definition of each task, the deadline by which it must be done and how the employee will be measured. Be specific and allow for two-way communication. Once the employee agrees, make sure you both sign it.

Putting the goals in black and white is very important. It avoids misunderstanding and everyone can refer to it to remind themselves of what exactly must be done.

What about personal goals?

It's important that each employee improves the skills they need to do their job. By supporting them in this regard - either by financing their training or providing other incentives - you are investing in the growth and success of your business.

As part of this whole process, define some personal goals for every employee. For example, they can be expected to learn or improve on a job-related skill in the coming year, take leadership on a project or mentor junior employees.

Find out how they would like to improve their knowledge. This will show that you take an interest in the development of your workers by allowing them to reach their full potential. It also makes for positive and driven employees.

Reaching those goals

Now that everyone is aware of their priorities, let the employee use his own initiative to complete the task. You'd be surprised how much more motivated and productive employees are when they are given the freedom to use strategies that work best for them. Make sure there are enough resources (equipment, materials, staff assistance, etc.) available, and give encouragement and feedback where possible.

It's also important that goals are reviewed on at least a quarterly basis. Circumstances change and some objectives may no longer be relevant. You may need to extend deadlines, or assign a higher priority to certain tasks. Just remember to keep the communications lines open, so everyone knows what's expected.

Last but not least

Reward achievement. It's amazing how many employers don't hesitate to point out mistakes or under-achievement, but forget to recognise good work. Acknowledge goals that are reached and expectations which have been exceeded.

This doesn't have to be a financial incentive (although those are always the best received). Find out how your staff would like to be complimented on a job well done. Sometimes a dinner voucher for two, a company party or something simple will let everyone know that you see and value their contribution.

Now that your employees know what you expect from them, what about your own goals? As much as you keep an eye on your people, you can be sure that they're watching you too. Set a positive example by also setting (and achieving) some challenging goals for yourself. Yes you are the boss, but you're also part of a team.

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