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By Jilaine Parkes

Agreeing and setting goals is essential to ensuring a productive and driven workforce. At the corporate, team and individual levels, goals help provide the direction employees need to succeed and the metrics needed by managers to measure performance.

When done correctly, setting goals, recording results and creating development plans offer big advantages to companies looking to improve productivity and results.

The trick is getting the right processes and tools in place. When managers motivate employees successfully, productivity skyrockets along with company growth and bottom line performance.
What’s more, effective performance appraisals allow leaders to identify gaps and serve as the foundation for employee development. This leads to higher-performing employees and improves your company’s performance.

How do you get goal setting right?

That’s a big question, but let’s start with the basics.

There is a pretty universal standard on how to write goals effectively, which is called the SMART goal format. SMART is an acronym that stands for: specific, measurable, achievable, role-defined and time phased (there are slight differences by definition around, but these are the fundamentals of a solid goal).

By adopting the SMART foundation, managers and employees can collaboratively agree on realistic, achievable objectives, which can then be connected to key performance indicators (KPIs). Goals can be cascaded down from the corporate level but, often, the most effective way to drive ownership and accountability of goals is for the manager to have a conversation with each direct report outlining key projects and initiatives that directly impact or involve the employee’s roles and responsibilities.

The direct report would then absorb this information and propose a series of goals for their manager to review, provide feedback and approve.

Creating a full employee goal process: combining goals and competencies

Drafting and approving goals are really only the early stages; providing progress tracking, regular updates, competencies and development plans are essential to ensuring a full performance management strategy.
HR professionals should aspire to create learning environments to help employees understand the competencies for their role.

With new, automated performance management software options becoming available, companies of all sizes have an opportunity to develop their performance initiatives to encompass goals, metrics and plans.
Get the most from new performance tools by educating staff and holding them accountable for their own goals and competencies. Employees must be able to identify and develop their measurable knowledge, abilities and skills, which are essential for business success.

So how can this be achieved? Important questions to ask include:

• Are your staff members assessed on competencies? If not, why?
• Does your organization have an established competency model?
• Have the competencies been communicated to employees and do they understand them?
Addressing these questions and identifying what your company needs to do will be a big driver in a successful move to a system of clarity, ownership and accountability.

A word of warning: technology should never replace conversations but rather orchestrate the administration and paperwork to higher levels of efficiency.

Embrace the process, respect the tools and reap the rewards

The headaches of traditional reviews can be a thing of the past. Canadian managers in 2014 can easily rate goal achievement and assess performance against job-specific competencies and core company values – but goals must be set with the right foundations and new online tools should be recognized as facilitating tools to streamline, not replace, traditional goal setting and measurement practices.

Jilaine Parkes is president of Sprigg Talent Management Systems.

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