Approach goal setting as a partnership
- Use the annual performance goal setting process as an opportunity for a discussion with your employee to clarify expectations, ensure alignment and gain commitment.
- Set goals during an open, collaborative discussion between you and your employee. This will lead to clear direction, the right amount of challenge, and buy-in from both parties.
- If the employee works on a partner project, solicit feedback from the partner lead or supervisor on goals and deliverables.
Make sure each goal is SMART
Consider the following questions as you work with the employee to set goals:
- S – Specific: Is the goal precise and tangible? (Avoid generalities and use action verbs as much as possible.)
- M – Measurable: Does the goal measure value-added results or output? Does it include results that can be objectively evaluated (such as quantity, quality, cost)? For researchers, measurable goals might include publications, patents, invited talks, proposals funded or submitted, etc.
- A – Achievable: Is the goal realistic? Does the employee have sufficient support and resources to achieve it? Aspirational: Is the goal compelling for the employee? Does it provide an opportunity for personal development?
- R – Relevant: Is the goal aligned with Laboratory, Division and group goals? Does the employee understand this alignment?
- T – Time-bound: Does the goal include a date or elapsed amount of time for completion?
Diagnose competence level
- Make sure you understand the employee’s level of knowledge, skills, experience and capabilities needed to accomplish the goal successfully before finalizing a goal.
- Determine what direction, resources and support are needed for success.
- Consider how the goal contributes to the employee’s work and/or development interests.
Consider these best practices to avoid common pitfalls
- Create the right number of goals. Too many goals may lead to quality issues; too few may not be sufficiently challenging.
- Set goals from a broader perspective, considering the larger issue behind the task. Goals should not be set at the task level because it is too limited in scope.
- Make sure the employee’s goals complement each other rather than compete. The employee should not have to choose between achieving one goal or another.
- Ensure the goal is within the employee’s control. If you are holding the employee accountable for the goal, be sure to discuss and help the employee address any obstacles.
- Coordinate goals with those of other team members. Inconsistent, similar or overlapping goals will waste your team’s time and may lead to frustration and unhealthy competition.
Monitor progress on goals
- During the goal-setting session, agree on check-in dates when you can provide support and direction and update goals as needed.
- Follow through with your employee by checking in at agreed-upon dates.