Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Goals, Employee Evaluations, and Open Communications

Of course you have goals and your company has goals. But do you communicate these through your organization at every level?

I hope you set out quarterly goals for employees. As I've written about before, I'm a fan of quarterly evaluations tied specifically to the goals you set for the quarter. Goals should cascade down from the owner to the company, to the departments, and to individuals.

I say they should start with the owner(s) because small businesses exist to fulfill the dreams and desires of the owners. Those dreams might be related to the service you deliver, the charity work you can do because of the business, or the money you take out to fund your retirement and lifestyle.

As you prepare for the new year, it's a great time to have a company-wide discussion about goals. And an important item on that agenda is to share everyone's goals. A lot of companies never get around to sharing goals. Each employee has goals, but often have no idea what other folks' goals are.

This simple technique - open goal sharing - can have a huge positive effect on your company's morale and overall performance. Of course you need to plan this out rather than just share everything all at once.

Some employee goals may be personal. For example, an employee may be late every day. Or may be poor and getting service notes into the PSA in a reasonable time. Or, the positive side, they may be working to achieve a new certification.

Rule One: Only share goals when doing so can result in a more positive outcome. For example, don't line up all the people who show up late and publicly chastise them. But do make them aware that they represent a special team and encourage them to work to support each other in getting to work on time.

Rule Two: Always make sure that people whose goals affect one another are aware of it. It's one thing when a team is trying to get response times down. Everyone knows what's going on and they can work together. It's another thing if you tell each person individually to work on response time. That can feel more like criticism than teamwork.

If your administrative assistant helps push through paperwork to get clients signed up for your service, their individual goals may be very much tied in with the sales person's goals for the quarter. They should be aware of each others' goals and therefore encouraged to help each other. That's what teams do. But if they don't know they're a team, they're less likely to act like a team.

It's important that you don't make quarterly goals feel like arbitrary or meaningless standards. When you think of team goals as well as individual goals, the quarterly goals and evaluations become part of the larger discussion of your company's success. As people feel like they're part of smaller teams and the big company-wide team, their job makes more sense. They understand how their "piece" fits in the big puzzle.

It can even be helpful for people in different departments to understand the goals of other departments. Service delivery affects sales. And sales certainly affect the service department.

An unexpected benefit of company-wide discussions about goals in the cross-pollination of ideas. When you start answering a lot of questions about why your company does what it does (and why various people or positions do what they do), you'll find that a lot of ideas get thrown out. Some will be humorous and some will be serious. All of them contribute to teamwork - and you might just have some great ideas for improving processes and procedures.

Bring In Last Year's Goals As Well

Finally, if you've been keeping track of goal setting for awhile, you can educate your team on your goals for 2016. How are you doing in the big picture? Why are the goals changing? How will this affect various members of your team?

Again, when people see goals in a broader context, they understand more than what they need to do for the next 13 weeks. They begin to get a sense that the company as a whole is moving toward something. They understand where it's been and where it's going. They see its mission and their role in it.

Some people poo-poo goal setting and make fun of it. But I hope you see that there's much more power in context-rich goals rather than isolated targets. When people understand their jobs as a deeper level, every piece of your business will be more successful.


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