As published in the Winnipeg Sun.

Have you ever attended a professional sporting event where the score board malfunctions? Officials, players and fans get upset and play is usually halted to correct the problem. After all, how can you continue the sporting event if you don’t have constant and immediate feedback on the important indicators such as the score, time remaining, the period, fouls and penalties etc. Players and fans can see exactly where they stand relative to their goal of winning the game. Sometimes both fans and players see information they may not particularly like, but at least they know where they stand!

In business, as in sports, all stakeholders want and need to know where they stand. We often hear employees lament that they do not receive feedback about their own performance or the performance of their work team or group. They indicate they do not get regular feedback about the organization’s goals and progress towards them. The sports score board can be compared to the performance goals of an individual or a group in the workplace.

Why Set Goals in the Workplace?
Setting goals in the workplace is a very powerful way to focus employees and work groups on the key priorities. When we set specific goals, employees obtain a clear sense of direction and a better understanding of the results required. Goals serve to motivate employees to achieve results and can energize the entire organization. Employee engagement and commitment dramatically increases when all employees understand the goals of their organization, their individual goals, and how they contribute to the success of the organization. Like the score board in sports, goal setting can provide employees with a quick look at what is really important and how well they are performing.

What are Goals?
A goal is simply a statement of desired results that we seek to achieve within a specified time frame. Many people mistake ideas and dreams for goals. Our ideas and dreams, as important as they may be, are only “wishes” until we take the time to clearly and concisely write them down and set a time frame for their completion.

A Simple Formula for Setting Goals
In setting goals we encourage individuals and organizations to follow the SMART approach. This proven approach is both simple and effective. A good goal is S.M.A.R.T. which stands for; S – Specific, M-Measureable, A- Agreed Upon, R- Realistic, T-Target Date for completion. We can use this method for creating goals in our personal and family lives as well as in our business activities.

Areas of Goal Setting in Organizations
The priorities and challenges facing every organization differ. However, the need to continuously improve performance and customer satisfaction remains constant with all. Goals that are set must reflect the needs and priorities of the particular organization. Some key areas of goal setting might include: safety, quality, productivity and performance, sales, customer satisfaction, employee or staff relations, communication, budgets and expenditures or others.

Commitment to Goals
Successful managers involve employees in the process of goal setting. Although the manager is responsible for setting overall parameters and priorities, employees need to take ownership for establishing goals within the parameters provided. This promotes employee involvement and commitment. Managers who unilaterally set goals for their employees often meet resistance. Ongoing support, feedback and encouragement are essential. The leader must maintain close contact with individuals and with team members to ensure progress towards goals continues. Goals need to be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure they remain relevant in our fast changing world. When circumstances change, goals may need to be adjusted or new ones set.

Organizations that are effective in setting, communicating and monitoring performance through goals can improve overall success and their competitive position.

Mike A. Cuma is Vice President of Labour Relations and Human Resources consulting with Legacy Bowes Group. He can be reached at mcuma@legacybowes.com.