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How to use public and private goals for employee development

How do you navigate meeting company objectives while still achieving the more detailed goals employees personally want to accomplish and develop at work? To an employee, it can feel like being pulled in multiple directions, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The key is in deciding what the desired accomplishments are both for the company and on an individual level, and creating a plan to meet those desired accomplishments— or, more simply, it lies in the process of setting goals.

In this structure, goals take two forms: public, and private. Both are relevant to an employee’s career and development; public goals are in line with the team and company objectives, while private goals tend to be more based in personal development.

Tips for setting public goals

1. Create goals aligned with company objectives

2. Take time to discuss them between coworkers

3. Use these goals as examples for new hires

4. Design them with accountability to the company in mind

5. Some examples of public goals

Tips for setting private goals

1. Private goals should be discussed with managers

2. The manager should hold the employee accountable for these goals

3. These goals should focus more on personal development rather than company goals

4. Set goals related to developing certain skills

5. Some examples of private goals

 

Tips for setting public goals

1. Create goals aligned with company objectives.

Goal-setting is a great way to track progress and stay motivated. There are two popular frameworks for goals: SMART goals and OKRs. SMART goals have to be structured to address several criteria: they must be Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time-bound. OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), on the other hand, define organizational objectives and results to help track progress; these are often made at the company, team, and individual level.

Another related goal philosophy is the theory of “cascading goals,” based on the idea that a company’s leadership sets certain goals for the company, and then departments make goals based on company goals, and teams make goals based on those department goals, all down the company hierarchy until individual employees make goals based on their managers’ goals. While aspects of this can be useful for communicating expectations to employees and giving clarity to specific objectives, it can become a restrictive structure. Instead, it’s best to simply acknowledge that public goals should be in line with the objectives of your company, and feed into that collective effort. The reasoning behind this is simple: if the organization isn’t succeeding, you as an individual can only go so far, whereas a communally beneficial result translates to more opportunities for those within the organization.

2. Take time to discuss them between coworkers

Goal-setting can be a great opportunity for team-building and cooperation. A team can see how they’re working in relation to one another and each other’s objectives more clearly, and team members can also cheer each other on as they pass hurdles in the journey of goal achievement.

3. Use these goals as examples for new hires

Being a new hire in a business can be disorienting, and even with thorough onboarding it can be difficult to know where to begin in terms of goal-setting. So, having public goals can be extremely helpful to the new employees in an organization, whether these are based on management-identified OKRs, or whether goals are shared within a department in a different manner.  More seasoned employees within a team can publicize their goals so that they may serve as a roadmap for new hires, and newer employees can ask their more seasoned counterparts for guidance and clarification to help them solidify their goals.

4. Design them with accountability to the company in mind

Ultimately, public goals have a significant impact on the organization as a whole— accountability built into the process. For example, if a person’s goal is to finish a big project, not doing so will have a significant impact on the individual’s direct counterparts and team as well as the company as a while. The organization is most affected by someone achieving (or not achieving) their public goals, so every individual setting goals should ensure that they are realistically achievable with dedicated hard work. Also, the ability to see other people’s goals can help employees across the organization understand what success looks like throughout the company.

5. Some examples of public goals

Public goals should be easy to share, and have a concrete marker for what success looks like. Finishing a project, creating a presentation, or hitting a specific sales target within a specific time frame are all general examples of public goals a person can set.

 

Tips for setting private goals

1. Private goals should be discussed with managers

While someone is working on their public goal or goals, they can also have private goals, as well. These don’t necessarily need to be a secret, but they aren’t something one would typically share with coworkers. Instead, they can come from a discussion between the employee and their manager. According to anHBRpiece that discusses how managers can encourage employee development, managers should “discuss with your direct reports what kinds of learning they want to do and why.”

2. The manager should hold the employee accountable for these goals.

Rather than having the collective support of a team, a manager will really be the point person for private goals. They should hold their employee accountable in the same manner the company tends to do so, whether through regular touch bases, or more formal meetings. However, if there isn’t already a structure in place, an employee may have to ask their manager to regularly check in, and to hold them accountable.

3. These goals should focus more on personal development rather than company goals.

Private goals are more about personal development than project completion; they may focus on developing the skills necessary to become a good candidate for a promotion or a new role within the company, or to build a skill someone feels less confident about, such as presenting in meetings. While these aren’t the same as public goals, a person’sgoals should be consistentwith one another: public and private goals don’t necessarily need to be interconnected (though that can be helpful), but they also shouldn’t contradict one another. If a person’s public goal is to finish a big project early, but their private goal is learning a software that will be time-consuming and keep them from their timeline, they can’t achieve them both. In fact, they may not be able to manage succeeding at either.

4. Set goals related to developing certain skills.

Private goals should consider what a person want to feel more confident about, or where they want to go. Maybe they’re somewhat new to their role, and they’re struggling with time management, or really learning an important office tool inside and out. The private goal can support the public goal, and be related to the success of the latter.

5. Private goal examples.

Private goals can be everything from learning from another department to better understand how it functions to developing your leadership skills so you’re a strong candidate for the next available promotion. Private goals can also be focused on becoming stronger in everyday skills and practices such as time management, a specific software, or providing positive feedback and cheering on coworkers in their public goals. Just remember, they should be about individual development rather than company objectives.

 

Setting both public and private goals is a fantastic way to ensure each employee is contributing to the organization’s success while still finding personal growth and enrichment. While they may not always be directly related, they can certainly feed into one another; regardless, setting these two types of goals will keep a person from feeling pulled in too many directions.