By: Rachel Heisterkamp
The year-end conversation season can feel daunting – especially if your organization combines the performance review process with scheduled promotions or compensation adjustments. The worst possible outcome for your employees during moments like these is that they come out of a year-end performance review feeling blind-sided and caught off-guard. In fact, this kind of approach can cause a “fight or flight” response in employees, and contributes to a culture of dread, uneasiness, and lack of control over individual career paths.
When employees set and track their own goals, they feel empowered to do what it takes to bring their own success to life – and see themselves in the next steps for the organization. It sets everyone up for success, even in unexpected ways: employees are 42% more likely to achieve their goals when they’re recorded or written down. It’s no surprise, then, that sticking to a common organizational goal structure is the best way to boost your year-end review process, take the guesswork out of it for your workforce, and actually drive the success of your business.
Use these goal-setting methods to get started:
TIP #1: Use OKRs to Drive Empowerment
For very small organizations, it’s often obvious how each employee is contributing to the bottom line. But, particularly as companies grow and scale, the connections between broad company goals and employee roles and responsibilities can lose clarity. Goal-setting, then, is your opportunity to directly connect employees with broader organizational goals. One of the most common strategies for developing this connective tissue is through Objectives & Key Results, or OKRs. This approach to goal setting is inherently tied to organizational alignment; everyone from individuals to departments to the CEO sets their objectives (O) for the year, followed by the key results (KR) that will demonstrate the success of those goals. It’s also a system built on transparency – employees need to be familiar with broader organizational objectives to set their own and draw connections between those goals and individual actions.
To foster this sense of prioritization, alignment, and transparency even more, an OKR-based performance process would thrive when driven by a digital internal communications plan. Using automatic reminders, distributing your broader business OKRs at key (goal-setting) moments, and segmenting your audience to target the right groups at the right time may seem like small changes, but they make a huge impact on the overall engagement of your performance process – and they can add up when it’s all on the shoulders of a small team to do it manually. Digital employee communication software can move the needle on participation and motivation when it comes to setting goals, and it only means a lighter lift for your internal communicators.
TIP #2: Have Employees Set SMART(er) Goals
Goals aren’t helpful to your employees or to the organization when they’re not easily measurable. It’s critical to be able to point to specific, quantifiable progress your employees have made in order to justify business case for job changes, bonuses, or raises in salary. The best way to pinpoint specific achievements, of course, is to start with specific goals as part of the performance process. The most common framework for this is “SMART goal setting,” which encourages employees to specify exactly how a goal will be accomplished, and typically meets the following criteria:
Specific: What is the particular outcome you’re seeking?
Measurable: How can you quantify (in hours, dollars, or another metric) the goal?
Achievable: What realistic action(s) will you take to achieve this goal?
Relevant: Does this goal directly relate to the success of your role, or the organization?
Time-Bound: What’s your time frame to achieve the objective, or is it ongoing?
For example, an employee’s goal that she wants to “boost email marketing effectiveness” is a great idea, but will become tricky down the road to truly evaluate – which leads to a negative performance experience for both the employee and the manager. Instead, encourage the SMART framework to specify goals even further, for example, “I’ll increase email marketing click rates by 10% in Q3 by increasing our send rates, and utilize A/B testing on each message.”
But keep in mind, the only way to encourage a new goal-setting method is through awareness and engagement. Leverage your most-used internal communication channels to promote the SMART goals framework, send out resources and worksheets, as well as push reminders about the performance process so it doesn’t get lost along the way.
Whether you adopt the OKR framework, SMART goal setting, or a combination of both of these best practices, make sure your performance process isn’t happening in a vacuum. Employees shouldn’t only be thinking about their goals at the time of goal setting and during a performance review – these goals should be integrated into their day-to-day work, and need to be checked in on regularly. With more ongoing communications and touchpoints, you also gain the ability to encourage the change and adaptation of goals with the most current state of the business. If goals shift mid-year to better accommodate the vision of the organization, that should be celebrated in an annual review – not counted as a failure. Using your internal communications strategy to boost the empowerment and individual motivation of your workforce is the key to stronger, more productive year-end conversations.