When Lattice was used by our first customers in early 2016, all our software did was help companies set and track employee goals. Since then, we’ve broadened our offering to include things like performance reviews and ongoing check-ins, but our original goals product has endured.
We’ve learned a lot working with over 400 companies these past two years, and today we’re excited to release some updates to our goals product that we think will help our customers better reach their goals.
Why set goals?
On that note, I think it makes sense to take a minute to talk about why employee goal setting is important in the first place. Companies set goals for all kinds of reasons, but here’s what we at Lattice have come to see as the “best” reasons (and by “best” we mean the reasons that correlate with our customers who seem to get the most out of goal setting):
Goal setting can and should be used to help get everyone in your company on the same page. What are the top priorities for the company? My department? The marketing team? What should I be working on? A good goal setting process should do a lot of the heavy lifting to help with the continual need to get your company aligned.
Great companies, leaders, and individuals know what to focus on, and say no to almost everything else. Goals setting can and should help with this. Steve Jobs said it better than I ever could:
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”
Last but certainly not least, goals can play a major part in your company’s employee development efforts. Goal setting is a critical part of good management, and it helps you work with employees to chart the future, visualize and track their growth, and establish a common baseline to determine when things are on or off track. Ambitious goals help people stretch to reach their full potential and grow.
What we’ve learned
When we first got started with goals, we understood goals as having a strong operational component. We imagined goals serving as the basis for projects and tasks, and integrating with other tools like CRMs and project management software to create a centralized dashboard of all the work that was going on at a company.
The operational efforts, while great in theory, tend to have too high an upkeep cost to be worth it. As Laszlo Bock, the former VP of People at Google, put it:
“On the topic of goals, the academic research agrees with your intuition: Having goals improves performance. Spending hours cascading goals up and down the company, however, does not. It takes way too much time and it’s too hard to make sure all the goals line up. We have a market-based approach, where over time our goals all converge, because the top OKRs are known and everyone else’s OKRs are visible. Teams that are grossly out of alignment stand out, and the few major initiatives that touch everyone are easy enough to manage directly.”
Our experience working with hundreds of customers has shifted our view of what makes goal setting programs successful and what makes them fall down. In our experience, where companies can get tripped up is in the over-complication of goals. Rather than enabling complicated cascading or intricate goal construction, we’re focusing on the features that help companies drive alignment, focus, and employee development.
Launching some improvements
That in mind, we’re excited to launch some improvements to our goals product to help organizations get more out of setting goals. Here are the product updates:
See the bigger picture
On our new Company Goals page, we’ve brought the company level goals front and center, so it’s immediately clear to employees what the organization is focusing on. In addition, you can quickly browse through all the departments to see their top level objectives are as well. Finally, you can also browse the tags you’ve set on your goals, which are a great way of grouping goals by projects or themes.
Set more aligned goals
We’ve also made it easier to set relevant goals within Lattice. When creating a goal, we now also surface company goals and the goals of your departments. That way, employees can be sure that the goals they set are relevant to the higher level objectives of the organization.
Fitting into the bigger picture
As employees work on goals throughout the quarter, it’s encouraging and helpful for them to see how their work impacts the broader company goals, and to see how their teammates are pushing ahead on those same initiatives. We’ve made it so that while looking at one goal, it’s easy to browse through related goals.
Bring goals into reviews
Setting goals is a crucial exercise, but talking about them afterwards is just as important. Now, Lattice closes that loop by incorporating goals into the review process. Specifically, you can customize a review template that pulls in the goals of an employee, so reviewers can comment specifically on how those goals have gone.
Alongside these changes, we’ll be removing the ability to set parent and child goals. From working with our customers, we’ve seen that setting parent and child goals ultimately leads to more confusion than clarity. Our aim is to remove the features that enabled less productive behaviors, like deep cascading and detailed project tracking, and replace them with features that help enable the most important parts of goal setting — alignment, focus, and employee development.
We’re really excited about these changes, and as always are looking forward to continuing to learn with, and from, our amazing customers.