Goals play a vital role in motivating employees and helping them maintain consistent progress. Thus, managers should strive to help each member of their team define their goals. By doing so, they’ll greatly boost employee engagement

Setting great goals requires strategic planning between an employee and their manager. This process requires a great deal of collaboration, as you both have an invaluable perspective that will inform the individual goals of each employee. 

Here are some essential tips for setting goals collaboratively with your employees to ensure the best possible results.

Encourage preparation.

Prompt employees to prepare for your goal-setting meeting, letting them know exactly what you want to discuss. You might suggest that they bring notes about the goals they have in mind, which can serve as a great jumping-off point for your conversation. Encouraging them to be proactive about defining their goals will help them feel more invested in achieving them. You can then modify and fine-tune these goals in your meeting.

Make goals clear and easy to explain.

Create goals that are easy to understand. When employees can easily articulate their goals, they can easily remember them. That means they can also explain them to others, building networks of support that can enhance their progress. Clearly link the goals to the company’s objectives and mission as well so employees know how their efforts fit into the bigger picture.

Set stretch goals.

You might initially ask the employee to specify the goals they have in mind, then evaluate whether they are challenging enough. Some employees may need to be pushed to aim higher, with goals that push them to strengthen their capabilities. Goals that are challenging yet achievable—or “stretch goals”—will benefit employees the most, keeping morale high while enhancing their skillset. 

Ensure goals are realistic.

The employee’s goals should also be feasible within your specific organizational environment in terms of the resources and opportunities that exist. The ability to accomplish a goal shouldn’t depend on factors beyond your employee’s control—that’s what makes goals different from wishes.

Determine clear beginning and end points.

Every goal should have a clear start and end time. Having a definite timeframe provides the motivation to make daily progress and keeps the momentum going. Talk with your employee about what timeframe feels reasonable for each goal and for all of its components.

Create goals that are measurable.

Determine how you’ll measure the employee’s goal. Google strives to pinpoint three key results for each objective set by employees. That makes a goal quantifiable so that managers know when an employee has reached it. Consider how you could quantify a goal with hard data so you can objectively evaluate whether an employee has accomplished it. 

Evaluate risks.

Aiming higher inevitably brings an element of risk, so talk about where risks exist and how employees can mitigate them. Discussing their concerns will help them feel more capable of taking calculated risks. For instance, delivering a presentation at a higher-level meeting may feel like a risky endeavor, but it could also bring a great deal of recognition. Discussing and practicing techniques for presenting in front of organizational leaders will help an employee grow more confident in those settings. 

Create an achievement plan.

Designing a goal-achievement plan will help all employees feel more capable of meeting their goals. Create a specific timeline with steps to take toward each goal. Then, break each stepping-stone into smaller components, listing the actions that will help the employee reach that milestone. Talk about the resources needed to achieve each stepping-stone and make sure your employees have access to them. Setting up a calendar of these activities and benchmarks will help the employee stay on track. 

Taking these steps will ensure that you’ll help employees set SMART goals, which are specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time-bound.

Have a mix of short-term goals that employees aim to achieve within the year, as well as long-term career goals. Talk about their five- or ten-year plan and the goals that will help them achieve it. 

Review each employee’s progress toward their goals at least once every quarter so you can give continuous feedback. When you see the employee has reached a benchmark, recognize their efforts. Giving praise for a job well done will keep motivation high while ensuring steady progress!