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“Goals are like your roadmap in life, or a compass. If you don’t know where you want to go, you can never get there.” - Spyros Thalassinos, founder of Design Haven

We harp on productivity metrics and constantly refine performance management programs, hoping all the attention will lead to more productive workforces and better business results.

But what if the real issue occurs much earlier in the process? What if performance is being stunted at the very outset?

It happens – and it happens quite often – when leaders and managers neglect to set performance goals with their workers, leaving employees without the roadmaps they need to succeed.

Here are three common mistakes companies make with respect to the goal-setting process:

Mistake 1: Not Setting Goals in the First Place

One of the most common goal-setting mistakes is not setting any goals to begin with. Only 36 percent of organizations have standard, company-wide strategies for setting goals. There’s a significant chance your company isn’t making a regular, concerted effort to set meaningful employee goals. This lack of goals is damaging to all involved, but especially to your newest hires. You invested so much in attracting them, and now they lack the guidance they need to thrive.

The Solution: There’s no shortcut here. To fix this mistake, you have to create an organization-wide goal-setting process leaders and employees can follow. The protocol should be scalable and applicable to everyone from interns to executives. That way, the goal-setting process will build good habits across the organization and remind everyone that no one is too new or too experienced to aim for improvement.

Mistake 2: Setting Goals That Are Too Attainable

No one reaches greatness unless they consciously set themselves up for it. There’s nothing wrong with focusing on the little tasks that lead to the end of a big project, but those are daily goals. They’re different from the big goals we use to guide our career trajectories or the achievements of an entire company.

When setting goals with employees, it’s important that you find a balance between big challenges and smaller, more obvious wins. An even mix will mean a motivated and satisfied employee, while too much of one or the other can lead to frustration.

The Solution: Set goals with employees, not for them. Doing so will increase transparency and communication between you and your employees, who will jump at the chance to provide input on the direction of their career. Additionally, the process gives employees a more personal stake in achieving their goals.

Mistake 3: Forgetting to Maintain Goals

Maybe you already have a goal-setting plan. Maybe you already work hard to name common goals and align employees’ personal aims with the company mission.

And yet, at the end of the year, those goals you worked so hard to develop are left unattained.

The problem isn’t that you neglected to set goals, nor did you fail to take employees’ motivations into account. Rather, the problem is that you overlooked the planning phase! You can’t just set goals; in order for employees to actually achieve their goals, they’ll need plans that keep them on track.

The Solution: Did you know people who write down their goals are 50 percent more likely to achieve them? That’s why employees should leave goal-setting meetings with written lists of the objectives they need to achieve and the timeframes in which they need to achieve them. To further increase the chances of achievement, you should help the employee break their overarching goals down into week-by-week or month-by-month plans of tasks and objectives.

Setting goals is important for any organization that wants to see real employee progress. To make sure your goal-setting process actually works, be sure to avoid these three mistakes!

A version of this article originally appeared on the iRevü blog.

Michael Heller is the CEO and founder of iRevü.



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