The idea of improving agility and technology are popular concepts in the business world today. But have you also extended these modern strategies to how you manage one of your company’s most valuable assets – your employees? Improving performance management and setting goals to maximize your employees’ performance can improve business outcomes like employee retention, as well as your bottom line.


“Rapid changes in business and technological landscapes today have created the expectation that employees be more agile, autonomous and collaborative,” according to a Whatworks Brief by Bersin by Deloitte, which describes research on goal-setting in the modern workplace. “Creating a clear connection between employees’ work and organizational goals is also a key driver of employee engagement levels … (and the) increasing availability of data makes employee goals a potentially powerful mechanism for managing performance.”


Companies must move past what Bersin by Deloitte calls “the typical goal cascading process.” Its research found that 56 percent of senior leaders surveyed check in on their own goals throughout the year, but “only 36 percent of middle managers and a mere 18 percent of frontline employees do the same.” This indicates employees might be pursuing conflicting goals, and while leaders are doing their best, their employees aren’t necessarily following them.


Setting the right kinds of goals can make this process more effective, writes Stephanie Vozza for Fast Company. The best goals help connect employees to the company’s overall strategies and make sure they feel like a connected part of the organization. Useful goals should also be dynamic, and employees and supervisors should be able to tweak them as the year progresses. Vozza suggests setting quarterly goals with monthly check-ins. The best goals can also be measured and show employee progress, which can be achieved by building in frequent milestones. “Then, update goals frequently so small wins are continually captured,” Vozza writes, and supervisors should also allow their employees to aim high and work ambitiously. “Goals that cause someone to stretch, promote greater achievement,” she writes.


So, what actions can companies take to improve the performance management and goal-setting process?


First, the climate needs to change, from a system of annual reviews managers feel they must finish and file away, to a conversation that allows for specific, positive feedback and motivation, writes Amy Wilson for “Conversations between managers and employees can be richer if supplemented by real-time, ongoing feedback,” Wilson writes. “Talent managers should train managers to make feedback seem simple and natural in the moment, whether it’s from a computer at work or on a smartphone during the train ride home.


Feedback should also be easily accessible across communication mediums.” She suggests using tools designed specifically to enhance goal and performance-related feedback. One such tool is Paylocity’s Performance Management platform, which integrates goal management, 360 reviews, and easy setup for self-service. Such tools allow for better documentation, as well, Wilson writes, which can make “performance feedback conversations more objective.”