Organizations set Objectives and Key Results (aka OKRs) as a way to measure progress towards top business goals. Therefore, OKRs should not be secret: employees at every level should know their company’s top OKRs and how their own work connects to those goals. In addition, individual employee goalsi.e. personal development goalsshould align with the organization’s OKRs.

Personal development goals are a little different from company goals or an employee’s work goals in that they focus on developing the skills of an individual employee. These goals cover areas like self-management or emotional intelligence. Because personal development goals aim to benefit the employee by improving aspects of their performance, they in turn benefit the company. The key to setting the right personal development goals is ensuring that they’re relevant and valuable.

Set Relevant and Valuable Goals

One method for developing relevant goals is to use the acronym S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, actionable, responsible and time-bound). Here are five questions you should ask when setting your personal development goals:

1.     What do you want to do? (Specific) The answer to this question is the goal itself.

2.     How will you know when you’ve achieved the goal? (Measurable) Determine what measurement or outcome is associated with goal completion.

3.     What are the individual steps that are necessary? (Actionable) Every goal should consist of smaller steps. In terms of OKRs, these are the key results associated with each objective.

4.     Who do you need support and resources from? (Responsible) An individual goal doesn’t necessarily need to belong 100% to the individual. Sometimes others can offer support and be responsible for certain key results.

5.     When will the goal be completed? (Time-bound) This isn’t to say that timelines can’t be adjusted, but having a rough schedule is important.

“A” Smart Way to Align Individual and Company OKRs

The acronym S.M.A.R.T. has been around for decades. It was first mentioned by George T. Doran in a 1981 issue of Management Review. Given how long it has been used in the workplace, it’s not a surprise when certain additions are made. In fact, some people are starting to add the letter “A” to make it S.M.A.R.T.A. The second “A” stands for alignment. In other words, you can ask yourself: “How does my goal align with my company’s OKRs?” The answer could show either direct or indirect alignment.

Direct alignment: Let’s say an organization wants to improve their customer satisfaction scores. One of their objectives could be to conduct organization-wide training on “How to Manage Difficult Customers”. If you’re in the learning and development department, you probably have a work goal directly aligned to the OKR, such as “design a customer service program”. However, in addition, you can set a personal development goal that will directly align, such as  “Focus on improving my presentation skills.”

Indirect alignment: Let’s use the same scenario, except now you’re in the accounting department. While you’re not directly involved with creating or delivering the training, you may have to attend and support the program. This isn’t to say that someone in accounting can’t or shouldn’t have direct alignment with the customer service objective, but it probably means that your personal development goal would be different from someone in that department. In this situation, it could be “Develop greater empathy with vendors and employees.”

Goal Setting is Just the First Step

Some might say that the goal setting process is the easy part and achieving the goal is the hard part. While that could be debated, one thing is certain: it’s hard to accomplish goals if you don’t monitor your progress.

Today’s goal setting technology helps employees document their goals (including individual key results and due dates), set regular reminders to review progress and stay focused. Organizations can also offer training to managers so they can coach and support employees to achieve their goals.

Every employee within an organization has OKRs that should align to top company OKRsnot only work-related goals, but personal development goals as well. With the ability to set, review and adjust great personal development goals, employees can better align those goals to top company OKRs and meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.