Every company has goals. But does your whole staff know what they are? More importantly, does everyone know how to attain and measure them?

It’s easy to determine a business’ top-level goals. Ours were to grow sales, be more efficient and have happy employees. But it’s more challenging to make sure that each employee can state them at any moment of the day. Nor is it easy to create measurable sub-goals that allow staffers to actively contribute to and accomplish company-wide targets.

The hardest question of all: How do you motivate your employees to work toward reaching these goals?

Our industry is extremely seasonal. When things really get going, we all work like crazy. So it becomes very difficult to keep everyone on target with the top-level company goals. If you get creative, you can find a way. We did, but it wasn’t an overnight process: It took us five months to create a system that worked.

But even if you can’t create a detailed plan before the season kicks into high gear, consider starting the process to keep your business focused on the goal when things get busy this summer.

Incremental Progress

It all started when a confidant of mine asked if everyone here could state our three top-level goals. My answer was “probably not” because I hadn’t disclosed them to everyone.

I took on the challenge of communicating our three top-level goals for the year. We then implemented a short, monthly, company-wide meeting. I confirmed at that first gathering that no one knew our goals. But by the third meeting, after having repeated the goals each month, the staff knew them clearly.

However, being able to restate a business’ goals is not the same as knowing how to accomplish them.

I challenged my management team to create sub-goals that allow each department to help reach company-wide targets. Each sub-goal had to be attainable and measurable on a daily basis and, taken in combination, present every employee the opportunity to say they helped with at least one. We prioritized and narrowed them down to 32 very specific, measurable goals.

The Puzzle

I wanted a system to keep our sub-goals at the forefront of everyone’s minds and use prizes to motivate each team member to help meet them.

This led us to create “The Puzzle.”

It is a 5-by-10-foot, 32-piece puzzle board on wheels and gives every employee the opportunity and motivation to directly contribute to our corporate goals. The board travels around the warehouse and into monthly meetings, serving as a constant visual reminder of what we are trying to achieve even while we are all extremely busy throughout the season.

To motivate everyone and keep the goals top-of-mind throughout the busy season, we awarded prizes for each sub-goal achieved, so we could reward employees every month throughout the season. If all 32 are completed, our three top-level goals will also have been reached.

Each sub-goal was assigned an ‘owner’ who was responsible for tracking it. Once a sub-goal was achieved, the owner would explain at our monthly meeting how it was accomplished and who contributed. This person then had the pleasure of pulling off the sub-goal puzzle piece and replacing it with a “prize piece” that has a value worthy of the accomplishment.

Goals ranged from going three weeks without shipping an order in more than 48 hours — from order placement to shipment — to adding 20 new customers with more than $20,000 in sales. But we also created goals that fell under the ‘happy employee’ category. These were fun, team-building events, such as challenging everyone to successfully toss a bean bag through a corn-hole board. Winners took part in a raffle for the opportunity to have a corn-hole board personalized with the employee’s photo.

The program included cash rewards, as well. To add a fun element to these rewards, we stuffed the money in blown-up balloons, which employees popped to retrieve their prizes.

The Results

In the end, we were able to pull nearly all 32 puzzle pieces in the first year and, in the process, achieve our top-level goals.

Our company took on the challenge because we realize that every employee is vital to our success. It wasn’t easy at first. But once we put a system in place and empowered every sector of our business, not only did we achieve our goals for the season, but we had fun doing so. As an important long-term bonus, we found ourselves working better as a team along the way.

The puzzle provided a practical framework that motivated employees to actively engage in achieving the company’s top goals. It worked for us, and I hope it works for other pool and spa businesses.

This year, our team is really excited to achieve all our goals. We all agreed that if we can remove all 32 puzzle pieces, that last puzzle-piece prize will be spectacular!