performance.targetsWho gets excited about being told what to do? Not many of us.  We all want to participate in conversations that impact our work life.  One opportunity to engage employees in a conversation about work is to mutually develop performance goals. Performance goals can provide direction and motivation to employees, providing measurable targets on which to focus.

Performance goals are most effective when they are established with employees, not for employees. If the employee has not participated in the establishment of the goals assigned to him or her, buy-in is unlikely. Involving employees in the goal setting process is a critical step to engaging employees in their work.

Here are some tips for developing goals on a mutual basis with employees:

  • Find a time when you and the employee can discuss future goals without interruption.  The goal setting discussion should be held in private, face-to-face, without distractions or disruptions.
  • Each party, the employee and the manager, should bring a few possible goals to the table.  If both the manager and the employee bring a few goals in writing, the conversation can focus on those concrete ideas. It is important that the proposed goals are written.  If they are ideas in your head, they are less “real” and less likely to be clearly communicated.
  • Focus on common themes, rather than on differences.  The employee may have a new idea about the job that you’ve not considered.  Likewise, you may have expectations or ideas for the employee that might take them by surprise.  Be prepared for new ideas.  Enter the meeting with an open mind and encourage the employee to do the same.
  • Write SMAART goals.  The goals that you and the employee agree upon should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Agreed Upon, Realistic, and Time-oriented.
  • Create a final document that lists the goals that you both agree upon.  This document, a list of goals for the coming year, will provide the road map for future discussions with the employee about their progress and performance. Print this list of goals on brightly colored paper so that it can be easily found and referred to frequently.

Setting mutually agreeable goals with employees should be a positive and productive process.  It should allow you both to share your hopes and ideas for the future.  Setting goals at least annually, if not more often, will lead to higher levels of performance that is aligned with the agency’s goals and more motivated public employees.

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