Here’s the Problem With Your Company’s Goals Program

Want a surefire way to ruin an employee’s work day? Have their manager talk to them about goals.

It’s not that employees are lazy or unproductive—because even high-performers roll their eyes and sigh in angst at the goal-setting process. It’s just that traditional goal-setting methods are ineffective at motivating workers.

SEE ALSO: What CHROs Need to Know About Changing Human Capital Management

You’re probably well aware of the growing disdain for annual performance reviews. According to Deloitte, 58 percent of HR executives consider them ineffective, and about 70 percent of companies are phasing them out.

Goal-setting improves work performance by 12-15%, according to Elsevier Click To Tweet

Though annual reviews are on the decline, you still need goals to provide employees direction, set expectations, and measure success. And goals work! According to an Elsevier study, goal-setting improved work performance by 12-15 percent.

So goals aren’t the problem. It’s how you set them. Goals that make employees feel more aligned with the organization, incorporate their personal interests and visualize how they’re making a difference, and can be tracked and measured throughout the year.

The Problem With Traditional Goal-Setting

Traditional goal-setting often follows a cascading method: the president sets overall goals, then the VPs set goals to support the president’s vision, then directors, and so on.

By the time managers set goals for employees, there’s no clear connection to the company’s larger objectives and employees are left out of the process. Without a sense of ownership, workers feel disengaged and unmotivated.

Without a sense of ownership, workers feel disengaged and unmotivated.

Another problem is that goals are often vague. They leave employees without actionable steps and gives managers no clear way to measure progress. According to Gallup, 6 of 10 workers say they know what’s expected of them at work. Not a bad number. But if that ratio improved to 8 of 10, companies would see a 14 percent reduction in turnover.

Some goals are also rigid. Today’s organizations are more agile, moving from project to project and making regular shifts in priorities. Projects change along the way, so goals need to keep up with the fast-paced business environment.

The New Way to Create Goals

What is effective goal-setting? It needs to be a company-wide initiative that prioritizes individual contributions, connects individual goals to company success, and makes managers partners in helping employees achieve goals.

Some ways to establish these objectives include:

Aligning employee goals with company goals: Make sure employees understand how their achievements impact the company’s overall success. Connect individual goals to specific problems and solutions. When employees understand their impact, it motivates them.

Incorporate personal goals: Employees are looking for personal growth opportunities. According to Gallup, 60 percent of workers desire jobs where they can best use their abilities. For managers, this means integrating personal interests into employee goals.

Make goals challenging: Most employees are looking for a challenge in their work. Managers should look to set goals for employees that are both realistic but also challenging enough to push them to higher achievement. As they meet metrics, add new challenges.

Measurement is Key to Success

There are plenty of goal-setting methods to use—some companies use OKRs, others use SMART goals or some other system.

Regardless of your method, it’s important to measure progress towards the goals. Without properly monitoring progress, employees can get off track or lose motivation. Measurement also helps support employees who fall short of expectations. It can head off problems early on and fix performance issues by providing solutions.

Flexible measurement tools help managers and employees track goals and performance. For example, in an OKR measurement solution, each key result on a goal can have its own progress measurement tracked as a percent, raw number, or dollar value.

Flexible measurement tools help managers and employees track goals and performance Click To Tweet

Effectively measuring and tracking these results allows employees to keep their goals up to date, and gives managers an accurate view of employees’ progress towards the goals that matter most.

Goal-setting doesn’t have to draw the ire of employees. When done properly, it can help them feel more aligned with the organization, and improve their conversations with their managers about their progress and development.

Download our ebook: The HR Innovator’s Guide to Agile Goal Management

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