As business owners and managers prepare for the year ahead, employee annual reviews and goal setting are also on the horizon.  How do you make your employees’ annual reviews and goal-setting more effective?  Here are some tips to help make these meetings more productive and increase accountability for your staff.

First, make your employees in charge of their annual review and goal setting.  Give your employees the authority to set the meeting date and time with you or their manager.  Provide them with your review worksheet or the areas where they are being reviewed.  Some examples include productivity, customer service, and employee relations.  Ask them to not only rate themselves, but to include specific examples where they met or surpassed expectations and areas for improvement under each of the review areas.  Ask them to include how you or your organization can help them to better meet expectations.  You may discover that they need different equipment or an issue that you weren’t aware of previously.

Let your employees know what the company and department goals are for the upcoming year and ask them to include goals that help the organization or their department reach those goals.  Communicate your expectations of them and how they impact the organization or department as a whole. This will enable them to see more clearly their specific role in the company and their personal influence on meeting company goals.  Each of their work goals should speak to what the company as a whole is working to accomplish in the upcoming year.

Provide a template for them to use in setting goals.  Use the SMART Goal process to help them to create Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound goals for themselves. Ask them to include specific dates where goals, or milestones within the goals, will be met.  Use those dates as check-in times throughout the upcoming year where the two of you will meet, or they will meet with their manager, to review what has been accomplished so far, what they are struggling with, and to celebrate meeting their milestones.  Setting up regular times to meet and assess progress on the annual goals will create greater accountability and the opportunity to change plans if needed and address any issues that may arise.  It also provides a time to address changes in the economy, customer needs, or other outside issues, that impact the organization.  The goals for your organization may change and your employees need to know these changes so that they can work toward the success of the organization.

Ask your employees to include not only work goals, but also one or two personal goals.  During your meeting, you will learn more about your employees and let them know that you not only care about what they do at work but also what they are striving for personally.  By doing so, you will create a positive work culture in the organization that will increase productivity and personal satisfaction for your employees. 

Make time to sit down with them in a private location and go over what they have written, review your assessment of them over the previous year, and talk about how they can improve and tell them what they have accomplished or shown in the previous year that you found exceptional. Go over the goals they have set and make any adjustments to better align them with the department or company goals. 

For the new year, set up a plan for quarterly or semi-annual meetings to review not only their goals, but areas where they may be falling short of meeting expectations, or where they are exceeding expectations.  Be sure to communicate specific examples where they have either met or not met your expectations so that they can make corrections if needed and/or understand how they can continue to excel.  Be sure to ask how they are progressing on their personal goals; this will build your relationship with your employees and build a positive culture within your organization.

The annual review and goal-setting meetings with your employees should not be a time when you surprise them with what they have done wrong in the previous year.  It should be a time when you or their manager help them understand where they can improve, where they have excelled, what the organization is working towards, their role and influence within the organization, and create a positive, collaborative culture within your organization.

If you would like assistance in preparing for the annual review and goal setting sessions with your employees, reach out to your Wyoming SBDC Network advisor. Your advisor can provide you with templates and guidance on creating your own assessment and goal-building template documents that fit your business.

 About the Author: P.J. is a Wyoming native and is passionate about helping small business succeed. She has spent the majority of her career advising and advocating for small business in her roles at chambers of commerce and economic development organizations. She has a background in marketing, human resources, strategic planning, leadership, and management. She and her family enjoy the many outdoor recreational opportunities that living in this great state provides.

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