Goal setting

Importance of setting clear and achievable goals in an organization

By on August 11, 2022

Goal setting in an organization can be challenging, especially when the organization – and the number of employees for which the goals need to be set – is significant. Often, these goals are created and developed with good intentions, but not enough action happens around them after the initial frenzy. With proper alignment, goals can give organizations and employees who work in them a sense of purpose. Goal setting gives a reason for doing what the individual or the organization is doing and clears the path for them to find out how to achieve the same.

What is Goal Setting?

Goal setting can be of multiple types – from organizational to team to individual. In all its forms, goal setting involves achieving a target within a set time frame. For individuals, these goals can be ‘learning a new skill’ or ‘improving an old skill,’ and for organizations – they can be as lofty as changing the way the world sees a particular problem.

What are the four primary purposes of goal setting?

Motivation, vision, accountability, and fulfillment (or success) are the four most important outcomes of goal setting. These outcomes help employees realize their contribution to the larger picture, strive towards achieving it, and celebrate with team members when the goal is achieved.

Main purposes of goal setting

1. Improving motivation

Goal setting can help motivate employees to achieve what might look like out of their comfort zone. Employees tend to be more engaged when they have something to work towards, and research shows that goal setting helps employees feel a greater connection to the organization they work for. This contributes to increased optimism in the office and encourages better employee performance. 

     2. Working towards a shared vision

If talented employees working on the same project end up with vastly varying outputs, the issue lies in not having a shared vision. Goal setting at the macro and micro levels can align everyone and help managers understand when it may be necessary to give feedback. 

     3. Fostering accountability

Goal setting can keep employees accountable. The next step of the goal-setting process is to evaluate if there is goal progress. This line of thinking also helps managers in remote work environments because it allows them to ask employees specific questions about meeting milestones, performance, or anything relevant.

   4. Achieving set goals 

Goal setting process is the simplest and the best way to identify when a project is complete. Having goals that clearly define success allows remote employees to focus on the result that must be achieved by the deadline instead of thinking about completing their mandatory hours. Meeting goals can help employees feel more fulfilled, and it can also bolster overall employee satisfaction and retention rate. As tracking the progress of the plan can help employees understand the contribution of their efforts better in the larger scheme of things, they’ll likely feel more valued. This increase in loyalty means better retention rates.

What are the five keys to goal setting?

The main criteria of goals are that they should be S.M.A.R.T. – and the acronym stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. These five keys ensure the goals set are meaningful and focus on the professional development of employees and the entire organization.

Specific

Any goal that calls for improvement must explicitly mention a specific end. Be it increasing sales, reducing customer issues, or introducing a new product – making the goal as specific as possible ensures better planning and execution of the project.

Measurable

Sometimes, even specific goals with definitive ends may not be measurable. If that is the case, the managers and leaders should go back to the drawing board and find another specific goal. A way to measure progress gives teams an idea if they are on the right track and allows managers and other leaders to intervene if results are way off the expected mark.

Achievable

Keeping goals grounded in reality and just out of the reach of employees keeps employees on their toes – and helps them improve their skills.

Relevant

Producing 10,000 audio cassettes in one day is a Specific, measurable, and achievable goal – but is it relevant? Setting goals and following metrics to keep employees occupied will not lead to progress. In the current business world, organizations have to constantly look for new ways to reinvent themselves – and targeting relevant goals is the best way to stay on top of the game.

Time-bound

Lofty goals without specific end times are just wishes, nothing else. Without a timeline, managers and team members will likely push off achieving the goals.

Goals that end up being effective start as intentional ones. How managers define goals and corresponding milestones greatly assists teams in identifying potential roadblocks, capitalizing on the momentum, and achieving the desired result. They aim to do more than just hope and dream and help managers think ahead.

Importance of goal setting in an organization

As organizations move closer toward a hybrid working model, the responsibility of managers to be as supportive as possible of their team members increases. This ‘Monitored autonomy’ can be effectively included in the daily work of employees and managers with the help of specific goal setting that involves key results and tracking tools. By setting S.M.A.R.T. goals, managers can select the right expectations and give employees the room they need to succeed independently. The T.E.D. talk by Dan Pink explains the importance of autonomy for motivation, and leading organizations like Google and Microsoft are adopting approaches that derive from it. These organizations aim to give more control to their employees over their schedules, responsibilities, and assigned goals.

Employee goals also provide motivation and clarity, which help employees do their jobs better. When employees working on a project know what it’s meant to achieve, they are more likely to contribute towards achieving it. Research suggests that before employee goals are set, it’s essential to ensure that the employees concerned are committed to achieving them and actively want to do so. Managers and leaders can facilitate this by establishing an understanding of what is critical, rewarding, or aligns with the personal values of their employees. A Deloitte survey shows that an increasing percentage of workforces made up of millennials – generally regard their importance in the workplace and would stick with the organization’s mission, whose values they align with.

Top six ways to set organizational goals

Goal setting is one of the most important responsibilities of managers – and human resource departments. Together with the employees, the manager and H.R. define business objectives, guidelines, and ways to help employees understand business goals and key results. Practical goal setting boosts employee engagement, increasing the likelihood of employees thriving in the organization and contributing to its long-term success.

Below are six proven strategies for H.R. leaders to consider when defining their own goals for their team members.

Tips for setting organizational goal

1. Taking a bottom-up approach

When done with a bottom-up approach, goal setting increases employee engagement, understanding, and motivation. Employees involved in crafting organizational goals are far more likely to understand, accept and work towards achieving them. Managers can collaborate with the H.R. department to establish benchmarks to help employees connect their work and professional goals to broader organizational goals. Key results are derived from the same. 

2. Setting realistic deadlines (and being ready to update them)

Realistic deadlines catalyze team members and managers to work towards reaching ambitious goals together. This act of achieving goals together boosts motivation and collaboration and increases overall morale in the team and organization. Plans that an employee is supposed to work towards should be based on a realistic time frame for completion. Otherwise, it may cause a sense of urgency that may make employees feel that they’re faltering.

With the pandemic causing unexpected issues to everyone, clients and other stakeholders are more understanding of the human needs of the team working on the solution. Managers and H.R. can use this fact to buy more time, positively increasing team loyalty. Managers and H.R. should be empathetic at employee conditions – if a critical team member needs time off during vital phases of projects, an honest discussion about expectations should be held, and deadlines reworked to accommodate their needs.

3. Connecting individual and organizational goals

Employees who treat their job as tasks that need to be accomplished will soon get disillusioned and quit, especially in the current working scenario, where employees are trying to derive meaning from their everyday actions and interactions. When employees understand how their job responsibilities are related to organizational growth, they’re bound to be more curious about achieving their own goals. A study found that employees accept greater responsibility when their objectives are linked to organizational goals. Since they understand the impact of their performance, they are more eager to see its effect. A customized version of objectives and key results (O.K.R.s) can help managers set ambitious goals, align individual employee development with organizational growth, and track progress.

4. Celebrating wins, big or small

Recognizing employees who reach or exceed the goals that have been set fosters a healthy level of competition among them. Having a simple structure of recognition, like a standing ovation for a satisfied customer review, a gift card for achieving a key result or a challenging target, a meeting and bonus for completing the project under budget, etc., shows other employees that positive effort is valued, recognized, and rewarded. If an employee’s talent and contributions go unnoticed, even other workers might feel that working hard bears no fruit in your organization. With proper tools, managers can make the recognition process an instant affair. 

5. Establishing clear milestones

Tracking if the goals are adequately defined or not requires clear milestones to be set. These milestones provide an objective way to prove when an individual or team benchmark has been reached. Managers can then compare the results with the larger picture to determine if the target is closer or not and decide a future course of action. Having clear milestones also removes unconscious bias, as a vast body of research shows how people are prone to favor those similar to them. With goal-setting frameworks like O.K.R.s, the key result provides a ready set of metrics to measure the progress towards the goal (objective, in O.K.R. parlance).

6. Helping employees be better versions of themselves

Goals and deadlines are essential, but so are employees who are supposed to achieve them. Managers who focus on how their team members progress towards reaching their goals ensure the long-term success of their teams. While it might cause short-term strain, employees feel more loyal toward managers who stick with them and are often observed to exceed in their performances. They are also more likely to proactively request specific training courses, which can benefit many other employees. Conducting regular one-on-ones where even employees feel free to suggest changes in the manager’s style or availability of resources allows for the overall growth of all parties involved – and consequently, the organization they work for.

Conclusion

Managers, H.R. departments, leaders, and organizations stand to gain a lot by establishing goal effectiveness for their employees. Setting specific, measurable, attainable, and time-sensitive goals with clearly defined vital results boosts overall performance, according to research. Also, companies that put a premium on goal setting can expect an increase in retention rates, as employee satisfaction is strongly linked to clearly defined and measured expectations. 

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