Build your dream team

Individual goal setting to boost engagement & profitability

Individual development plans (IDPs) rely on effective SMART goals to boost employee engagement.
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Min Read
June 23, 2021
Journey to a dream team series: What is a dream team? What does it take? And how will you get there? The journey includes several iterations, feedback loops, coaching, presentations, and developing handy visual tools to manifest the implemented changes along the way. We will be sharing all insights with you in the upcoming five separate articles: The best team setup, Build a vision & mission, Team values & behaviours, Right goal setting, Communication & feedback. Every article will include a substantial piece of content, concept/method you can download and work through with your team.

When talking about goals in corporate contexts we tend to mostly focus on the big picture – business goals, OKRs, straight numbers – and forget to set individual goals for and together with employees – those who actually define a company’s success. This is the case although it has been proven that individual goal setting leads to greater profitability.

Highly engaged employees are 38 % more likely to have above-average productivity (Workplace Research Foundation, 2016) and organizations with highly engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147 % in earnings per share (Gallup, 2016).

You may now be wondering how you can boost your employees’ engagement and the short answer from CONUFACTUR a member of the Wayra startup community, is: Use individual development plans (IDPs). Combined with constructive criticism, IDPs boost intrinsic motivation.

Executive Summary

  • Instead of forcing general company goals onto your employees, you should let them define individual goals and develop achievement plans together. IDPs help you with the process.
  • Using the goal-setting theory behind SMART goals ensures that the individual goals are specific and measurable. This prevents focusing on insignificant or unrealistic goals.
  • Following a clear and simple process, including a series of one-on-one sessions, IDPs can successfully be integrated in your day-to-day business.

The concept and target of individual development plans

Expecting your employees to reach goals that you set for them can go either very well or horribly wrong, depending on whether or not they match their individual goals. When they work on achieving personal goals, they draw energy from intrinsic motivation. However, if they have no intrinsic motivation to reach a goal, they only do what is expected of them – leading to sub-par results and job dissatisfaction.

IDPs can be tools for proactive career development. They help employees and leaders commit on concrete action plans to achieve objectives. The basis for the definition of individual goals are the employee’s strengths, values and wishes.  

IDPs are meant to give employees time to reflect and develop a vision for the future of their career. From this vision measures and resources for the achievement of goals can be derived. The plans lead to an agreement between employee and manager and motivate both parties to adhere to the agreed measures.  

The results of the IDPs provide leaders with two important chances: They are the ideal basis for constructive feedback, and also show under which conditions an individual employee is motivated to achieve top performances.


Goal setting theory: SMART goals

IDPs rely on SMART goals that are popular in goal-setting theory. The whole premise is that goals need to meet five specific criteria to be achievable: Specific, Measurable, Attractive, Realistic, Terminated.

  • Specific

The more specific a goal is articulated, the easier it is to conclude concrete action steps.

  • Measurable

There must be some possibility to measure the success or failure of reaching a goal.

  • Attractive

Only if a goal is attractive, does the employee develop intrinsic motivation to reach it.  

  • Realistic

A goal must be realistic. Otherwise, your employees will soon be discouraged.

  • Terminated

Set a date by which the goal is supposed to be achieved.


Goal setting examples

Depending on various factors, such as industry, position and personal values, goals can be quite different. However, having a few goal setting examples can help articulate one’s own goals. Following the theory of SMART goals, here are some:

  • “By the end of Q1, I want 3 new clients to have signed a contract with me.”
  • “In 2021, I want to reduce my overtime by 50% by delegating Social Media activities to an intern.”  
  • “I want my team to grow by two fitting members within 6 months. I will work closely with the HR department and communicate exactly what I am looking for in a new team member to reach this goal.”

The process of goal setting with IDPs

What makes IDPs special is that goals are not developed by a leader as it is common, but by employees themselves. The focus should always lie on the employee's personal responsibility and proactivity.

With the help of a blank IDP form and, if necessary, further instructions, the employee starts to fill in the template on their own. This might require some time and a calm environment. Afterwards, the employee presents their results in a one-on-one session. The leader takes on the role of a sparring partner, providing feedback and checking for a SMART formulation. By the end of the meeting, both parties should have come up with and committed to a clear action plan.  

Employee and leader should check-in at least twice a year to track the progress of goal achievement. At the end of a year, there should be a final feedback meeting in which employee and leader reflect on the cooperation, successes and opportunities for optimization.

IDPs are a great tool to shift goal setting responsibilities from leaders to individual employees, promoting initiative and drawing from the power of intrinsic motivation. CONUFACTUR has developed a template with which you can easily start implementing IDPs in your startup.  

Checklist illustration
IDP Template
Download and start the process of your goal setting today. We encourage you to sign up for CONUFACTUR's newsletter for more insights.
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Written by
Anja Sinz
Written by
Anja Sinz

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