How Goal Setting with Employees can Improve Retention

As we start the new year, your insurance organization’s overarching goals are top of mind. You’ve set your sights on growing your customer base, leveling up your marketing, and of course, increasing your revenue. Perhaps scaling your team is also part of your company’s objectives for the year. But have you considered the goals of your individual staff members and how your attention to them can impact their performance and retention?

Perhaps the days of the traditional New Year’s Resolutions are over but we want to spend this blog discussing how goal setting with employees can have a ripple effect on job satisfaction, employee retention, and company achievements. We’ll also provide some guidance on how to help employees set goals so that professional goal setting can become part of your team’s regular process.

The Current State of Turnover in the Insurance Industry

Insurance organizations aren’t alone in facing increasing employee turnover rates. The Great Resignation, the Great Attrition, the Big Quit, the Great Reshuffle. Whatever you may call it, businesses across industries have experienced all-time highs in resignations in the last two years and studies from Gartner suggest that companies can expect their turnover rates to continue to rise.

Meanwhile, the overall turnover rate in the finance and insurance industry was 25% in 2020 and many insurance organizations are finding it increasingly difficult to find qualified candidates. On one hand, this challenge requires more creative and optimized recruiting strategies to fill open positions. But hiring and training new staff members can cost up to twice the salary of that position. So, on the other hand, it also requires employers to put more focus on improving retention.

Competitive salaries can make a big difference in improving retention but research also shows that a strong company culture can go a long way to help retain employees. And a big part of that culture is how you treat your employees personal and professional goals.

What are Professional Goals?

Professional goals are a set of objectives for what you want to achieve in your career in both the short and long term. Practical career goals are concrete and actionable, helping provide employees with immediate next steps and guiding ambitions. Short term professional goals might include picking up a new skill or completing an educational course. Long term goals can point employees towards new roles within the company or the growth of their client portfolio. Knowing what you want to achieve can help you make continual progress and motivate you to do well in your job.

Goal setting can also be about defining your ideal relationship to your work. Would you like to be a leader in the workplace? Would you like to set more concrete boundaries between work and personal time? Do you want to do more collaborative work, or do you prefer to work independently? These may seem tertiary to your career goals, but they set the stage for an employee’s motivation and satisfaction with their job.

Why Goal Setting with Employees is Critical

Without realizing it, it can be easy for employees to settle into a routine and let their skill building plateau. Why set professional goals if you are performing well at your current job functions? Not only does stagnation prevent employees from achieving more, it can also lead to feeling disconnected and directionless with the organization.

Psychologists have found that goal setting is one of the most effective strategies in engaging individuals within a group. And we already know that employees who are engaged with their company are 21% more productive at work than those who are not. Actively goal setting with employees has a number of benefits:

  1. You demonstrate that you value your employees, their growth, and their personal priorities.
  2. You have the opportunity to guide employees towards a future role in your organization or help them learn a skill that’s needed to round out your team.
  3. You set up concrete ways to track and measure the progress of your staff and markers for when recognition is in order.
  4. You can align team members’ professional development paths with one another to better reach company-wide objectives. Did you know that companies with highly engaged employees are 24% more profitable?
  5. Your organization can plan to allocate the right resources to assist your staff in reaching their goals.

Long term Plans = Higher Retention

Let’s put it this way. If you went on a first date with someone who openly stated they weren’t interested in a long-term relationship, you might not put in as much effort to get to know them. Your relationship with your employees functions in much the same way.

By making professional goal setting a collaborative effort between managers and their team members, you solidify your company’s role in their long-term plan. You demonstrate that you want to help them reach their goals and that you envision a place on the team years down the road. Highly engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave their company which means that goal setting with employees is a key step in improving retention.

How to Help Employees Set Goals

Professional goal setting is easier said than done. When it comes to planning a vacation, choosing your destination is fun but when asked what your five or ten year career plan is, it’s easy to lose steam. Besides, there’s no central resource for teaching young professionals how to set career goals. While some of your staff may have some professional development goals in mind already, everyone on your team can benefit from the help of you, the manager or executive, in creating a concrete list of goals.

There are many different methods of professional goal setting, like OKR, MBO, and SMART goals. Explore each of them, as well as some examples, to find (or meld) a technique that feels right for your organization. Then, incorporate them into your processes.

Include Goal Setting in Onboarding

Don’t wait for goal setting with employees! Hopefully you’ve already chatted with your new hire about their goals during the interview process but now that they’ve accepted your offer to join the team, it’s time to make those professional goals official. Think about how you envision their role developing as they settle in and then sit down with them to discuss some short and long term objectives. We’re a fan of making 30-60-90 day plans that focus on getting new staff members up to speed and then launching into their career with the organization. This also provides structure for when you as the manager can check in with their progress and reassess goals or resources needs.

Discuss Professional Goals in Annual Reviews

Whether you conduct annual reviews at the end of the calendar or fiscal year, or as each individual employee reaches their work anniversary, professional goal setting should be part of the discussion. It can be helpful to have formal tools like self-evaluation sheets assigned to employees to get them started. Here are a few prompts you can use to help them articulate their goals and progress:

  • What type of work do you like most/would like to do more of? What do you like least or would like to reduce?
  • What topics or skills are you interested in learning about? How do you best learn or absorb new information?
  • What would help you enjoy your work or make your time more productive?
  • What are you proud of from the past year?
  • How did you achieve your goals from last year? Are there any goals you didn’t reach?

Come prepared with your own thoughts to ensure the work of professional goal setting is shared. Together you can find actionable ways to approach the upcoming year.

Check in with Professional Growth Regularly

While onboarding and annual reviews are both formal processes, you should be checking in with your employees about their goals on a regular basis. These check ins can be as casual or formal as you’d like. You might ask your staff to send you one new thing they learned that week or an interesting article they read. You can also have weekly one-on-ones to review progress on current projects and find out what they need to keep making forward movement. If they are feeling frustrated or unmotivated, use the documentation you have of their goals to remind them of some objectives to reach for.

And as always, don’t forget that praise and recognition are important elements to their feelings of engagement. Since their professional goals are in part influenced by your direction, they should feel appreciated and celebrated for the work they’re doing to reach them.

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