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The end of the year is often a time for reflection – when we think back, consider our goals and what we accomplished – and a time for ideation – when we look ahead, imagine possibilities and set new objectives.

Given the year we’ve had, it’s understandable to feel a bit apprehensive about what 2021 may bring. We expect that we will need to continue navigating change, uncertainty and the ups and downs we’ve seen in 2020. The ongoing ambiguity makes it difficult to set the yearly goals that have come to be a standard practice for many organizations and individuals.

While annual targets may be out of the question, I still encourage your teams to take time to reframe and reset your objectives. Setting goals has actually been shown to improve persistence in the face of obstacles, and tenacity is something we need now more than ever.

As you seek to provide a motivating environment for employees, performance measures can still be an essential factor to inspire resilience, support staff growth and engage your team members.

Six Tips for Goal Setting in the Time of COVID-19

Whether you are a leader of a team or a professional in Human Resources, Organizational Development or Learning & Development who is supporting performance management for your company, these tips can help set your people up for success:

1. Take an agile mindset.

Even before the pandemic, performance reviews were moving toward a more “agile” approach. As change has become a constant feature in our lives, it’s essential to stay flexible. Reset timeframes for your goals to at least a quarterly basis and remind employees to anticipate further change.

We know that objectives are likely to evolve as time goes on and new information is discovered. By mentally preparing employees for modifications and rewarding them when they identify needed change and propose relevant improvements to their goals, you can keep them motivated.

2. Align objectives with new business needs.

At Emergenetics, we often talk about aligning our arrows to make sure that our team and individual goals ladder up to our business objectives. For most organizations, those needs we identified at the start of 2020 have changed and new priorities have surfaced.

As you set goals, make sure employees are informed of your organization’s redefined targets. Encourage staff to walk away from objectives that no longer make sense based on your business’s needs and help them to identify new opportunities that will provide the most value to your company.

3. Collaborate in goal creation.

Collaboration is vital, especially when employees may find themselves working remotely and feeling more isolated. When setting goals, make sure to identify some objectives for the entire team. Determine what you can accomplish together to encourage camaraderie while still aligning to priority business objectives.

Your next step is to consider individual targets. Based on the goals you collectively set, managers and employees can partner to identify specific contributions for each person.

4. Check in regularly.

Given the pace of change, it’s essential that managers, employees and teams check in often on their targets. At minimum, I recommend a quarterly goals discussion, and you may be more successful if you check in on them more frequently to ensure staff are on track and adjusting as needed.

Regular check-ins also allow managers to provide timely feedback and recognition as progress is made. It gives leaders an opportunity to communicate changes and prepare staff for potential pivots. Employees also benefit from being able to share obstacles, get advice and receive praise.

5. Identify growth competencies.

Between our increasingly virtual world and the ups and downs of the pandemic, staff are being asked to work in new and different ways. When setting performance objectives, I recommend identifying some broad digital skills such as virtual collaboration or leading remote teams as possible growth competencies for staff.

You may also consider introducing aptitudes like adaptability, creativity or change management as growth goals. By identifying development opportunities to help employees navigate our digital world, you can provide needed upskilling that supports your company and your staff.

6. Stretch yourself one goal at a time.

Employees are managing a lot of volatility right now. While that doesn’t mean that staff should stop growing or stretching themselves in new ways, I would recommend that employees only set one stretch goal at a time. In doing so, you can still help employees prioritize and build new talents while limiting the potential to overwhelm them, or worse deenergize them with too much stress.

Nine Questions to Consider When Setting a New Performance Goal

Before a goal setting conversation, encourage employees to think through the following questions to help teams and managers have a productive discussion:

  1. What value do I feel I can bring to my organization?
  2. What additional activities am I engaging in to help my company through the pandemic?
  3. What projects can my team and I work on to better support our stakeholders?
  4. What new opportunities, projects or initiatives excite me most?
  5. Of all the projects I’ve worked on, which ones am I most proud of?
  6. What from my existing targets should I stay focused on?
  7. What ideas do I have to improve upon the work we’re doing today?
  8. Have my career aspirations or development goals changed?
  9. What knowledge or skills would empower me to better navigate this crisis?

A Final Thought for Managers

Goal setting can help teams gain focus and shine a light on opportunity amidst change. For leaders, one of your most important roles is to help coach staff through adversity and empower them work toward their objectives.

If you’re searching for opportunities to better coach your employees, a great way to start is by using the Emergenetics. The Emergenetics Profile can help you understand the ways individuals prefer to think and behave. With that knowledge – and our useful follow-up resources – you can identify ways to better communicate and personalize your feedback in a way that will resonate with interests and needs of your team.

Now more than ever, our employees are seeking connection and support as we navigate these unfamiliar times. By speaking to your staff’s preferred Thinking and Behavioral Attributes, you can help them to achieve their goals by motivating them in a way that connects with their preferred work styles.

Learn more about how our programs and tools can help leaders, managers and teams learn to communicate and connect in a more meaningful way. Fill out the form below to speak with our staff today!

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