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How many articles are written each year on employee goal setting? Dozens? Hundreds? We know that goal setting is an important way to motivate employees. We know that goals trigger behaviors and that often goals end in rewards. That’s why companies use employee goal setting—it is a productivity aid. Goals also provide a measurement of employee performance that employers need to evaluate their efforts. But how can your company work with your employees to create both short and long-term performance goals? This two-part blog will explore the issue of employee goal setting. What are the best goals to track? How can you work with your employee to set goals that matter both to them and to your company? What are the benefits of this process?

Why is Goal Setting so Important to Employees?

Goals help organize activities around a central purpose. It’s a deliberate effort to complete tasks or otherwise alter your behavior to achieve an end result. These goals create engagement in employees; it gets them to care about their jobs more. This is especially true if you can tie goal achievement to a tangible reward. Why does this matter? Studies show that companies with engaged employees are 21% more profitable. They also see 41% less absenteeism.

Goal setting should encompass individuals as well as teams and entire departments. Are there any downsides, though, to the goal-setting process? There can be. For example, if the goals are set without the employee’s input, that can feel pretty heavy-handed and have the opposite effect on engagement. Or, if the goals are vague or completely unachievable in some way. Positive Psychology says, “Research supports the prediction that the most effective performance often results when goals are both specific and challenging in nature.”

These are all situations where goal setting will only frustrate or alienate your employees and potentially, make them leave.

What Kind of Goals Make Sense to Your Employees?

From an employee’s perspective, there are life and personal goals. Sometimes the two can intertwine. Some examples of typical goals that we see include:

  • Communication—For example, the goal could encompass breaking down a barrier with a coworker you’ve failed to communicate with in the past.
  • Compliance—The goal, in this case, could be to pass an OSHA audit or some other type of compliance-related metric.
  • Customer—Achieving better customer service and satisfaction ratings is one example.
  • Education—This could be an individual employee’s goal to gain a certification.
  • Efficiency—Speed up an activity or cut the time it takes to perform tasks.
  • Productivity—This usually has to do with the volume of something. Produce more raw materials or increase the number of activities that you perform in a day.
  • Revenue—These goals are always popular with sales reps or sales departments. A concrete sales goal would be it increase sales by 15% in the next quarter.

While these are just a few examples of the kinds of goals employees can set. It’s particularly important that each goal is specific as possible. It should be time-bound, as well. If you can align a goal to a company value or business goal, that’s even better.

But how do you go about actually setting the right kind of goals for—and with—your employees? We’ll tackle that in part two of Understanding Employees’ Goals.

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