Performance Excellence Strategic Goal Setting: Tips for Supervisors

With everything you juggle as a supervisor, it’s easy to fall into a rut of viewing the performance management of your team as consisting simply of completing an annual review form and a once-yearly review of upcoming goals. However, making the time to take a larger perspective of the potential opportunities within the Performance Excellence process can lead to much higher yields both in the short and long term — for you, your team, and the university.

A primary goal of Performance Excellence should be connecting individuals to the organization’s greater purpose and helping develop employees to be better able to achieve the university’s goals. Although perhaps requiring a more significant investment of time upfront, creating a unifying vision for your team and establishing regular, ongoing check-in sessions to align goals will then serve as a touchstone for all performance evaluation and planning sessions.

Here are some tips and best practices to better align the goals and priorities of your team with the strategic objectives of your unit and MSU’s strategic plan.

1. Create a unit vision statement.

If your unit doesn’t already have a shared vision, now is a great time to formalize this and bring your team on board. Consider creating a one-page plan to outline your unit’s initiatives and the alignment of resources (i.e., time, people, funding) to achieve results and align with this vision.

Ask yourself:

  • Why does our unit exist?
  • What do we do that helps the university achieve the overarching strategic priorities?
  • How do we know we are successful?

2. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

As a supervisor, you should be regularly communicating your unit’s vision with your team, both one-on-one and with the team as a whole. Be sure everyone is fully aware of the vision, what it means, and why they should care.

3. Help employees understand how their work impacts the vision.

When we can clearly connect our daily work with a larger picture of the unit’s and the university’s goals and objectives, job satisfaction and productivity almost always improve. Employees should be able to see how their individual contributions are critical to the university’s continued growth and success.

4. Have your employees consider goals and priorities for themselves that align with the unit vision.

Allow your team to feel ownership over their goals to prioritize what’s important to them about their work while understanding that some employees will need more guidance and support with this process than others. Goals should be clear and measurable — think SMART and HARD goals — with a clear connection to your unit’s vision statement.

5. Ensure an ongoing feedback loop is maintained.

Aligning the goals and efforts of an individual with the larger team and organization cannot be a “one and done” activity. Regular, ongoing communication via one-on-one check-ins provides brief but powerful opportunities to touch base on objectives, realign priorities and clarify expectations. Strive to provide prompt, actionable feedback to your team, tying everything back to your unit’s vision and making sure each person understands how their work is important to the bigger picture.

Additional resources to support you through this process can be found below, and HR’s Organization and Professional Development department is available at prodev@hr.msu.edu if you would like further information or guidance.

Related Resources

MSU Performance Excellence: Supervisor Tips and Tools (Collection of resources including sample goals for different roles, goal setting tips, and conversation starters for high performance)

Instructor-led OPD Workshops

Performance Management for Hybrid Teams

Managing and Leading Across Locations

Strategic Planning

HR SourceLive Blog Posts

Adapting Your Goal-Driven Approach During Times of Change

Common Work-Related Goals with Resources to Help You Achieve Them

Leadership Blog Series: Performance Excellence During Periods of Uncertainty and Transition

What’s Your Plan: Six Steps to Align Your Goals with What’s Important to You

Sources

https://www.rhythmsystems.com/blog/how-the-best-ceos-align-employees-with-company-goals

https://www.hrfuture.net/strategy/staff-planning/five-best-practices-for-aligning-employees-with-corporate-goals/

5 Ways to Engage with Your Performance Evaluation Beyond an Annual Review

Part of MSU’s appeal as a residential, land-grant institution is our vast array of programs, specializations and priorities — not just for students, but for staff and faculty. This diversity makes us great, and it also requires a need for case-by-case definitions of success and achievement from unit to unit, and from person to person.

All of us working during the pandemic have experienced disruption in our duties and routines and have been required to redefine our roles, goals and accomplishments. The disruptions have occurred in many forms: unplanned shifts in personal and family needs and routines, workforce changes and university realignments, a radically updated and still unpredictable professional and social landscape. Your resilience, adaptability and growth during these times, and always, is remarkable and worthy of recognition.

One way to ensure you, your supervisor and the university are recognizing and recording your efforts is to tell your story through the Performance Excellence (PE) process. When many of us in non-supervisory, support staff roles discuss PE at MSU, we’re thinking of a supervisor-led annual review. In reality, PE encompasses an ongoing cycle of:

  1. Performance Planning — Goal Setting and Development Planning
  2. Continuous Feedback, Coaching and Development
  3. Annual Review — Collaborative Meeting with Employee and Supervisor Contributions

Below are suggestions for ways to engage as an employee in the PE process and tell your story with confidence.

1) Set SMART, HARD Goals and Find Ways to Measure Them

On one hand, we know each employee’s experience and accomplishments extend well beyond quantitative data and one review each year. On the other hand, we also know that specific measurements — especially those backed by accurate, numerical data — are a powerful and widely-accepted way to determine success.

One way to ensure the full picture of your story is told during the PE process is to take the lead when it comes to your own goal setting and measurement. Setting SMART, HARD goals is a great place to start. Consider the following:

  • Your personal goals
  • The goals of your department/unit goals
  • Organization-wide goals/university strategic plan

Goals are not something that should be determined solely by a supervisor and then assigned and evaluated once a year during your review discussion or performance planning session. Generating and adapting goals throughout the year is a collaborative process and one way you can contribute toward the narrative of your achievements.

Read related article: When SMART Meets HARD: Setting Goals that Matter

2) Track and Document Your Accomplishments

Setting and measuring goals is a great place to start, but tracking and documenting your progress toward these goals is key. Block off some time on your calendar to regularly check results, generate data and document your progress in a way that makes the most sense for you and your role. You know your work, efforts and accomplishments better than anyone else, which makes you the ideal person to collect and report out this information.

Read related article: What’s Your Plan? Six Steps to Align Your Goals with What’s Important to You

3) Schedule Regular Check-ins

In this environment of rapid change, it’s more important than ever to regularly check in with your supervisor to discuss progress, review and reevaluate goals, and receive feedback. Regular, continuous coaching allows an opportunity for you to reconnect to your unit’s and the university’s mission and ensure your goals continue to be aligned with this larger vision and objectives.

As a university, we are working to shift the perception of PE from one yearly review to a wider focus on ongoing coaching, feedback and goal setting. There’s no need to wait for your supervisor to schedule a meeting for you to touch base on these topics. You have the option of reaching out to your supervisor and setting up check-ins on a schedule that works for both of you. Even a brief 15-minute check-in can go a long way toward staying on track with goals and sharing the story of your work.

Tips
  • Go to these meetings prepared, with the documented progress and accomplishments mentioned above.
  • Bring questions to help guide the conversation and make the time as useful as possible for both you and your supervisor.

4) Contribute Toward Your Review

Did you know that, as support staff, you have the opportunity to contribute toward all your PE discussions and submit documentation to include along with your official review forms?

Review documentation imaged and kept on file with central HR includes your reviews (annual, probationary and interim) and performance improvement plans. You have the option to include a self-review and/or other statements along with your documents on file. In current times, that may be a COVID Impact Statement that outlines how your work has been disrupted during the past year, along with an overview of how you’ve adapted and what you’ve accomplished despite these challenges. On an ongoing basis, this may be a summary that features the data you’ve been tracking throughout the year to share specific achievements and outcomes.

Tips
  • Keep it brief. Unless documenting extraordinary circumstances, a 1–2-page document will be impactful and share the story of your performance. Due to system storage limitations, submitting a large quantity of documents with your review could possibly lead to some documents being excluded from imaging.
  • Reference any additional documents on the official PE forms. Include a statement within the “Employee’s comments” section of the Annual Review to “See attached ______” (e.g., self-review, list of achievements) and indicate the number of additional documents. This helps central HR know an employee wishes for those documents to be imaged alongside their review.

5) Utilize Your Resources

HR’s Organization and Professional Development (OPD) department offers online PE resources and documents geared toward both employees and supervisors that can help guide and support you in all components of the PE process. OPD is in the process of reworking this online content for greater accessibility, inclusivity and usefulness for all support staff, and we look forward to sharing these changes with you later this year.

Additional, recommended resources are listed below. Your MAU’s HR representative, central HR and OPD, and your union representatives are all available to work with you and help you share your story should you need specific guidance or assistance at any point during the PE cycle.

Recommended Resources

Performance Excellence Resources for Employees

PE Tips and Tools for Employees

Navigating Difficult Conversations in Performance Excellence for Employees (30-minute elevateU virtual course)

Adapting Your Goal-Driven Approach During Times of Change (blog post)

Common Work-Related Goals with Resources to Help You Achieve Them (blog post)

Saving Time by Setting Goals (24-minute elevateU virtual course)

Gaining a Positive Perspective on Feedback (30-minute elevateU virtual course)

OPD Courses for Employees

Leadership Blog Series: Performance Excellence During Periods of Uncertainty and Transition

Written by MSU HR Organization and Professional Development

Whether your department plans to continue remote work, switch to a hybrid model, or bring everyone back to campus ASAP, Performance Excellence discussions likely have a different feel this year. The reality is that Performance Excellence—annual, probationary, and interim reviews, performance planning and goal setting—is very much needed despite all the recent and upcoming transitions and unknowns. Here are some tips to help you stay on track with these important discussions regardless of how and where the conversations take place.

Keep with it

Do not postpone coaching, feedback, 1-on-1 sessions, or performance reviews during this time. Our instinct may be to put off these conversations until things are “back to normal.” However, the opposite is true. Due to the highly unusual year we’ve all experienced, it’s imperative to connect with employees right now. Even in times of crisis, people still want to know that their long-term growth and success haven’t been forgotten.

Now’s an ideal time to revisit goals and keep the focus on the future. Identify opportunities, quickly communicate changes to your staff, and prepare them for potential pivots. Don’t ignore performance issues or delay accountability conversations. It’s as important as ever to address these matters as soon as possible. Put in the work now to help avoid larger issues in the future.

Establish, re-evaluate and reiterate criteria for success

Amid so many changes, consider establishing new definitions of success. Think short-term, well-defined, and task-based. Take a goal-based approach to performance measurement that focuses on clearly defined expectations and standards—for example, SMART and HARD goals or objectives and key results (OKRs)—to allow for a more flexible or task-based approach where metrics don’t exist or can be deceiving.

This is especially important when evaluating teams working from home. It is critical for those teams to focus on clearly defined outcomes and performance indicators (e.g., metrics, goals, deliverables). Don’t mistake activity and participation—such as emails, meetings, or hours on a timesheet—for high-quality, productive performance outcomes. Clear, established goals provide a straightforward way for both the supervisor and employee to truly gauge success.

Shift your perspective

As some employees remain remote and others return to the office, it’s important to re-tool our ability to read performance. Put effort into deciphering the increasingly blurry line between work and life. As one manager put it, it’s necessary to now “balance the need for flexibility that’s specific and supportive to the individual’s needs with the need to also somehow be equitable to others.” This will require effort on your part with thoughtful consideration of what your employees need as individuals and as a team.

With a few changes to our thinking and approaches, the Performance Excellence components of goal setting, performance planning and measurement can continue to benefit your employees, your team as a whole, and you as a supervisor. Visit the Performance Excellence pages on the HR website to find tips, tools and relevant forms. The Conducting Annual Performance Reviews Remotely page provides additional assistance for working with remote employees.