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Career Link: Firm Perspective on Goal Setting

by Monette Anderson, WSCPA Academic Relations Coordinator | Jan 21, 2015

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We asked some local human resource representatives and partners to weigh in on goal setting. Specifically, how their firms encourage employees to set goals, how they oversee progress and what makes successful goal-setters.  

“We ask our employees to write their goals on their annual review form. They meet monthly with their performance manager so if they need help determining their goals, they can have discussions with them in advance. The manager reviews their goals and either adds, deletes, or edits their goals as appropriate. The goals are finalized during their annual review meeting.

“I would tell new professionals to make sure they are writing SMART goals (Specific, Measureable, Accurate, Realistic, and Timely). You want to make sure you are stretching yourself so that you grow in your career, but you also need to be realistic about what you can and cannot do within the scope of one year. In order to meet your goals, you must be willing to have conversations with your manager throughout the year (not just right before your annual review), and you need to be comfortable asking your manager for help or direction so that they can help you achieve your goals by removing any roadblocks in your way.”

– Lizzie Rahm PHR, Human Resources Manager, Clark Nuber P.S., Bellevue


“At the beginning of each fiscal year, employees complete a draft of their annual Personal Success (PS) plan.  The PS plan is used to help guide efforts throughout the year, and employees meet with their Coach/Mentor on a quarterly basis to discuss achievements, progress towards goals, and any current or anticipated challenges.

“The Personal Success plan focuses on the complete accountant. This includes recognizing and performing in some capacity all of the Core Disciplines recognized by Peterson Sullivan. Professionals will demonstrate competency at different levels in each of the Core Disciplines; however, all disciplines are important and should strive to be executed upon.”

– Sarah Baltzell, Senior Director of Human Resources at Peterson Sullivan LLP, Seattle


“I always encourage employees to be very specific when setting goals.  It’s great to have a general goal, such as getting promoted at the end of the fiscal year; however, there has to be a task list that supports the general goal. 

“I mentor several of our high potential staff.  When entering into a coaching agreement, I want to have specific tasks agreed upon such as how often we will meet, when they will have a work plan created… and meetings with partners or managers they work with for feedback. Being really specific then mapping each of the tasks out on a calendar is key.  Then, I encourage staff to set up meetings with a second person who will hold them accountable for accomplishing each of the tasks.  The person holding them accountable can be anyone--someone within the firm such as a peer, coach or mentor, a parent, a good friend, or even another trusted advisor outside the firm.

“Also, make the time for reflection.  It’s surprisingly hard to do.  Each of us needs to take some time, on a regularly scheduled basis, to just sit, think, and brainstorm, and imagine all the things that could be accomplished and how.  We get so caught up in our daily lives dealing with the regular work that we don’t often step back, see the big picture, and think creatively.”

–Sharlyn Turner, Audit Partner at Peterson Sullivan LLP, Seattle


“We ask employees to list out both their personal and professional goals on an annual basis. The review of personal goals helps to ensure that the firm’s vision and direction of the employee aligns with the respective employee’s goals. On the professional side, employees prepare budgets of productive hours by month for the year. These goals/budgets are set during the slowest months of the year, which also align with the firm’s fiscal year.

“Employees that consistently meet the goals are usually on track to the top of the organization. They analyze what needs to be done to accomplish the goals, and they begin early. They are not afraid of work and take pride in what they do.”

–Brenik Iverson, Partner at Leffel, Otis & Warwick, P.S., Odessa


“Our firm leaders work with staff to develop a Personal Development Plan each year. At a late fall mentor meeting, mentors and staff work together to identify the goals. We ask staff and mentors to consider the strengths of the staff person, the staff person’s long-term professional plans and the expectations of the staff person‘s current and upcoming roles in the firm. At the year-end review the goals and action plans are further identified, discussed and finalized between a firm partner, the mentor and staff person. Also, staff meet monthly with their mentors, who support them throughout the year in achieving their goals.

“[When setting goals] ensure all goals have an action plan for accomplishment with deadlines. If your goals include quantifiable measurements, know what those are and consider breaking [them]down to match the deadlines. Think about the time it will take to accomplish your goals and consider if your goals are reasonable given the amount of time you have to spend working on them. Budget how much of your day/week/month/year will be allocated to the different responsibilities of your job. If one of your goals is to have a certain number of billable hours, be sure to budget your billable time out in terms of monthly time and weekly time considering months with more holidays and vacations versus months you know the demand will be high.”

–Jessica Waggoner, Firm Administrator at VSH Certified Public Accountants, Bellingham

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