Managing People

Managers, here’s how to keep your employees on track with their goals

June 19, 2019
November 7, 2023
Lattice Team

As a manager, you should be invested in making goals for your direct reports that they can achieve, but are also reflective of their performance. This gives you useful information on how to manage them every goal cycle, since you will want them to be thinking regularly about their goals and  and it also reflects better on you when they meet or exceed your expectations for them.

If you’re an employee trying to stay on track with their goals, click here.

If you’re an HR or People leader looking to keep your company on track with their goals, click here.

Setting goals with your employees

Setting goals seems easy enough, but it can get tricky: it’s easy to overcomplicate things, or to make goals too general or too specific.

You or your direct report will want to use one of several popular goal-setting frameworks for your goals. But you’ll also want to discuss whether your goals are process or reach, whether they're part of a cascading format or not, and how they factor into their teammates' and department's goals. This second step is important, because it helps your direct report understand your expectations around completing this goal, and helps them figure out the context they need to keep in mind when creating this goal. It answers questions like:

  1. What does meeting expectations on this goal look like?
  2. How does the goal fit into our department’s goals? Into our company goals?
  3. What about this goal will fit into my every day?
  4. How will we talk about this goal in regular 1:1s?

Make goal-setting a collaborative process -- after all, your direct report will be turning to you to help them answer the above questions. Before you meet with them, send them this article to help them come to the meeting as informed as you are.

Review your direct report’s old goals

One way to help the goal-setting process is to make plans to review your direct report’s goals from the last goal cycle. It’s important that the direct report also understands what happens to their goals when the goal cycle ends. What worked, and what didn’t? Why and how did they meet the goal (or exceed it)?

If they exceeded it, make sure they know you’ve noticed.

If they met expectations, what could you do to help them continue to do well, but also motivate them to go beyond?

If they didn’t meet the goal, it’s imperative to have a conversation on what that means for their work going forward. Do they need to change processes? Will you be hiring more people? What could they do better -- but also, what could you change?

Think about whether the goal should be public or private

Making a direct report’s goal private or public is usually a question of accountability. If you make the goal private to you and your employee, it can be a developmental goal that you and your employee discuss in 1:1s. If you make the goal only visible within the department, that allows coworkers to see their teammates’ goals and understand how they work together, while also keeping certain projects secret from other departments (such as when you’re working on an exec level project).

But goals that are public to the whole company are goals that the whole company can cheer your direct reports on about. Particular with cascading goals, all employees can see how your direct reports’ goals factor into the company’s goals and successes.

Discuss them throughout the goal cycle

A good goal is one that the employee thinks about every day at their job. Regular 1:1s are the best way for you to keep track of how your employees are doing. Since 1:1 agendas are often dictated by direct reports, make sure they also know that they can bring up any roadblocks or frustrations in the course of achieving that goal during 1:1s. If you worked on setting goals together, they should know that the goal was set with their ability to achieve it in mind.

Remember, goal-setting is another way to set expectations for your direct reports.

Employees are constantly eager to get more feedback from their manager. Setting goals with your direct reports helps them better understand what you expect from them over the course of a goal cycle. It also helps them plan out what to discuss with you on 1:1s. Work with your employees to set goals and they will stay focused, motivated, and successful.