At the end of last year, I boldly declared 2019 the year of alignment, and there is no better place to start than with goal setting. Goal setting is nothing new, but consider the 90+ consecutive months of job growth, and a highly volatile year defined by career-ending sexual misconduct cases. Hitting big bumps at breakneck speed is more than enough to knock our organization’s goal setting processes out of alignment.
Rather than “going through the motions,” I am encouraging my clients to take a step back, take a deep breath and a take fresh look with all of 2018’s lessons in mind. More specifically, I recommend HR and business leaders examine their goals through the lens of 2019’s four most important filters.
1. Alignment from the top down
The research is conclusive. Effective goal setting leads to greater productivity. However, as our organizations grow, poor communication can put a drag on that productivity lift. One study shows that “69% of high performing companies rank communicating business goals company-wide as the most effective way to build a high performing team”. Having a formal and effective process to cascaded company goals down to the individual level is critical. There is no shortage of methods and no one right answer, but I recommend identifying a method that is structured, consistent and a good fit for your current culture. For example, many organizations use SMART goals to provide managers and employees tangible guidelines for autonomous goal setting. Other organizations have adopted OKRs, emphasizing stretch goals and more company-wide integration. Whatever method you choose, the important thing is for every employee to see a direct link between their activities and the company goals. Furthermore, encourage employees to question how their work supports the organization’s top priorities. Challenge them to make recommendations on how they can realign their efforts to what is likely a dynamic set of priorities.
2. Alignment with employee development
Meeting our company’s goals requires top talent. The highest performing organizations that I work with engage talent by ensuring that goals not only align to the business, but also to an employee’s professional development ambitions. Forbes recently highlighted another way to think about goals that incorporates this important career development component, HARD Goals. Once an employee can see the connection between the company’s priorities and their work, it is time to motivate and challenge them to grow as a professional to meet these objectives. HARD Goals are Heartfelt, Animated, Required, Difficult. “Fortunately, career-focused HARD Goals can be worked right into employee career-mapping conversations to get your people energized and focused on self-development.” Whether you use the HARD method or a similar approach, the idea is to help employees identify gaps in skills or experience that might stand in the way of their success. From there, you can create opportunities to boost their effectiveness, aligned to both the company and their career development. According to one study, offering career training and development would keep 86% of millennials from leaving their current position. This extra step to align goals with development is worth the time.
3. Alignment with the inclusion and diversity reality
One of the biggest changes I see to the goal alignment process in 2019 has to do with Inclusion and Diversity. Eighty-four (84%) percent of job seekers “would consider leaving their current job if offered a job by a company with an excellent reputation”. The most progressive companies that I work with acknowledge that their organizations and HR departments have room to improve when it comes to preventing, addressing and handling sexual harassment, in addition to building safe and inclusive cultures. For many companies, this has risen to the level of the Board of Directors. In reality, it is very difficult for a Board to commit to making improvements if the managers, leaders, and employees in positions of power are not also measurably committed. In the past, anti-harassment may have been cascaded down as an HR goal. If 2018 taught us anything, it is that anti-harassment is not an “HR thing” – it is a company thing, a leadership thing, a human thing. While HR practitioners should continue to play their part in building and managing safe and productive work environments, they cannot do so without an all-hands-on-deck approach. What may have been seen as operational or compliance related in the past, has suddenly become very strategic. Organizations should be bold in adding goals related to anti-harassment readiness and employee relations pipelines, for example.
4. Alignment with communications and culture
Only 8% of companies believe their performance management process is highly effective. If we are going to make the effort to align our organizations around the most important and ambitious goals, let’s make sure the process is still a match for our current culture. First, I encourage organizations to create reminders about the company’s priorities in all employee communication – from executive town halls to employee 1:1s. Companies like Workboard have done a great job of automating this process and making it visual. Let’s face it, we are exposed to so many high-end images that capture our attention on a daily basis. If we want our organizations focused on aligned goals, we may need to compete for mindshare by offering strong and compelling visuals that integrate naturally with workflow. Another interesting option for smaller or more decentralized organizations is a tool called Goalscape. What I like about this tool is that it offers options from individual to enterprise. It also creates a dashboard that integrates both life and work goals, which feels a lot more like reality. And finally, think about communicating and managing goals across the multigenerational workforce. The idea of quarterly reviews is not well received by younger workers, who prefer real-time feedback. Forty-six (46%) percent of HR leaders say that employee burnout is responsible for up to half of their annual workforce turnover. With that in mind, streamlining the management of their goals will likely be well received.
It is never too late to set goals that really matter. Examining your goals through the lens of these four priorities should give you a fresh and productive perspective. If you are interested in revising your goal setting process, contact me at [email protected] or (917) 612-8571.