Meshing employee/organization goals drives staff engagement
Effective goal setting in the workplace isn’t just about setting objectives; it’s about a comprehensive approach that involves employees, aligns with business priorities, and adapts to changes.
By Carolyn Smith, APR, TRA
Are you seeking to establish an outstanding workplace culture in 2024, one marked by exceptional employees skilled at acquiring new clients and retaining or renewing existing ones?
You’re not alone. Yet, this common goal is proving remarkably challenging for many agency leaders. Why?
Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2023 Report presented a sobering reality: Nearly 60% of the U.S. workforce experiences psychological disengagement, often referred to as “quiet quitting.” These individuals demonstrate an attitude of detachment towards their roles, neither fully embracing their responsibilities nor actively rejecting them.
Fortunately, these disengaged individuals share a collective desire for inspiration. Notably, 85% expressed the need for “more recognition, learning opportunities, fair treatment, clearer objectives, and improved management.”
So, the pivotal question emerges: How can you and your team reverse this trend and establish a more engaging and productive workplace culture?
Start by considering employees as integral stakeholders in both their personal growth and your organization’s trajectory. Then, concentrate on tangible performance management strategies, such as clearly defined goals.
Goals help align employees with the organization’s mission. They also help employees understand how their contributions fit and the value they bring to the organization.
With the right goals, performance and engagement improve significantly.
Key to setting goals for motivation and performance
By setting clear and challenging goals in alignment with employees’ interests, you can foster a more engaged, productive, and satisfied workforce. The importance of regular feedback and adapting goals to match evolving circumstances is vital in maintaining motivation and commitment.
Try using the SMART system as a foundational approach before defining any goals. SMART is an acronym for:
Specific. Ensure that your goals are clear, specific, and quantifiable to sharpen focus and increase the likelihood of success. Specificity aids in measuring progress and devising actionable plans.
Measurable. Setting measurable goals simplifies tracking progress. It’s easier to break measurable goals into smaller, achievable milestones that both individuals and the team can monitor. Incremental progress towards a specific 25% improvement is clearer than ambiguous improvement goals.
Attainable. Goals should be realistic and within reach for your team within a reasonable timeframe. Efficiency in resource utilization and time management is optimized when goals are attainable.
Relevant. Team goals must address the most pertinent issues and be aligned with the team’s capabilities and available resources. Ensuring relevance guarantees the efficient resolution of pressing matters.
Time-bound. To optimize productivity and resource allocation, set clear deadlines for team goals. Deadlines help in managing time effectively and directing resources efficiently towards goal achievement.
Two examples of SMART goals for a team member are:
- I will increase my book of business by 15% by the end of the year in 2024.
- I will achieve a new business hit ratio of 80% or better by June 30.
The increase in their book of business or renewals by 15% is specific, measurable, and achievable. The end of the calendar year is time-bound.
Remember to apply the following criteria to your SMART goals:
- Challenge. Goals should be difficult yet achievable, fostering optimal effort without being impossible.
- Commitment. Employee involvement in goal setting is crucial to sustaining engagement and effort.
- Feedback. Regular feedback supports clarity, assesses challenge levels, and bolsters commitment. However, make sure to both give and receive feedback. It’s important to avoid telling employees what you need. Instead, work together to set achievable goals.
Setting goals in the workplace is pivotal for driving performance and ensuring the success of individuals and the organization. It’s not just about outlining objectives but also about aligning, tracking, and fostering commitment to these goals.
10 goal-setting principles
Try implementing these 10 goal-setting principles.
- Establishing SMART goals. Janet, a frustrated account manager, spoke up during a Beyond Insurance program: “My manager gave me a goal to increase my productivity. I’m currently working long hours every day already and never see my family. I don’t know how to increase my productivity when I’m barely treading water right now. I am so annoyed that I want to find a different job.”
What went wrong?
Merely instructing Janet to enhance productivity falls short in addressing the SMART goal-setting principles. Instead, try to:
- Ensure clarity by setting a specific goal, such as “achieve a 10% faster task completion rate by the end of the quarter.”
- Present a relevant challenge within her skill range. For example, you could ask Janet to spend the first hour of each day focusing 100% on the highest ROI activities she has. After that first hour, she can move on to other projects.
- Secure your employees’ commitment by explaining the benefits of increased productivity for both the company and their personal career growth. Remember, it is essential to involve them in the goal-setting process.
- Establish goals that are understandable, actionable, and trackable for you and the employee, avoiding goals that take an excessively long time to accomplish.
- Provide continuous feedback to evaluate their progress, determine if they meet expectations, and offer specific improvements to help them get closer to the set objective.
Organizations can’t improve what they don’t measure; without effective tracking, goals are worthless. There are two key components to effective goal tracking: consistency and intentionality. Goals must be tracked regularly so those involved can have an accurate idea of progress (or lack thereof). Goals must also be tracked intentionally. Managers must explain and show that tracking is not just a box to check, but that this information is valuable to share with the rest of the team and organization.
- Onboarding a new employee. Imagine that you are a sales manager and recently hired a new university graduate with a risk management degree, and you’ve been told he needs to be “fully trained” in two months.
Not only is this goal difficult to achieve in two months, but it also lacks clarity. Try breaking it down into smaller, clear goals for the new hire. Some suggestions might be to:
- Attend a specific carrier’s new producer training school by the end of Q1 2024.
- Earn an early career designation, such as The Institutes’ Professional Risk Consultant (PRC) within the first six months of employment.
- Gain the Trusted Risk Advisor (TRA) certification through one of the IIA or PIA state educational offerings by the end of 2024.
- Involving your team. Involving the team in the goal-setting process is vital. Engaging employees from the start increases commitment, alignment, feasibility, and accountability. Regular feedback and adjustments based on team input are crucial for success.
If you are trying to enhance team performance, try framing challenging goals as mutually beneficial. This is crucial to reduce intimidation. These challenging individual goals can positively impact group performance, fostering improved teamwork in the workplace.
- Setting reasonable challenges. Setting goals that are both challenging and feasible is essential. Benchmarking anonymously against top performers and seeking insights from professional networks can guide you in setting achievable yet ambitious goals.
Research has shown that ambitious goals, like aiming for an “exceptional” performance review rating, lead to higher performance compared to easier goals like an “average” rating. Why? People align their effort with the difficulty of their goals, exerting more effort for harder tasks that are within their capabilities.
- Making goals visible. Traditionally, goals have been confined to individual teams, leading to a lack of visibility throughout the organization. A transparent goal-setting approach, encouraging visibility and alignment across all levels, fosters collaboration and a sense of shared purpose.
- Goals throughout the year. Regularly discussing and revisiting goals with employees is crucial for maintaining alignment with organizational objectives, providing context, and adapting to changes.
- Clear direction. By serving as a roadmap, goals guide employees in managing their time, prioritizing projects, and determining the effort they need to invest in their work. This guidance reduces distractions, encouraging focused actions that contribute directly to goal achievement.
- Thoughtful engagement. Goals prompt employees to plan meticulously. When employees have specific goals to accomplish, they are inclined to create and execute plans to achieve them, enhancing organizational and personal productivity. Goals that resonate with employees’ interests encourage them to push themselves—for instance, setting a goal for someone interested in agency management to mentor a new hire.
- Performance motivation. Goals act as a driving force, inspiring higher performance. They energize employees and foster determination. Working towards a goal motivates employees to become resourceful, seeking out or utilizing existing knowledge to achieve success.
- Effective evaluation. In a forward-thinking organization, goals become the yardstick for evaluating performance. They offer a clear path and method for assessing organizational success by comparing actual achievements to desired benchmarks.
Effective goal setting in the workplace isn’t just about setting objectives; it’s about a comprehensive approach that involves employees, aligns with business priorities, and adapts to changes. By implementing these strategies, organizations can foster commitment, track progress, and achieve optimal results through goal-setting initiatives.
Carolyn Smith is the director of Marketing and Innovation for Beyond Insurance and a performance coach for the Quest for Success and Reach Your Peak six-month coaching, mentoring, and performance-enhancement programs. Beyond Insurance is the premier coaching and training organization for insurance agents, brokers, and carriers who desire a consultative, diagnostic customer engagement process.