Why We Struggle With Objective-Setting

Performance and development objective-setting, be it at appraisal-time or day-to-day is a difficult skill to master. If you're struggling with it as a Manager you're not alone! When we run our Painless People Management Programme across the country we encounter many people who are writing and coming up with forgettable objectives that just aren't improving performance. Why is this? The following probably sounds a bit familiar:

  1. We don't do it often enough - and when we do it, it's normally because we have been directed to by HR as part of the appraisal/performance review cycle.
  2. The link to pay/reward - we sometimes agree objectives a bit half-heartedly because we know the main reason for it will be to help determine pay and bonus. HR or our managers want something to help measure performance and objectives are seen as an ideal solution. If we feel cynical about the chances of reward where we work then we don't put as much into the process!
  3. They become historical or redundant - the guidance is normally that objectives have to work over a long period, perhaps six or twelve months. What we agree often falls off the table later in the year, our bosses change or the objective just isn't relevant anymore!
  4. SMART isn't particularly helpful - Why is the guidance just five words in a convenient acronym? The words are a bit subjective and open to opinion - achievable? realistic?
  5. Non £-note roles - Objectives are difficult to come up with if centred around behaviour or expectations required from non-sales roles. We end up using meaningless buzzwords like 'lead', 'deliver', 'proactive' which then leads to the debate around whether I did indeed practice these words or not in reality!
  6. We write them for the sake of it! - If we struggle to come up with anything we write things like 'continue to ensure...' which is effectively asking people to carry on doing what they are already doing. This is a compounded problem when we have been told that everyone needs X number of objectives.

Our Painless People Management Programme includes a module on how to approach SMART objective-setting in a unique, plain-English way using five new steps to make it ten times easier!