Annual Objective-Setting Isn’t For Everyone!

Although thankfully a lot of organisations are moving away from the 'dreaded annual appraisal', there is still however somewhat of an obsession with the need to have 12 months of performance/development objectives at work.

This can work where an individual has obvious targets eg sales but what on earth would an example of an annual objective be for a Receptionist? What happens in reality is that managers end up repeating the job description or writing 'Continue to ensure...': effectively, do what you're already doing. Which is pointless to write down!

Objectives should be if needed, when needed and last for however long is appropriate - shoehorning things into a 12 month timeframe belongs in 1994.

Secondly, the other focus on making sure my objectives come from the organisations objectives is again a challenge in real-life. Corporate-speak words such as 'Cascading', 'Devolving', 'Linkage' are often used. It's apparently about getting the big goals down to individual level so everyone can see how they fit into the grand scheme of things, understand their purpose and contribution and how they can 'add value'. But the organisations desire to increase market share may be difficult to translate into the objectives of the chap who answers IT helpdesk queries. Again, if you can identify the link to strategy then great but shouldn't be a deal breaker if you can't.

So three recommendations:

  1. Move to objective setting on an if needed, when needed basis - we at Lightbulb train a 'three trigger' approach that managers consider every few weeks: If a trigger exists someone probably needs an objective agreed; if it doesn't right now then they don't!
  2. Make the organisational goals/objectives/strategic pillars (or whatever else you call them) something we can measure and track and actually be a plain-English response to a particular challenge faced or something we want to particularly get better at in the next year or two. General statements about market positioning, customer satisfaction and people engagement are all very well but surely they are the obvious things that you and 600 other companies would want - and would go without saying!
  3. Don't force corporate objectives down to individual role level when they just don't fit! I recently worked with a MD in the South West who insisted that every individual performance objective had a corresponding organisational objective highlighted next to it. The word 'shoehorn' came to mind. The most random connections were being made in desperate attempts to link an individual's focus to where the Company wanted to be. It sometimes works, it sometimes doesn't....

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