Corporate goalsetting activities set the stage for your organization’s future. But you need to follow an effective goal setting process to write good, achievable goals that align with your company strategy.
Whether you’re a small business or a large enterprise, understanding the best practices for corporate goal setting enables you to guide the business in the right direction.
Here’s why corporate goal setting is so important to your organization and how you can improve the goal setting process.
How Does Setting Goals Lead to Success for Your Business?
Without a true north, the pieces of your business may work at odds with each other. Business leaders won’t know how to prioritize their resources, and individual employees may struggle to use their time effectively. To achieve success with your most ambitious goals, you need each of your departments and the teams within them all pulling in the same direction.
Furthermore, you need to have clear goals to measure your progress. If you’re only working toward a vague, undefined vision, you won’t be able to track important milestones and wins to determine your progress.
The importance of setting goals can’t be overstated. Setting clear, measurable goals unites the individual units at your business in a singular purpose. Effective goal setting outlines clear indicators of your progress at each stage along the way. With a clear picture of how you’re progressing towards your goals, you can reassess them in future corporate planning meetings.
Short-Term Goals vs. Long-Term Goals
There are two types of business goals: short-term and long-term. Both types of goals are necessary to give your company a clear direction to follow and milestones for getting there. Your short-term goals, or objectives, are derived from your long-term vision for your business.
Set aspirational long-term goals to achieve in the next five to 10 years. Work backward from that point to set short-term objectives that will move you closer to your ultimate goal. Bear in mind that long-term goals are subject to change, especially in the dynamic climate we’re operating in.
Short-term objectives should be achievable within the next one to five years. A tighter timeframe requires short-term objectives to be more specific and measurable than long-term goals typically are. You should set short-term goals that are immediately actionable to jump-start your long-term goals.
Best Practices for Corporate Goal Setting
Corporate goal setting activities are a high-stakes process. If you set the wrong goals, you risk throwing your entire organization off balance. And once you start moving in the wrong direction, it’s difficult to change course.
Here are some best practices for setting effective goals to guide your company’s progress.
Assess Importance and Urgency
Before setting corporate goals, you need to determine your business needs. That requires looking ahead and forecasting potential circumstances that could derail your plans.
Look at your company’s long-term vision, which should guide your corporate goal setting process. What problems do you need to overcome immediately to work toward that vision? If your long-term goal is to become the market leader in your space, for example, what are the immediate roadblocks to achieving that vision? The answers to these questions will begin providing a blueprint for your goal setting.
Some goals are more urgent than others. As you set your business goals, review your long- and short-term plans to determine the biggest threats to success. Solving the most pressing challenges, those that could have the biggest impact on your bottom line must be your priority. For each goal you set, assign a priority level based on its importance and urgency.
Set Clear Expectations
Everyone at the company plays a part in achieving business goals. You need to make it clear what you expect from each team’s goals — all the way down to individual goals — at each step along the way. The only way to do this is by clearly communicating your expectations.
As you develop goals, workshop them with your leadership team. The act of working on them together can help you clarify what you need from each department to bring your most ambitious goals to life.
Build out specific actions to align with each goal so that the people responsible know exactly what tasks they need to complete to make progress toward larger goals. Clear expectations make it much easier to hold individuals across the company accountable for their deliverables.
Make Goal Setting Collaborative
Employees will carry out the bulk of your corporate goals, so give them a say in what those goals are.
Larger goals need to be set at the top to keep the entire workforce moving in the same direction. But as you split those goals into smaller objectives and delegate those objectives across the company, give employees opportunities to customize their individual objectives.
Individual employees will have a better sense of how to serve the larger purpose in their specific roles. Empowering employees to think strategically and set their own aspirational, yet realistic, goals allow you to capture great ideas from across the company.
The goals you set for your call center, for example, may not move the company as far toward larger business goals as will objectives that employees set for themselves. They are intimately acquainted with the details of their role, placing them in a good position to provide insights that leadership simply can’t access without their input.
Identify Actionable Objectives for Each Goal
Long-term goals tend to be aspirational, so you must break them down into manageable, achievable objectives. Every quarter, set smaller objectives to carry you toward your larger goals. Work backward from larger business goals, breaking them down into individual steps and actions that move you closer to your end goal.
When you can see a series of steps in a realistic timeline, aspirational goals become much more achievable. Working toward smaller objectives helps everyone involved feel a sense of accomplishment. As you check the boxes on these smaller objectives, you can see the progress you’re making toward aspirational goals.
Ensure Support and Ownership
The goal setting process isn’t complete until each objective has a clear owner. Tasks that aren’t clearly owned by one person tend to be overlooked or poorly executed. Don’t confine ownership to managers: They often have too many objectives to handle as it is. Instead, use corporate goal setting activities as an opportunity to identify and delegate responsibilities to high potential employees.
Build accountability for carrying out their piece of each objective into your employees’ personal success and performance metrics. But remember that, to succeed, each objective’s owner must have access to the resources necessary to carry out assigned tasks and responsibilities.
Implement goal alignment software to make objective ownership transparent. Company leaders need to be able to see the progress teams are making toward larger goals and hold the right people accountable for failure to meet those expectations.
Set Meaningful Metrics
One of the most important elements of corporate goal setting processes is writing goals that are easily and clearly measurable so that you can track progress at a glance.
To determine how well you’re progressing toward your corporate goals, you need to set clear key performance indicators (KPIs). These are metrics and marks to hit that demonstrate clear progress toward your larger goals. Be clear with KPIs: Set specific numbers to reach for each of your goals. With a clear metric attached, there’s no mistaking when you have or haven’t reached the goal.
Goal alignment software can make it easy to track progress based on your KPIs. A software program that allows you to input metrics for success and arranges them in a visual format makes it easy for leaders to track progress. With a clear line of sight into company goals, business leaders can identify which goals are too ambitious and which goals aren’t ambitious enough — and adjust them accordingly.
Collect Employee Feedback
Don’t confine the corporate goal setting process to the boardroom or the C-suite. To set effective goals, you need to gather input from employees across the workforce.
Goal setting is not a linear process: In an agile organization, goals will evolve rapidly as the company adapts to internal and external changes. As your goals evolve, it’s important to collect employee feedback on the direction the company is taking.
Your employees are often closer to clients and customers than leadership. In some departments, they work with clients and customers on a daily basis. Find ways to capture this data and apply it to your goal setting process. Use surveys and interviews with call center staff, for example, to learn which product features clients have the most questions about.
Using employee input in your strategic goal setting process helps you to serve clients and customers better with a richer, more meaningful set of corporate goals.
Develop Corporate Goal Setting Training
Once you’ve pinned down an effective goal setting process, you need to be able to repeat that process in the future. As you refine your best practices for corporate goal setting, distill those practices into a teachable format so that you can train future leaders.
One of the best ways to learn is by practicing. Develop a series of goal setting exercises to help participants master the process. Train them to assess internal and external factors, collaborate with other stakeholders, and communicate clear expectations for each goal.
3 Corporate Goal Setting Examples
Organizations that have effective goal setting processes have greater opportunities to turn their visions into reality. Here are some examples of organizations using corporate goal setting to achieve aspirational goals.
Turn Passion Into Productivity
Bono introduced objectives and key results (OKRs) to his anti-poverty organization, ONE, to turn his passion into achievable and sustainable goals. The organization uses the OKR framework to assign meaningful actions to its long-term vision for the future.
OKRs are part of a corporate goal setting model that forces you to be more intentional with not only goals themselves but also how you measure their completion. Because ONE has an incredibly aspirational mission (to end poverty), the organization’s leadership needed an intentional corporate goal setting process to ground everyone in achievable key results.
Accelerate Digital Transformation
When Tracey Newell was president of Informatica, knew that she needed to align the workforce even while adopting remote work and becoming decentralized during the pandemic. She used goal setting as an exercise for aligning her leadership team first. From there, she was able to communicate down the line with much greater clarity.
During the pandemic, the company switched from a management-by-objectives model to an OKR model, which gave the workforce more room to experiment and innovate. Change management became much more effective when using a responsive goal setting model that left room for improvement in how the company reached its goals.
Create a Culture of Experimentation
Hulu wanted to relentlessly pursue new ways of meeting customer needs, so the company adopted a culture of experimentation. Company leaders set this goal at the top and empowered teams to carry it out across the company. This was made possible by scaling shared goals through cultural reinforcement.
The company set several smaller goals for specific projects within the larger goal. Eventually, experimentation became so ingrained in the culture that “let’s test it!” became a company mantra and way of working.
When setting goals, consider how the workforce will respond to them and what they need to carry them out. At Hulu the goal was to achieve a culture of experimentation, which was a rousing success — but not without radical, leadership-approved changes to daily processes.
Use Corporate Goal Setting Activities to Maintain Your Momentum
Companies that set effective goals build progress in the right direction. Small wins build momentum over time, turning your organization into a goal-driven culture. When your goals are visible and easily understood across the company, your workforce can achieve business results you never thought were possible — and it all starts with an effective corporate goal setting process.