Goal Management that Drives Business Outcomes

July 12, 2018

Goal Management that Drives Business Outcomes

Clear employee goals and ongoing management of those goals have a strong relationship with business outcomes, according to research from Bersin by Deloitte. But goal management that motivates employees, improves productivity, and drives business impact requires more than assigning top-down goals and reviewing employee performance once a year.


All too often, employee goals are set as part of an annual performance review, filed away, and only consulted when it's time for the next performance appraisal. Employees’ priorities seem to change as often as the weather – easily affected by the crisis of the day or shifts in direction. As a result, goals are often left unachieved and employees left unfulfilled.


In today’s tight job market, employers need to engage and retain their best employees. So how can HR leaders help managers set goals that inspire employees and help the company succeed?


Here are three tips for facilitating more effective goal setting in your organization:


1. Help Employees Find Meaning


One of the keys to employee accountability – and ensuring employees stay productive and focused on the right goals – is helping employees understand how their daily work contributes to the company’s success. Employees need to know that their work and efforts matter.


You can give employees this all-important context by first setting and communicating high-level organizational goals, then tasking employees with establishing individual goals that directly link to and support these. Employees then clearly understand how their individual goals contribute to the achievement of organizational goals.


Goal alignment plays a key role in effective goal management. Every employee's role and every employee goal should be tied to the organization's overall strategy, not just to their manager's success. That way you can rationalize conflicting priorities, based on a higher-level common goal. Aligning individual and organizational goals makes sure that every employee’s contributions move the organization forward in the right direction.


HR leaders can support managers by offering training on goal-setting techniques (such as setting SMART goals) that will ensure their teams have clear, measurable and meaningful objectives that align to the needs of the organization. HR and business leaders should also regularly communicate the organization’s key priorities across the organization, and work with managers to ensure employees have visibility into how their daily work matters to the business.


2. Create a Culture of Conversation


Gallup research reveals that, while just 30 percent of employees today strongly agree that their manager involves them in setting their goals at work, those who do strongly agree with this statement are 3.6 times more likely than other employees to be engaged.


Effective goal management isn’t a once-a-year, tick-box exercise – it is a fluid, ongoing, collaborative process. It requires a regular, continuous dialogue between managers and employees that includes feedback and coaching, prioritizing, and employee development and career planning. Frequent, meaningful check-ins ensure that individual and organizational performance stay on track and allow everyone to adjust their goals as needed to keep pace with evolving business requirements.


A talent development platform can give managers and employees a simple, interactive and centralized way to track and collaborate on goals and projects, exchange meaningful feedback, provide coaching, discuss career development opportunities or any issue that matters – on a regular, ongoing basis. Some platforms even include built-in conversation starters, automated agendas, and instant access to goal progress to help facilitate more effective 1-on-1 check-ins between managers and employees.


3. Recognize Achievement and Learn from Mistakes


To keep employees motivated and engaged in their work, it’s important to praise early wins and help employees learn from mistakes quickly. But you can only do this if you are regularly tracking performance against goals.


Employees will lose motivation if there are not frequent opportunities to celebrate success, and the sense of accomplishment that comes from recognizing early wins is vital for new motivation going forward. On the flipside, it’s just as important to coach employees on areas for improvement. This prevents surprises during the annual performance appraisal, improves morale, and allows employees to change course if needed, ultimately helping the business.


Managers and employees should frequently review progress and re-assess goals throughout the year. In fact, research tells us that organizations that review or revise goals at least quarterly are 3.5 times more likely to score in the top 25 percent of business outcomes.


By helping employees understand how their work contributes to organizational success, building a feedback-rich culture, and regularly revisiting employee goals, organizations can create an employee-centric goal management process that engages and motivates employees.


Effective goal management creates a culture where employees feel empowered and are committed to doing their best work. And having a strong goal management strategy can help you align individual goals to organizational imperatives, improve performance and increase engagement—while also boosting business results.

The Authors: 

Hawley Kane is head of Organizational Talent and Leadership Development at Saba Software. As the OD leader at a talent management provider, she has the unique opportunity to marry Saba’s ongoing performance, continuous learning and career development strategies with the company’s own cloud solutions and services. Kane is responsible for global initiatives ranging from onboarding to performance management training and leader development, as well as Saba’s people and team-driven development programs. Before her L&D leadership role, Hawley served as principal product manager at Halogen Software, prior to the company’s acquisition by Saba in 2017. Nearly a decade of experience in working with hundreds of HR and learning leaders to translate their business and user needs into product capabilities has provided her with distinctive insight into her current role.