How NextRoll is Adjusting Goal Setting During a Time of Crisis

Like many companies, NextRoll transitioned to a remote workforce overnight. While we always prided ourselves with a flexible work environment, a fully remote workforce is completely new to many of us. We’re missing the casual kitchen chit chats, hallway conversations and desk banter.

Now more than ever though, it’s critical for employees, managers and the company to stay aligned, which starts with goals. Goals are integral to our success and we’re passionate about setting, cascading and aligning goals. 

How we approach goal setting

Goals help us measure progress, provide motivation, prioritize how we spend our time, give us a sense of control and keep us accountable. We see each quarter as a building block toward our long term company goals. I hold quarterly goal setting trainings for managers and individual contributors as a refresher of our goal setting philosophy, short and long term company goals, and share best practices. 

Goals guide our work throughout the year. We recommend every employee to have 3-5 goals in progress. In addition to aligning with team and company goals, employees are strongly encouraged to have one personal development or DEI goal. Lastly, goals should follow the SMART framework:

  • Specific: Goals should be defined and articulated with a clear end result in mind.

  • Measurable: We understand not every goal can be quantifiable. If you’re unable to tie a metric, another option is phrasing by milestone.

  • Attainable: Goals should be realistic, practical and attainable within the timeframe and resources available.

  • Results-oriented: Goals should make a tangible impact on your personal growth and ultimately, the company.  

  • Time-based: Goals should have a due date.

Aligning and cascading goals

With two business units (AdRoll and RollWorks), the complexity of our business model further validates a need for clear goal alignment across the company. Once goals are set, we use Reflektive to share our goals. Reflektive makes it easy to visualize how individual goals align to our overarching department and company priorities.  

You can click on company goals, then expand to see the cascading of goals and subgoals.

From the view alignment button, you can share how each team member supports the team and company goals. 

Staying Flexible During COVID-19 and Q2 Goal Setting

Most managers need to be prepared to adjust goals. Companies go through rough patches all the time — but today’s crisis is anything but routine. In good times and bad, employees expect their targets to be realistic. Stretch goals are meant to be challenging, not impossible. 

Teams shouldn’t set goals simply for the sake of having them. Goal-setting is supposed to inspire employees and give them something to work toward. As soon as goals leave the realm of possibility, they can discourage employees and even lead to disengagement over time. While some targets may have been affected, the importance of goal-setting hasn’t been sidelined.

At NextRoll, we’ve stayed the course with goal-setting and have encouraged Rollers to think through goals with the lens of the current COVID-19 climate and take that into consideration. Rather than disregard goal-setting for the quarter, NextRoll gave employees a few extra weeks to work with their managers and adjust their Q2 targets.

Tailoring NextRoll’s Goal Setting Approach

Amy LeBold, NextRoll’s EVP of People, and Jody Atkins, Head of Global Talent Acquisition, explain how we strategized to adjust the company’s goals. The impact hasn’t been uniform across all teams.

Recruiting teams, in particular, had to pivot. Jody Atkins shared, “Because hiring slowed down, we were able to shift to longer term goals, like creating processes for more inclusive hiring. We developed programs to help reduce bias in the interview process, especially in our new virtual world,”  Changes in the volume of direct  talent acquisition into the business  have  ripple effects elsewhere. Long term targets across the business are often set with a specific headcount in mind.

Whatever the department, teams were encouraged to pivot from unattainable and potentially demoralizing goals to those that were more realistically in an employees’ control. Amy LeBold shared “Employees are affected in various ways because of what is now out of their control, so we’ve recalibrated to focus on the things that can be accomplished ‘differently’ for the time being. Our Marketing Team, for example, is responsible for helping us acquire more customers by bringing brand awareness to potential customers. Although typically goals for these roles would focus on in-person event planning, our teams have had to adapt their goals and do outreach on available platforms and paces, like Social Media.” 

For customer-facing roles, we have recommended setting goals focused on relationship-building for longer-term results. Fostering that trust now could serve companies well after the crisis settles. “To facilitate further growth and to prepare for the COVID-19 aftermath, we’re currently focused on establishing and growing client relationships,” said LeBold. In a time where budgets are under scrutiny, the focus on maintaining brand recognition and personalized service could benefit client retention even after the dust settles.

Communicating Transparently & Tracking Goals

Companies handle sharing goals out differently depending on their size and culture, but what NextRoll agreed on is that transparency was the best approach. Reflektive allows us to post public and private goals. While some goals may be private, we encourage everyone to embody the jellyfish culture creature (be open, authentic and as transparent as possible). Public goals help teams have visibility in what their colleagues are working on and in many cases, enable employees to help each other.

Goals are not a “set it and forget it” kind of thing. After uploading goals in Reflektive, employees and managers have regular check-ins. We see a lot of success when employees drive these conversations sharing how they are tracking and raising any risks they are facing with goals. It puts managers in a great position to ensure their direct reports have the right resources and gives them the opportunity to remove any barriers. Should priorities shift or resources surrounding prevent accomplishment, managers and employees revisit the SMART framework and iterate on the goals together.

Having clear goals and tracking against said goals keep us moving forward together. While where we are working might have changed, our “why” has stayed true to our company vision: Helping hundreds of thousands of businesses trust to grow and retain their customers.

Using Goals in Upcoming Performance Review Conversations

Goals exist to give employees focus and something to be measured by. To that end, their use in performance conversations is likely to come up. While maintaining the importance of goal-setting overall, NextRoll felt it was important to be forgiving if teams do end up falling short.

We’ve urged everyone to work on what they can, and we’ll buckle down until all of this is over. While goals certainly matter, they aren’t the only factors worth considering in performance conversations — especially in a review period  as unprecedented as this one. 

Written by: Amber Carroll Tyrell, Sr. People Operations Manager