August 26, 2007

Priorities And Objectives

Assume your fiscal year starts on January 1. When do you learn what your personal objectives are for next year (i.e. the projects you will be held accountable for)?
  • Before January 1.
  • On or around January 1.
  • After January 1.
  • My company doesn't give me personal objectives.
Every company manages this process differently. There probably isn't a right or wrong way to set personal objectives. There are some guidelines that make sense for executives, directors or managers who set personal objectives for employees.

Guideline #1 = Link To Corporate Objectives. Say your CEO wishes to reverse a three year trend of negative comp store sales. Your team should have objectives that directly link to the stated corporate objective of increasing comp store sales. The e-mail manager might set an objective to increase the sales driven into stores by the e-mail program by ten percent over last year.

Guideline #2 = Link To Divisional Objectives. If you are in the catalog division, and you have to reduce expenses by ten percent to pay for the postage increase, it might be a good idea to have an objective that focuses on the ways each person reduces expenses.

Guideline #3 = Link To Department Objectives. This might be the year your team uses web analytics to drive business results. Each person might be evaluated against an objective to have one actionable finding from Omniture each quarter.

Guideline #4 = Each Individual Sets An Objective. The manager allows each individual to set one objective that the individual will be evaluated against. This represents something the individual strongly believes will increase sales and profit, or allow the department to run more efficiently. In this way, each employee isn't treated as a robot --- each employee can contribute unique ideas that drive sales and profit.

Guideline #5 = Each Individual Has A Development Objective. Maybe the catalog marketing expert wants to try her hand at e-mail marketing. The executive partners with each staff member, and creates a plan to develop the skills of each employee. At the end of the year, the employee is evaluated against the developmental objective.

Guideline #6 = Flexibility. Each person needs to have a significant percentage of the objectives allocated for projects that cannot be anticipated today.

Guideline #7 = Measure How One Works With People. Some level of attention needs to be paid to how each employee works with others. When led appropriately, it becomes easy to prove who should be eligible for management consideration.

Guideline #8 = Weighting. For executives, some objectives (i.e. corporate objectives) carry the most weight. For entry-level analysts, individual and development objectives might be most important.

It is always interesting to ask employees how they "know" if they are doing a good job. More often than not, employees have a feeling if they are doing a good job, though they struggle to tell you "why" they know.

As you march toward 2008, consider approaching personal goal setting with a little more rigor than is usually reserved for this process --- our employees deserve it.

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