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Help Employees Navigate Shifting Career Development Goals

Human Resources

As important as effective goal-setting is for your staff, it’s just as important to adjust those goals as needed to keep pace with the changing business environment. But this can be difficult; employees may have fallen short in achieving their goals, or the business may be heading in a new direction. This is why regrouping with your employees is important. Consider these tips when discussing shifting career development goals.

Consider team processes

Review the functions and interrelationships of your team relative to the overall organization. Assess how any changes in organizational goals could directly impact your team. Work with each member of your staff to identify specific and measurable objectives that can help the overall organizational goals, while mapping back to each of their career development goals if possible.

Open, honest communication is key

If an employee fell short of a goal and you need to reassess, keep in mind that they could enter the conversation feeling frustrated or unmotivated. Make an in-depth assessment of why this happened, and use that information to determine logical next steps. Just as importantly, avoid recrimination and set the stage for an honest, open discussion without negativity. Your employee can benefit from an objective review, the opportunity to self-reflect, and the opportunity to contribute to a solution.

If goals for the business are shifting, each employee’s goals may need to be realigned as well. There could be circumstances where these shifts are disappointing to an employee who was looking forward to a next step in their career development that is no longer viable. There may be other advancements or next steps that may now be available to the employee, so it’s important to have an open, honest discussion where they feel safe to express their views and aspirations.

employees change goals

Understand each goal’s purpose

If career development goals need to change, you may want to take a closer look at their purpose. Your employees are more likely to commit to the long-term if they understand the point and purpose of setting each goal in the first place. Discuss why it is important to achieve this goal, and how achieving this goal can benefit them. Explore alternatives with them or connect them with an advisor or mentor who can help them get a fresh perspective. This could open opportunities for the employee that may have been previously overlooked.

Allow for flexibility

Establishing career development goals is not an exact science. During discussions with your employee, you may discover that neither of you have the answers. You may be at a "wait-and-see" point in your goal setting. Flexibility is critical and giving situations a chance to develop may be the best option. Be careful to use flexibility in moderation, though. Leaving career goals open-ended can lead to a lack of motivation or waning job performance.

If you choose to take the wait-and-see approach, it could make sense to increase the frequency of your goals review process for this employee. The idea is to tie up those loose ends as soon as possible. Frequent updates can allow you to solidify those goals in real time as circumstances change.

Reconsider having more frequent discussions about goals

More frequent goal setting conversations may be worthwhile to consider if your business is changing rapidly. This could include switching to performance management practices that occur on an ongoing basis, versus the more traditional annual performance review. This can help ensure that employees’ goals are reflective and reactive to the business’s most up-to-date goals and strategies.

This website contains articles posted for informational and educational value. Paychex is not responsible for information contained within any of these materials. Any opinions expressed within materials are not necessarily the opinion of, or supported by, Paychex. The information in these materials should not be considered legal or accounting advice, and it should not substitute for legal, accounting, and other professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant.