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Employee Performance Management and
Appraisals Demystified


2. PLANNING PERFORMANCE

The difference between GOALS and OBJECTIVES

GOALS comprise broad statements of desired conditions or outcomes, normally set by organizations or business units during strategic planning (e.g.: "To have market share of 50% by 2020").

OBJECTIVES, on the other hand (narrower in scope), are statements of specific results to be achieved by teams or individual employees to accomplish a goal, and are measured quantitatively or qualitatively (e.g.: "To achieve average sales of $300 000 per month from 1 July 2015). A goal normally comprises of two or more objectives.

Why set Objectives?

The setting of objectives affect performance in at least three ways:

  • When employees are given specific objectives, they tend to perform better than when they are told to do their best, or when they receive no guidance at all.
  • Specific objectives reduce uncertainty about what is expected, and focus behavior in the direction of the objectives rather than elsewhere.
  • Objectives energize behavior, motivating people to put in extra effort, to live up to the challenge of achieving them.

Setting Objectives and Standards: A Participative, Collaborative Process

Objective setting should be a face-to-face, participative and collaborative process between employees and their direct line managers at all levels in the organization. Collaboration will:

  • Add to the quality of the decisions being made.
  • Increase an employee's motivation and commitment to achieve the agreed objectives.
  • Effect the employee's believe that the objectives are achievable.
  • Ensure more realistic objectives as employees normally know best what they are capable of achieving, and what resources will be needed.

Mutual agreement regarding objectives and performance standards is the ideal (and preferable), but not always possible. In the end, line managers will have the final say in this as long as they are reasonable in their expectations.

Some cascaded objectives may also be in the form of directives from above, and therefore not negotiable, but, at the very least, there should be mutual understanding, acceptance and buy-in.

During the collaborative process of developing performance standards for a continuous (routine) objective or function, involve all of those employees whose work will be evaluated according to those standards. For the sake of fairness and consistency, also consider collaborating with other units in your organization or department if employees reporting to different line managers perform the same tasks or functions.

Operational Sources for Objectives

In the previous section it was discussed how corporate goals need to be cascaded all the way down the organization to the point where objectives for individual employees (or teams) are set. This is an important "strategic" source for individual objectives. But it is not as if we have to wait every year for this cascading process to reach individuals - this might take months!

There are many other "operational" sources for objectives that pressurize us continually - things that demand our attention and action throughout the year, such as:

  • Existing team/unit operational objectives
  • Previous, uncompleted performance measures
  • Job/Role Descriptions
  • New products and services
  • New technology
  • Anticipated market conditions
  • Currently available performance data, e.g. sales statistics, production reports, customer feedback
  • Competitor moves
  • Other threats, opportunities and crises posing themselves continuously

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