Employee Objectives in Kin is a simple way to manage the goals and objectives of your team members, and keep folks moving forward as individuals and as parts of a larger organization. So now that you’re getting a tool to manage and store them, you’ll need a few tips for creating employee objectives best practices that contribute not just to an employee’s well-being but help drive the entire company forward.
Below are a few best practices that’ve been helpful for our own teams at Kin through the years. Have a read, and give a bit of consideration to how you and your team will manage objectives. Why are they important? Well, they’re a healthy contributor to the well-being of company and employee alike – and they play a critical role in employee reviews, which is another new feature we’ll be releasing in the next several weeks.
Why create employee objectives best practices?
To create, track progress and celebrate the accomplishment of employee objectives requires a few ingredients: constant discussion, mutual understanding, and productivity.
The mere act of discussing objectives means that employees are made aware of where the company is headed, and likewise, employers get to know in which direction employees want to head. That’s a good thing.
In my opinion, employee and company objectives are the only way to have productive performance reviews. They’re actionable milestones that keep both sides of the employee/employer relationship aligned, if not always in agreement (more on that later).
Where traditional performance reviews serve as an opportunity to discuss where an employee (manager, company) stands at the moment, objectives are a dynamic, tangible roadmap to the past and the future. Without them, performance reviews are all but meaningless.
Are employee objectives personal, professional, or company-based?
Well-rounded employees need well-rounded objectives. That means they should focus on all facets of an individual, their role within a team, and the larger organization around them. Each time I work through objectives for myself or a team member, I try to include an objective for each of those tiers, ensuring that individual, team, and company alike are making strides.
For example, for an individual objective, the employee may need to do a better job with his/her written communication. For professional development, they may want to learn more about a specific technology. Lastly, the company may need them to work on their mentoring skills because of a recent boost in hiring.
These three objectives address not just how the company can get more value out of the employee, but how the employee can get the most out of the company they’re working for too.
For a more prescriptive approach to creating objectives or performance review criteria, Marnie E. Green, principal consultant of the Arizona-based Management Education Group, Inc. and author of Painless Performance Evaluations: A Practical Approach to Managing Day to Day Employee Performance, has outlined four general categories from which to create goals and objectives (*).
1. Essence of the Job Goals: goals that clearly define tasks that will be required to complete the job. These goals should be very personalized to the individual position and employee.
2. Project Goals: activities that the employee should pursue with a clearly defined beginning and end.
3. Professional Development Goals: what the employee will learn in the next six months and a year that will help their professional growth. It’s important to think beyond skill improvement classes and consider goals that develop not only the employee, but help your organization as a whole.
4. Performance Goals: very basic, but what time the employee should show up, what they should wear, etc. Many employees won’t need these goals specifically outlined, but it is good to document them in a clear and measurable way.
* originally sourced from Lou Dubois at Inc.com
When, how many, and how long?
The end of the year is a great time to create objectives with employees. You can review the year in arrears, and take a look forward into the new year – that’s 360 degrees of insight to fuel productive objectives. Alas, creating them is only the beginning.
If you’re not meeting up with employees at least once a quarter, it’s time to make a change. Quarterly check-ins (coupled with frequent, informal conversations) with employees are necessary to review progress to date and, as necessary, discuss objectives that have been achieved, change any which need tweaking, or add new ones into the mix.
The scope and specificity of an objective should determine how long it takes to accomplish, and how many should be assigned at once. Given the categories outlined above, and based on my own experience, three to four active objectives at any given time are plenty. If, perchance, an objective is achieved mid-year, that’s great – close it out, celebrate the success, and get the employee moving on with a fresh one.
Make Objectives comprehensible and achievable.
No objective should be left as a sound-bitey headline. While aspiration and ambition play a role in objectives, it’s the details of how to achieve an objective that serve as a roadmap to accomplishment, and outlining expected outcomes and a tangible plan of action for each objective is the way to do that.
An effective objective should come with an expected result, and can usually be broken down into a series of smaller, more bite-sized tasks which, one after another, lead an employee to the outcome. An awesome byproduct of smaller, actionable steps is a more frequent sense of accomplishment which motivates folks to take the next steps forward.
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Where to keep employee objectives, and how to keep them fresh: progress notes
If it’s not written down, it won’t happen. Companies that are serious about professional development need to have a place to manage employee objectives – be it a wiki, company intranet, or HR software like Kin. It’s also important that notes on progress toward the objective are kept at regular intervals – people, business, and objectives evolve, and those notes come in handy and create a case file of sorts for employees’ development at a company through the years.
The magic elixir: align employee objectives with company objectives
The most powerful employee objectives are those which align directly to a company’s own objectives. Employee and employer both should strive to create equitable objectives – improvements that benefit individual, team, and the broader organization.
For example, we recently had a team member itching to get into native mobile app development, which happened to be a prerogative for our consulting team as well. There was a clear business case for getting this fella trained, and bringing that competency in-house. So there was support from pretty much everyone else in the company to make it happen.
As candid as it sounds, failure to find common objectives between company and an employee may be a sign that they’re headed in different directions. It happens, and the process of creating employee objectives best practices is a proactive way of identifying this eventual rift.
Leadership clears the way for employees to succeed
Employees are only half the team when it comes to objectives. At small and large companies alike, leadership and management play a major role in the creation of good objectives
Once they’re created, leadership needs to clear the way for employees to attain their objectives. This means making sure objectives do, indeed, tie in with those of the broader organization, but it’s just as important for managers to work out any roadblocks in resourcing or assignments that may impede an employee’s ability to succeed.
In knowledge industries such as software and design, employees are an organization’s most important asset. Leadership shouldn’t kick itself in the teeth by watching employees, motivated by well-aligned objectives, slip through the cracks. With good objectives management comes ample opportunity for one-on-one conversations and check ins and awareness of where folks are headed, both of which serve to improve alignment, or identify potential rifts.
Public or private w/ team?
The good thing about allowing the entire organization to view one another’s objectives is that everyone can help their coworkers achieve them. Maybe they have a skill or experience in something a coworker is trying to develop and can help mentor them. Public objectives make improvement a community initiative. That said, not all objectives will make for great water cooler talk.
Choosing to diversify objectives across personal, professional, and organizational tiers may help you decide which ones are relevant to the greater audience (hint: the professional and organizational), and which ones are best kept between manager and employee. By implementing employee objectives best practices in tandem with an employee feedback program, you will go a long way in increasing employee engagement and job satisfaction.