4 ways business leaders can support their employees’ goals

For the past two years, we have all observed evolutionary processes in the workplace triggered by the Great Resignation. Take, for example, flexible work arrangements. They are now the norm in many industries that previously argued that jobs could not be done remotely well. However, one outcome of the mass exodus of employees has yet to be explored and examined: how to help employees feel that their work matters.

Do employees actually care if they progress in some way? According to research, yes. Of those who left their jobs in 2021, the Pew Research Center found that 63% cited a lack of career path as the reason. In other words, they had no way to achieve their goals in their companies – so they left in hopes of finding new employers that wouldn’t hinder their growth.

If you are a leader, you need to pay attention to such numbers. Even if your team members seem content and aren’t quitting quietly, they can still feel like they’re spinning their wheels. In that case, they may not be part of your team for a long time.

Instead of reducing preventable risks, consider implementing the following management strategies. Each is designed to transform your workplace into a space where employees can name, claim and exceed their personal goals.

1. Recognize and accept that everyone has different goals: Tonya Towles, Founder and CEO of The PCS Pro Team

You already know your personal goals as an entrepreneur, CEO or CEO. Just don’t assume that all your employees share your goals. This is a huge mistake, but many top performers make it. What makes it so potentially catastrophic? You’ll be holding the wrong carrot and won’t realize your workers are uninspired until it’s too late.

Tonya Towles, founder and CEO of The PCS Pro Team, admits that it was eye-opening to realize that her team members didn’t share her big goals. However, she has used this realization to improve the way she leads others. “My mom had a look on her face,” he explains. “‘If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.’ Not everyone’s satisfaction or success is the same. Remove the bias of what you think is a good goal. Who wouldn’t want to make a million dollars? I was surprised when someone told me they didn’t.”

The best way to discover your employees’ goals is to ask. Of course, as the boss, you may not have time to do this with every person. Ask supervisors to discuss personal goals with their direct reports. The more you know, the more you can help everyone around you grow.

2. Allow team members to make mistakes: Melanie Clark, CMO at Abstrakt Marketing Group

Have you made many missteps in your career? Of course. We all have. That’s how we make discoveries. Those of us who are lucky end up not making the same mistakes twice. And those of us who are really lucky end up working in companies where mistakes are not punished.

How can you make sure your team members know it’s okay to stumble? Melanie Clark, CMO at Abstrakt Marketing Group, has the answer: Provide support so employees can feel comfortable stretching. “From emphasizing the importance of risk-taking to encouraging team members to speak up and take ownership, we’ve been able to develop a workplace culture that rewards ambition and creativity,” says Clark. “When I first assumed my position, I knew it was up to me to set the tone. We had to be willing to take risks and serve as role models for our teams. This meant encouraging them to take ownership of projects. It also meant providing support when things didn’t go according to plan.”

The point is, you can’t tell your employees, “We’re supporting you to reach your goals,” if you don’t let anyone fail. Victories are great, but failures can become stepping stones to greatness. Everyone has heard that Thomas Edison’s path to inventing the light bulb was a slow, laborious process of experimentation. The reason was simple: Edison knew that in order to get closer to his goal, he had to break a few eggs (or bulbs!).

3. Check in with employees to rethink your goals: Kelly Knight, Integrator and President at EOS Worldwide

Are you still focused on achieving the same goals you had 10 years ago? Five years ago? Last year? Probably not. So try not to fall into the trap of thinking that your employees won’t change their goals either. They will—and they won’t necessarily tell you unless you ask.

That’s why Kelly Knight, integrator and president at EOS Worldwide, makes sure all managers have quarterly check-ins with their team members. Meetings allow both parties to be on the same page. “Listening to your team members during this conversation is imperative,” notes Knight. “They want to feel heard and appreciated. Leave room for team members to be honest about their goals and professional dreams. This builds trust. Once trust is built, there can be an increased openness to exploring how that person is working towards their goals.”

It’s okay if you find that employees are reluctant to talk openly about what they want to achieve on their first applications. Give them time. When they see that it’s safe to say, “I want to become a manager,” or “I’d like to learn the skills to move into another department,” they’ll start to open up. And from there you can help them flourish.

4. Show employees how their innovation, creativity and hard work can pay off: Suzanne Bates, Principal at BTS Boston

Do you regularly give raises? Promotions? If so, do they happen periodically or is there a structured path for employees to move up the ladder? Suzanne Bates, director of BTS Boston, believes that one of the key ingredients to motivating workers to set and achieve goals is showing them how they will be rewarded after reaching various milestones.

Bates says her company’s “clear, globally aligned performance and promotion criteria that are transparent to everyone” are a big reason why team members have been able to succeed personally. “Within the criteria are many developmental goals that provide people with the opportunity to demonstrate ability through critical experience and exposure,” Bates explains.

Now is a great time to chart this kind of “ladder of success” in your company. When employees can see where they are, they can see what they need to do to move forward. Since you will be designing the framework of this scale, you can be sure that it is aligned with the overarching goals of your organization. It connects everything and everyone wins.

Each of your employees has multiple personal and professional goals. As an employer, you are in a position to guard them and guide them towards their Northerners. And your reward will be happier workers who feel good about their contributions.

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