How Betterworks Drives Aspirational Goal Setting at Work

By Casey Pechan
February 18, 2015
4 minute read

This is part 5 in our best practices series highlighting the five pillars of Goal Science™ and how those attributes (connected, supported, adaptable, progress based and aspirational) are built into the BetterWorks goal management platform.

In the forward to the New York Times bestseller “How Google Works,” Google Cofounder and CEO, Larry Page, writes “Over time I’ve learned surprisingly, that it’s tremendously hard to get teams to be super ambitious. It turns out most people haven’t been educated in this kind of moonshot thinking. They tend to be assume that things are impossible, rather than starting from real-world physics and figuring out what’s actually possible. It’s why we’ve put so much energy into hiring independent thinkers at Google, and setting big goals.”

Google has it figured out. The best way to accomplish aspirational goals is to set them. Then establish key milestones to reach them, because these stretch goals actually promote greater achievement.

In this final series post focused on goal-setting best practices, I’m excited to talk about aspirational goal setting for a couple of reasons:

  • First, it seems to be the hardest for employers to conceptualize of the five critical Goal Science pillars—connected, supported, adaptable, progress based and aspirational—that drive organizational alignment, employee engagement and operational excellence.
  • Second, it seems incongruous to setting SMART goals, which has attainable explicitly in the acronym. So I’ll explain the thinking behind and highlight the capabilities built into BetterWorks that address aspirational goal setting.

Aspirational is closely tied to desire and wanting to achieve something great. Psychologists Edwin Locke and Gary Latham found “a positive linear relationship between goal difficulty and task performance.”[i] They proved specific and ambitious goals can lead to a higher level of performance than easy or general goals.

In their chapter “The Neuroscience of Goal Pursuit,”[ii] researchers Elliot Berkman and Matthew Lieberman discuss the critical ingredient for getting people to actually pursue their goals: attention. Specific and challenging goals require our undivided attention. We can’t waste time on smaller, less meaningful tasks if we want to accomplish the big things. Also, those bigger, attention-grabbing goals may not even let our attention drift to less important tasks.

Betterworks platform capabilities enable teams to add, track, manage and score aspirational goals as easily as they add, track, manage and score tactical goals. This type of goal scoring is intended to calibrate, not to grade. Direct reports and managers alike want their goals to be at the optimal difficulty. By reflecting and scoring goals, they can better tune the scope of their goals in the future.

  • Goals can be ranked not only numerically, but by icons or colors. goal ranking

And if aspirational goals aren’t achieved, BetterWorks allows you to use data to help you understand why. Was it the goal or “the hidden factor,” which according to a recent Huffington Post article is time. Michael Neill writes, “The reason a lot of people fail to reach their goals in the time frame they’ve set is simply this: Most of us aren’t very good at predicting how long things are going to take.” Since betterworks supports adaptable goals as well as aspirational goal setting, making a change to the timing of a goal is simple.

Because aspirational goals are by nature a bit more far-fetched, employees should not be penalized if they can’t achieve them. See other posts from leading human resources industry expert, Josh Bersin, and our team on this topic. Suffice it to say, we are in the camp that doesn’t see benefit to tying employee goals to performance reviews or corporate compensation.

At cutting-edge companies like Google, employees have the optional choice of bringing their goals or OKRs to performance reviews to color the discussion. This is absolutely not a requirement.

  • Betterworks makes it easy for employees to showcase their accomplishments with the print goal summary feature. print summary

Employees want to accomplish big things at work; things that make a difference to them and the business. They can with BetterWorks by mastering the aspirational, meaningful goals that lead to greater engagement, performance and satisfaction at work. Visit our homepage to learn more.

Note – This post concludes our series highlighting how the attributes of the five Goal Science pillars are built into the BetterWorks platform.

[i] Locke, Edwin A., and Gary P. Latham. “Building a Practically Useful Theory of Goal Setting and Task Motivation: A 35-year Odyssey.” American Psychologist 57.9 (2002): 705-17. Web.

[ii] Moskowitz, Gordon B., and Heidi Grant- Halvorson. “The Neuroscience of Goal Pursuit” The Psychology of Goals. New York: Guilford, 2009. N. pag. Print.SMART goals

What are aspirational goals?

An aspiration is a strong desire to achieve or have something, such as an “aspiring” actor or an “aspiring” writer. These are most appealing to people with a strong commitment to achievements.

An aspirational goal, therefore, is a goal that one would “aspire” to in some form. Think along the lines of reaching a goal that one has set for oneself.

What are some goals to set for yourself at work?

There are many goals that one can set at work, but staying organized should always be a top priority. It’s difficult to get a lot done when your tasks aren’t properly managed.

Also, be sure to manage your time well. Whether you keep a calendar or write up a daily list of tasks, it’s one of the best ways to stay productive.

What is an example of an attainable goal?

An attainable goal is something that is within your reach. Many thought leaders warn against setting goals that are too high – and for good reason, as they can lead to stress and burnout.

A good example of an attainable goal is the hope to take over a team leadership position at the office. That goal becomes attainable through dedicated time, effort, and delivery of results.