Many employers use some type of performance management system to evaluate their employees' work and to help determine performance goals for the upcoming review cycle. It's important that these objectives are written correctly and that they align with the overall goals and mission of the organization. While this can be a daunting task for even the most experienced managers, companies can help them get the job by implementing a training class in objective writing.
The first step is to develop key result areas (KRA's) for the organization. These will be the main focus of the organization—such as customer service, financial performance and quality. By determining these areas, management will be able to focus both their department- and employee-level goals.
Performance Objective Training
Once the KRA's are in place, training on performance objectives can begin. Have employees make a list based on the following column headings:
- What am I being paid to do?
- What results\outputs am I responsible for achieving?
- Key result areas.
The first column should consist of the employees' daily duties—such as answering customer calls, working on accounts payable and completing quality checklists. The next column should be more specific to the outcome of the task. Examples include: to maintain an abandoned phone call rate below three percent or to produce a balanced accounts payable record. The last column would list the organizations key result areas. Employee would then match their daily duties and outcomes with the KRA that best reflects their job duties.
Once employees complete their lists, they are ready to start learning about and writing their individual objectives. Objectives provide each employee with clear accountabilities, allow performance tracking, create job meaning and support the overall organizational goals.
Getting SMART about Objectives
The most common tool for writing objectives is the SMART method—standing for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Bound. In this section, explain to employees the how each area is defined:
- Specific: Specifically what is to occur or what is to improve?
- Measurable: Answers the questions: "How many?"; "How much?"; and "How well is the product produced?"
- Attainable: Objectives should be challenging yet attainable, i.e. something the employee can influence, affect change or insure results.
- Relevant: Does the objective support the overall goals of the department or company?
- Time Bound: By giving the employee a date to complete an objective, this insures that results are achieved.
The next step is to provide a list of action verbs to help create objectives and point out both good and poor examples. After reviewing the list, point out each part of the objective and how it meets the SMART standards.
Take It Away
The goal of the class should allow each participant to walk away with three ready-to-use objectives to incorporate into their next review. Do this by having participants break into groups and working together—especially if you have individuals from the same work group or complementary areas. But make sure to come together as a class to review the objectives created as this will reinforce the writing of objectives against the SMART model, as well as their alignment with the mission and goals of the organization.
One of the most difficult areas of a performance management tool is enabling employees to write their performance objectives. Objectives oftentimes can be too vague or not in alignment with the company's objectives. Outlining the company’s mission and goals and assigning KRA's to employees' day-to-day duties will give employees' be able to see how their job and performance fit into these areas. Companies using the SMART model will not only benefit in that their employees will be working directly towards the goals of the corporation, but will also allow their employees to see their contribution to the success of the company on a daily basis.