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How Measurable Goals Can Help Your Employees Upskill

Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Career Path

26 November, 2020

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null at ReachStack

Raghavendra Iyer, Head of Engineering at ReachStack, discusses how setting up measurable goals and providing structured learning can help your employees expand their knowledge and skills.

Problem

I was a senior IC working toward becoming a team lead and was already responsible for a number of juniors on my team. Some of them were not as fast as expected and were not able to match my pace. That impacted both the business and me personally. The delivery was constantly delayed and on a more personal level, I felt I was failing to help them with learning new skills.

Actions taken

My initial response was to give them more technical direction, provide more hand-holding and micromanaging. Luckily my manager stepped in and helped me reframe how I was approaching this challenge. I was helped with setting up measurable goals and providing structural learning for the juniors who were lagging behind.

I would establish a baseline for a particular individual and start giving them work appropriate for that baseline with some padded time for learning. They would be given small measurable objectives; for example, you have five days to learn this and finish that, and then we would talk about what you did, what gave you a hard time, etc. The goal was to set up a learning objective that would help them further expand their knowledge and skills and follow up on their learnings. After a while, when setting these goals would become a habit for them, they would continue to upscale applying the same approach to new challenges.

What I failed to understand initially was that this particular person who was lagging behind feared senior engineers and was afraid to say no when they didn’t know something. They wanted to prove to me that they could do it even if that would become counter-effective. Part of their upskilling also included learning how to overcome that fear and be open about things they (didn’t) know. However, by setting measurable goals, I wasn’t only helping this person to upskill but I was also spending less time micromanaging, thus having more time for some strategic things.

Lessons learned

  • Assess the strengths and weaknesses of your reports or peers and delegate them the work accordingly. If you can’t figure this out by yourself, work with your manager to identify those. Their weaknesses may not be technical at all; they could simply be afraid of their managers or want to prove themselves.
  • When people don’t know something you can’t just handle the work and tell them when is the deadline. You should give them the work, time to learn, and an extended deadline.
  • If you want to keep any progress your goals have to be SMART. On the other hand, structured learning should ensure that a person is engaged in the learning process through instructional methodologies.

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