Read through the most commonly asked questions from our customers and responses from TalTrack's client success team
Q: What is a goal?
A: Goals are things you need to accomplish on a monthly, quarterly, semi annually or other basis while you are at work. By simply writing these down, you are already ahead of the game. These goals should be focused on what the business needs you to accomplish. These can also be focused on what you want to accomplish professionally and can revolve around your development in the workplace, allowing you to progress in your professional life.
Good goal setting means you will improve the performance of your functional area, your department and/or the overall business. Great goal setting means you will improve business performance *and* improve your own professional development.
Q: What is a good individual goal?
A: There are good goals and not good goals. Good goals are aligned with departmental and corporate goals so the employee can directly see that the way they spend their time every day is contributing to larger initiatives. Good goals are challenging so that an employee can achieve them, but they need to work hard and be focused to get it done. Goals also need to be flexible so that if a departmental goal shifts or a corporate goal shifts, then employee goals should potentially shift to stay aligned.
Q: What is not a "good" goal?
A: We have seen all kinds of approaches to goals and if goals don’t follow the suggested guidelines above, then they can actually reduce employee performance, productivity and engagement. An example is writing tasks as goals. Tasks are sub-components of goals. They are the steps an employee would take to achieve a goal. The employee might need help at this level as well, but a task isn’t a goal. We have seen corporate values used as goals for all employees – this also doesn’t make sense as a way to improve performance and align with what the business is trying to accomplish. Values are typically *how* an organization wants employees to complete goals, not what the goals are. Another thing we see is individual goals cascading down from an employee’s manager.
Q: How many goals should an employee have at any given time?
A: An ideal number is 3-5 at any given time. This includes both goals focused on the business and goals focused on professional development - competency goals (like negotiating skills, management skills, powerpoint skills, etc.)
Q: What is the ideal duration of a goal?
A: This is tricky because it is related to what the employee needs to accomplish for the business or themselves. An employee goal might be to launch a product successfully at an event which is in August. If you’re setting the goal in December or January, then this could be a 12 month goal. An employee could also have a goal which is to take a conflict resolution course in the current quarter when the goal is set during the check-in discussion at the start of Q2. Generally, goals that take less than a month, could be better categorized as a task and goals that take more than 12 months might need to be broken down into multiple goals.
Q: Do goals always need to be metrics-based?
A: No, but goals focused on completing a project or initiative can be significantly improved if you add a deadline and a competition metric of some kind to help with the specificity and clarity that the goal was achieved. If you don’t have a metric, then including as much specificity about what “complete” looks like is really helpful. Of course, many professional development/competency goals are won’t have a metric.
Q: Can competencies be goals?
A: Yes. It is a really good idea to include professional development goals/competencies in the overall goal setting exercise. This is because its easy to fill an employee’s schedule with the business focused goals, then have the competencies be extra – if they have time. For employees to feel fully engaged and in control of their careers, it’s a much better practice to have a balance of business-focused goals and professional development goals.
Q: What's the best way to set an employee's individual goals?
A: Because some of your goals are focused on what and employee does for the company and some goals are focused on the employee’s professional development, its best for manager and employees to set an employee’s individuals goals together. An employee can write their goals, then bring them to the manager for finalization, but its best to develop collaboratively.
Q: What is a check-in discussion?
A: A check-in is a monthly or quarterly meeting between an employee and their manager, to help managers understand how they can better support an employee, help employees understand their performance against goals, troubleshoot challenges and review priorities.
The purpose is to share insights that support employees and to hold employees accountable to their organizational and professional development objectives. These two things mean you’re empowering employees to perform at their best.
Q: How do check-in discussions increase employee performance?
A: In a few ways.
- Regular check-ins motivate employees by proving their performance is noticed and keeps employees accountable for good performance.
- Regular check-ins keep employees on course when they’re drifting off-course, or quickly realign them to the new course if the course is changing, so they don’t waste time
- Regular check-ins surface issues and provide management support before challenges can negatively impact performance.
Together, these improve employee performance – and make sure each individual is contributing maximally to the organisation.
Q: How often should check-ins occur?
A: Normal frequency would be monthly or quarterly, but you might choose to have weekly check-ins in three instances:
- times of significant change
- with a new employee
- with an employee who is on a performance improvement plan.
If you’re having check-ins quarterly, you need another more frequent feedback/alignment mechanism in place. For instance, a monthly goal performance rating completed by the manager and self-assessed by the employee. You could do this via email or messaging system, but a system that captures these assessments and collates them to into the employee’s performance management profile is ideal, as that gives insight in one place to help structure the check-in discussion.
Q: How long should a check-in discussion take?
A: No less than 15 minutes and no more than 60 minutes, depending how often you’re having check-in discussions and how much support the employee needs. If the check-in is monthly (or more frequent) then it should be shorter; if the check-in is quarterly or the employee is in a performance improvement plan, then the check-in should be longer.
That said, DON’T miss the scheduled check-in discussion even if the employee is doing well and appears to be on track. That can lead to significant productivity loss for both manager and the employee.
Q: What is the most effective way to hold a check-in discussion?
A: Here are a few key tips for managers:
- Come into the discussion with the genuine intention of helping the employee succeed and grow. This is critical. A check-in discussion isn’t just a box-ticking exercise you can do and forget. Actively managing people is critical for productivity and performance and check-in discussions are an important part of that.
- Take a few minutes to prepare. If you’re doing monthly 30 minute check-ins, you don’t need to spend an hour preparing but you should spend 5-10 minutes reviewing solicited and unsolicited feedback the employee has received, their self-assessment of performance and any other information you have. This ensures the check-in is spent on value-add dialog.
- Its about supporting the employee. Think of check-ins as a time to learn how you can support your employee so they can succeed in their goals. If they succeed, you succeed. Don’t think of check-ins as a time to dump more on employees.
- Listen as much as you talk. This is a conversation, and a chance to learn more about how to support your team towards better performance. Check-ins are an opportunity to learn how to help employees in simple ways and how to better motivate them.
- Give as much praise as you do improvement feedback. Balance is important, so make sure you’re highlighting the positives as well as any areas to improve. But do give constructive feedback too – even the highest-performing employee will have development areas.
- Give feedback in the right way. Positive and improvement feedback should follow the five-point structure, to have maximum impact on future behaviour:
- Give context for the feedback
- Explain your feedback specifically and objectively
- Describe the impact the work/behaviour had
- Emphasise the skills you want to reinforce
- Reinforce the praise (positive) or seek solutions together (improvement)
For more detail on this, read our article on check-in discussions.
Now employees. Here’s how employees can get the most from check-in discussions:
- Come into discussions with an attitude to learn and develop. Be open to all feedback, genuinely embracing the opportunity to improve. Your manager can share insights that can help you see things in a new light, to build and strengthen your skills.
- Take this opportunity to learn about your manager too. Check-in discussions shouldn’t be one-directional. This is an opportunity to learn more about the challenges your manager is facing and the approaches they take to solve problems, accomplish goals and lead the team.
- Share your success, not just your problems and challenges. This should be a positive experience, and sharing your success stories helps set the right tone.
- If you do present a challenge, present a solution too. Even if your solution isn’t perfect, this proves to your manager that you have ideas for solving problems and aren’t just dumping problems on their lap.
- Don’t spend too much time on simple status updates. Check-in discussions aren’t status report, so focus on significant positive or negative changes from the last discussion, especially in your highlighted development areas. If there aren’t *significant* changes on an item, don’t give an update – this includes a sales pipeline review!
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