Aligning staff with the goals of your practice is critical to your success. It can improve operational execution, increase staff morale and enhance your bottom line.

The key, says George Hartman, CEO of Market Logics Inc. in Toronto, is to engage and involve your staff in the goal-setting process. While you might have a "rack of objectives" you would like to meet, your staff can offer useful insights into what might or might not work, he says. "They can see things that you don't," he says.

You also must have an effective performance-management process, supported by ongoing communication and feedback.

Here are some key steps to aligning your staff with the goals of your practice:

> Engage your staff
The more you engage and involve staff in setting the goals of your practice, the more they will work toward achieving them, Hartman says.

He suggests having an annual offsite retreat at which you set the objectives of your practice for the next 12 months. Present your big-picture objectives and allow staff to discuss them before you finalize your goals. This collaborative process will make your team members aware of what is expected of them and motivate them to take responsibility for achieving the goals they helped to set. 

At an individual level, make sure your staff members are aware of their goals so they can be accountable for their performance in achieving the objectives of the practice. Goals should be specific, measurable and set with time frames. You should also outline incentives for achieving or surpassing specific goals and ensure you get the buy-in of staff.

> Communicate regularly
Provide frequent updates — no less than monthly — on the progress your staff members are making toward achieving the goals of the practice, Hartman says. Reinforce what they are doing well and make them aware of areas that need improvement.

If certain objectives are not being met, Hartman says, get their input as to why they might be falling short. If necessary, he says, "Re-do and refine the objectives."

Provide feedback to employees on an individual basis — at least quarterly — so that your staff will have an opportunity to improve.

> Provide incentives
When incentives are aligned with the goals of your practice, they can be an important contributor to staff performance and, ultimately, to the success of your practice. Incentives can take many forms, such as cash bonuses and other clearly identified rewards.

Incentives reward top performers who achieve the goals of your practice and set a benchmark for all staff to work toward. Staff must be aware of the incentives they will receive if they meet or exceed their performance targets.

For example, Hartman says, you might wish to establish a bonus pool into which a percentage of after-cost revenue is deposited. These funds can then be distributed to staff based on performance at the end of a specified period.

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