The problem with performance objectives

We are all familiar with the drudgery of performance objective setting at work. The bit where HR says every 6/12 months “ can you review previous objectives and agree new ones for the year ahead with your people”.

At its worst we dust off our direct reports old objectives (that often aren’t now relevant anyway), copy and paste last year’s ones and call them new objectives and pepper them with corporate buzzwords like:

  • Maximum employee satisfaction…..
  • Engage with stakeholders…..
  • Exploit efficiencies….
  • Rollout and implement Y……

Or we just lazily say ‘hit the annual target’ (which they knew about already so really doesn’t need repeating) or ‘continue to ensure’ (which is effectively carry on doing what you are doing! - Thank God you wrote it down again otherwise I wouldn’t have done it!)

If COVID-19 has taught us anything its that its difficult to plan ahead a number of months let alone a year. We know that objectives (or priorities) really should be a bit more ‘agile’ (to coin a buzzword) and agreed as and when needed, not once or twice a year against a fixed calendar? That’s just obvious and ‘real-life’ so why don’t we do it?

  1. We are given an annual or half-year process and so we follow it without question because we know that lots of other organisations do it this way too. It’s a piece of compliance, admin work to be ticked and done.
  2. We don’t really get this objectives thing in the first place. We agree hundreds of priorities with our people, we don’t fill in objectives templates or performance review screens every time we ask someone to do something. What’s this objectives thing all about anyway?
  3. If we do have recorded objectives, we don’t review them regularly in our 121s, we talk about other stuff. That objectives thing just felt like something we did for HR or someone else.
  4. I don’t get this SMART thing anyway. How do I even write a good objective in the first place!

    But guess what? Objectives or priority-setting done right is amazing. It will get the desired performance in half the time and make everyone’s life easier. We just need to make it less bureaucratic and something managers want to do because it’s so powerful if done right. There is another way…..check out next weeks webinar…..

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Our Painless People Management Programme Starts Oct 15th