How to set effective objectives for your staff

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Retaining and motivating talented employees is important in any business, but is especially important in childcare at the moment. Setting goals which cascade down through all levels of the company give your staff an opportunity to have their hard work recognised and enable everyone to pull in the same direction.

So, what constitutes an “effective” objective? For many, the acronym SMART comes to mind: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. These are all important elements when setting staff objectives but there are two more aspects to consider, too:

-The objective should precisely describe the outcome required

-It should be written using language the staff member will understand

Even if your objective is SMART, if the employee can’t understand what’s being asked of them because the language is too ambiguous/technical or the outcome isn’t clearly described, then there’s a risk that they’ll fall short of what’s required.

Agreeing targets with your staff

Rather than spoon-feeding your employees with their objectives, do you let them have some input into what their targets will be? This could be as simple as asking them to list out some ideas about what they should work towards or giving them targets and asking them which ones would be the most appropriate for them.

The advantage here is that your staff member gets to have some say in what their objectives will be, so they’ll feel they have more ownership of them. If they feel this way, they’re more likely to want to work towards their targets.

Having your staff be able to suggest their own targets is also a valuable employability skill which will serve them well throughout their career.

Making targets manageable

Across your team, you’ll have a range of abilities. If you know someone has poor time management skills or the objective you’re setting involves a complex project, it can help to break up the target into mini action plans. For example, rather than setting an objective like this:

1. Research 3 ways to make the nursery more energy efficient and feed back your ideas in a presentation by 1st December

You could break this down into smaller milestones:

1. By 10th November, research and prepare your initial ideas for a meeting with your line manager

2.By 17th November, send a first draft of your presentation to your line manager for review and feedback

3. By 1st December, present your ideas to the management team

Breaking down a larger project in this way helps you keep track of your employee’s progress and will alert you to any support requirements they may have in the early stages. On the other end of the scale, if there are high performers within your team, you may consider setting optional/extra objectives in order to challenge them.

When asking yourself how many objectives you should set per employee, targets should be very much tailored towards the individual’s capabilities. However, the more input you can give them in shaping their own objectives, the more likely they are to want to work towards them and succeed.

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