[This post is by James Brino, EIT, CAEM]
When I joined my current organization in August of 2021, and before I took over daily management of the engineering department, we did not have a goal setting program. There were informal goals discussed in yearly performance reviews, but there was not a formal process for our Engineers to develop, document, track, and report on their yearly goals (if they had set any at all). In December 2021, I rolled out an Engineering Goal Setting program at PIC Design for the 2022 calendar year, and at the conclusion of the 2022 program, we had a 90% goal start or partially completed rate, and a 78% full goal completion rate.
The following article describes the method I took to develop, implement, and track the program, and helpful tips when developing a program for your organization.
Start with your manager!
The first place to begin is with your manager, or the engineering department’s direct supervisor. Pitch the idea of implementing an engineering goal setting program with the goal of keeping your engineers accountable to the “big picture” goals or initiatives the company is looking forward to in the coming year.
Schedule a Kick-Off Meeting and Develop Materials
The second step is to set a time and place where you can kick off the new program. I started with a 1-hour meeting where I introduced the program, but this upcoming year I have scheduled a 2-hour lunch-and-learn workshop, where we will review the goal program, workshop goals together for the 2023 year, and enjoy lunch. I know my team, and know food motivates, but do what you think is best for your audience. Giving away company swag is always a plus!
Additionally, be prepared with materials to successfully launch your program. I developed a PowerPoint presentation (screenshot of the agenda below) that accomplished a few items; Defined what a goal is, the significance of goal setting, framework to developing goals (SMART method), how to track progress, and how to stay accountable.
I also developed a handout that was instrumental in my team’s goal formation (screenshot of handout below). It was a fillable document that helps develop a SMART goal. This is also an effective way for the goal program administrator to collect the finished goals to start tracking progress towards completion.
Once you have kicked off the program, it’s now time for you and your team to draft, workshop and refine the goals. Whatever way you choose to aid your team in the development of the goals, it is important to focus their energy on attainable goals. Overly ambitious or unrealistic goals stifle progress and derail an engineer’s “kinetic energy”, not to say a stretch goal should be thrown out altogether though. A stretch goal is one where you would consider its completion a personal “stretch”, based on interests, resources, time constraints, etc. Finally, remember your own skillsets and available organization resources, and to stay consistent with your role.
It also may be helpful to break goals into “targets”, which are individual tasks or milestones to accomplish your overall goal. Use targets to break-up your goals into smaller “bite-sized” pieces.
Set Tracking/Check-In Meetings
The worst thing that can happen is you and your team spend all this time developing goals and then they are forgotten about until the next yearly goal setting meeting! That is why it is important to have check-in/goal tracking meetings throughout the year. This also helps with keeping people accountable for the actions they said they would take.
The frequency of these meetings all depends on your type of team and business. I would host these at the end of every quarter and seemed to be well received (First week in April, July, September, last week in December before the holidays). Having each member of the team share the progress they have made towards their goals aloud is important, so the team can keep each other accountable.
Keep yourself and your team accountable, including timelines and deadlines! I have a calendar reminder set for the end of every month as a “personal self-review”, along with the quarterly check in with the full team, as described above.
Keeping detailed notes on the status of the goals and making a game plan on what should be achieved between check-in’s is important. There are a few tools that can be used for tracking, including but not limited to written documents/notes, Excel templates, and productivity software such as ClickUp and OfficeVibe.
I also encourage my team to print out their goals list and tape it on a wall near their desk, so they are reminded of their goals every day, not just on check-in days.
Build a Network of Support and Reflect
Goals should guide you, not be an end-all-be-all. Goals should also be fluid; just because you set a goal in January does not mean it should be the same in December. They should evolve, change, or be abandoned as business needs change or as other strategic items arise throughout the year.
Do not be afraid of failing, asking for help, or for resources. If you do fail; laugh, look internally, diagnose the problem(s) and try again. Finally, build a network that will help and support your goals! Share accomplishments with your co-workers and engage management.
As I always tell my team every morning, “It’s a great day to have a great day, let’s crush it!” Every day as an Engineering Manager, strive to bring new and exciting methods and principles to your team. I would love to hear your stories on how you have developed your engineering goal setting program, or the methods you currently implore. Email me at email@example.com.
About James Brino
James Brino is currently the Engineering Supervisor – Applications, Product & Process Development at PIC Design, a division of RBC Bearings, located in Middlebury, CT. Before assuming responsibility of new product and process development, James was a Senior Applications Engineer at PIC Design/RBC Bearings. Additionally, James is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Hartford Barney School of Business, teaching in the Management, Marketing and Entrepreneurial department. He graduated from the University of Hartford (West Hartford, Connecticut USA) with his MBA in May 2022. James has a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Hartford.