Goal setting and performance management are often cited as supervisors' least preferred responsibilities. Cascading performance goals down through a large division or organization is a complex undertaking.
Coordinating everyone's goals around activities that contribute to productivity requires communication, planning, rewards and support.
To create strategic alignment among the organization's direction, the manager's performance expectations and an employee's annual objectives, consider having employees design their own goals. This practice provides rewarding opportunities for employees to assume responsibility for their contributions and development.
In some cases, it makes sense to assign an annual objective to the individuals or small groups most capable of delivering the desired work product. However, companies in which employees have a say in how they make contributions benefit from increased job satisfaction and reduced turnover.
Prepare. Employees who are aware of top-level objectives and how their department supports those objectives are better prepared for this process. As manager, your first step is to review top-level objectives and understand how your team's goals contribute. Then, consider what goals need to be delegated.
Next, clarify employees' key responsibilities and begin to anticipate the goals you might expect them to achieve. Having already set your annual goals and ensured that they fit into the company's direction, ask employees to do the same.
Prior to a goal-setting meeting with a subordinate, share relevant information and clarify expectations. Define the resources required. As your direct reports draft performance goals, have them include at least one measure for each goal to specify the results expected or the level of performance required.
Review. Emphasize that employees are writing their goals, but, as their manager, you are responsible for ensuring the relevance of their tasks and how they fit into the organization's plans.
At a minimum, employees' goals should represent key responsibilities of their positions. Consider if it is appropriate to delegate a specific goal or pieces of the goal to another employee. Break large goals into smaller components.
Stretch goals should advance your goals and those of the organization. As a manager, you must oversee the efforts of others to produce these results. If their tasks don't fit into your tasks, you will be wasting effort. Question whether such tasks need to be reassigned to another department or discarded.
Align. After reviewing the drafts, meet again with each employee to agree on final goals. Those who are part of the goal-setting process are able to articulate how their work directly contributes to annual goals.
As their manager, you will see ultimate rewards such as higher job satisfaction and employee engagement. Managers who consistently achieve this alignment and engagement are often given the opportunity to contribute to strategic initiatives and, perhaps, be rewarded with a promotion and career advancement.
So when your manager requests that you write your own goals, look at it as an opportunity to play a role in your own advancement and capitalize on your strengths.
Robert Liddell is director of career planning for Saint Leo University in St. Leo, Fla.