You’ve probably heard a lot about developing employee goals, but that’s a pretty general idea that leaves a lot of room for interpretation. What’s the best way to define and structure these ambitions? Should they be wide-reaching ideas – “I want to be happier at work” – or more specific? If you guessed the latter answer, you’re correct. Broad goals such as increasing happiness or raising productivity sound nice, but they don’t provide any direction. Your staff members have something to achieve but don’t know the steps to take to get there. In addition, there’s no way for them to accurately measure what they’ve accomplished.
The best goals do more than embody a simple idea. They offer structure and direction, acting as a guide for employees rather than a destination.
Some experienced managers and business leaders imagine the system created by George T. Doran when they think of setting structured achievements. In 1981, Doran devised a concept known as S.M.A.R.T. goals: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound objectives to guide employees throughout their careers. S.M.A.R.T. goals are a great starting point for businesses incorporating more goal setting into their practices as well as those just starting their transition to ongoing performance management. Still, they’re not the finish line. As a leader, you want to inspire your employees to go above and beyond, not remain satisfied with the status quo. At the same time, you don’t want these goals to be so high-reaching they actually hinder an employee’s progress.
“Employee goals need just enough challenge to leave them motivated without seeming impossible.”
Creating Goals That Inspire, Not Discourage
Forbes offered some good advice for making goals that inspire employees to work harder without leaving them feeling defeated. Their goals need just enough challenge to leave them motivated without seeming impossible. If an employee makes a specific target that’s easily within reach, push them to add a little more to their plate. For example, say a member of your customer support team wants to increase productivity by solving a greater number of issues each month. If the employee says she or he feels comfortable addressing an additional 20 tickets per day on average, challenge him or her to address 22 or 25. You want to push employees out of their comfort zones, but don’t give them so much extra work that they become anxious about finishing it all.
You should also make sure your employees have the resources required to achieve these greater aspirations, noted Paychex. Offer them the necessary tools or training – without such means, your employees will feel like their goals are simply unattainable.
Your employees should design goals with structure that inspire them to work harder and achieve more. By creating specific measures that go beyond what your employees are used to, you’ll see a more productive and engaged workforce.