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5 Tips to Help Millennials Set Goals for the New Year

Business leaders today not only have to juggle project management, annual quotas and personal development, but manage entire teams. The most efficient way to set everyone up for success is to help these young professionals set goals.

Can your employees effectively describe what your company does and why it matters? Do they know how their contribution affects the success of the company as a whole? Goals are beneficial – they guide advancement and provide appropriate direction. According to Gallup, 69% of those surveyed said when team members strongly agree if their manager helps them set performance goals, they are more likely to be engaged at work. On the other hand, if you don’t have a way to set goals, as well as track them, employees might have trouble executing and accomplishing them.

A manager’s success is largely defined by the success of their team. The team’s accomplishments and failures are the manager’s accomplishments and failures. Managers can’t expect to build and grow their employees professionally if they don’t know what they want to achieve six months to a year down the line. Managers should be hands-on and collaborative with their people, while still giving employees the freedom they want and need to succeed on their own. Today more than ever, millennials and Generation Z want to immediately answer the question: ‘What is my purpose?’, not only at home, but also in the workplace.

Here are some tips when working with your teams on goal setting:

1. Connect employee goals to company goals

Begin by talking about your organization. It’s good to start broad and review the organization’s mission statement and goals. On a high level, what does your company do, and how does it impact the world and people around you? From there, move on to department goals. How does the department as a whole serve the company and work to meet its goals?

More than likely, every department within your company has several sub-groups, each serving a special purpose with its own goals. How does the sub-group help the department meet its goals? Young professionals have to be able to answer the question: What is my role within this company, this department and this team?

 2. Make sure they are SMART goals

 Ideally, setting goals needs to be a collaborative process between managers and employees. Rather than dictating goals, managers should ask employees to bring a few developed ideas to one-on-one meetings specifically to discuss goals. The employee should have plenty of time to think about this before the meeting. Discuss the ideas, and ask the employee to tie their goals to the company’s goals. This reaffirms the employee’s understanding of the company’s mission. Then, especially for new and younger professionals, ensure each goal is SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Based. SMART goals work best for teams that are new to goal setting or struggle with discipline.

  • Specific– target a specific area for improvement.
  • Measurable– quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
  • Assignable– specify who will do it.
  • Realistic– state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
  • Time-related– specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

Setting SMART goals allows you to measure how effectively employees are moving toward.

 3. Monitor progress

Performance goals should have a performance review tool used to elevate the development processes and track the progress of your employees’ goals. That also means you must adapt to how performance reviews have changed, as new generations manage the workplace and new technologies allow for greater access. In recent years, many companies have made the switch to quarterly reviews, allowing managers to review performance goals on a more frequent basis.

 4. What about personal goals?

While young professionals are focused on meeting their goals to better the business, they are also eager to learn new skills and move up in the organization. Managers should have a conversation with employees about what kind of learning they want to participate in and why, and help them find the right resources. Learning management systems are an effective way to drive learning participation and create a culture within your workplace.

Personal goals are different than day-to-day tasks meant to achieve company goals. They relate more to development than annual quotas. These goals may have a focus on skill development, promotion, public speaking, time management and more. Whether personal or company-related, ensure the goals are contributing to the organization’s overall success.

 5. Acknowledge progress

 People naturally want to feel appreciated. Recognition doesn’t have to involve trophies, plaques or balloons. It can be as informal as a specific “thank you” for a job well done. A 2008 Massachusetts Institute of Technology study by behavioral economist Dan Ariely illustrates the power of acknowledgement. Subjects were paid incrementally less money for each Lego figurine they assembled. In group A, the completed figurines accumulated on the table; but group B’s figurines were immediately dismantled by the experimenter and placed in a box. Only one question was asked of the subjects: “Would you like to assemble another figurine?”

How you would feel if you were in group B? The money is the same. Should the way you feel matter? The findings show that it does indeed matter. The people in the group A assembled 32% more figurines than the group B, simply because of acknowledgement. A similar experiment yielded the same conclusion: People whose work is openly acknowledged — not necessarily praised— are far more willing to do the same job for the same pay as someone whose work is ignored or destroyed.

In other words, recognition drives engagement, and engagement drives productivity. Foster a culture of recognition and respect through your commitment to employee growth and development. When measuring performance and goals — annual or semiannual reviews or informal recognition — document where employees can access it. Acknowledgement can be as simple as actively listening to your employees through surveys or regular one-on-one meetings.

All-in-all, helping young professionals set and complete goals not only helps them, but also you, as their manager. It makes your job easier by fully vetting the path on which you’ve placed your employee. And when success comes from goal setting, it’s a win-win-win situation; for you, your employee and the organization.