Liz Sheffield

Why Your Employees Should Set Goals (And How You Can Help)

For many employees, both work and home are fast-paced environments that require meeting deadlines by multitasking and managing priorities. It’s easy to move so fast that you don’t have a chance to stop and think about what you’re doing from a big-picture perspective. That’s why it’s essential to encourage your staff to make time for setting goals at work and at home.

“When you think about it, goals should be exciting. They shape the future,” writes software company CEO Alex Raymond in Entrepreneur. “They give staff the power to direct their daily responsibilities and even their careers. They infuse the company with an energizing sense of purpose.”

Without dedicated time to plan and set goals, employees may not be effectively working toward critical long-term benchmarks, and this makes success harder to track — and achieve. Here’s how to improve employee goal setting in a way that brings serious benefits to your business.

Encourage Clarity

Employees often use the new year as an opportunity to set goals in the form of resolutions to eat healthier or exercise more. Of course, these resolutions are notorious for rarely being kept. One reason is that they’re too vague. There’s a vast difference between riding the bandwagon momentum of the holiday and putting a concrete, achievable plan in place.

Help your staff reach their goals by helping them state them as clearly and specifically as possible. Articulating and setting goals at work doesn’t have to be complicated. Simply start by asking employees to write them down.

According to Forbes, writing down your goals makes them easier to reference and use as a constant reminder to help you navigate the demands of the workday, especially if you post them in plain sight. At the same time, through a neurological “encoding” process, writing makes goals stick.

Writing goals down on paper has other effects that help employees be more productive toward reaching them: It not only forces them to start breaking goals down into realistic units, but it also initiates a process of commitment and accountability. If an employee has formally articulated a goal, it’s easier to keep them (and for them to keep themselves) on the hook for achieving it.

Identify Motivation

Another important step in setting goals at work, says Josh Davis, the author of “Two Awesome Hours,” is to identify why we want to attain a goal.

“It’s only by establishing that key reason for wanting to attain each of your goals that you can start getting them aligned with one another,” writes Davis on Fast Company. “Asking why works because it moves you toward a higher level of abstraction — to what’s called a ‘superordinate goal,’ whatever it is that makes the goal itself worthwhile.”

Like writing them down, interrogating the “why” behind goals can help them stick by raising the stakes. Pinning a goal related to actions or performance to deeper, more meaningful long-term desires can make it harder to abandon in the face of challenges or distractions.

In the case of work goals, getting employees to make the connection to the bigger picture can also boost engagement and satisfaction. If an employee understands how achieving a performance goal impacts the total welfare of the company or the progress of their career, for example, they’ll be more likely to feel invested in achieving it and proud when they do.

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Track Progress

Even after they’ve articulated their goals and plumbed their motivations, your employees are likely to need some help staying on track and measuring their success.

In part, tracking progress means breaking down long-term goals into shorter-term objectives, which will be easier to achieve. Work with your employees to map out their journey to their goals month by month, week by week or even day by day. Knowing what needs to get done when also helps employees prioritize their work.

Collaboratively tracking process gives you a chance to engage your employees through communication and one-on-one meetings. Staying up to date on their progress doesn’t just help keep them accountable — it shows that you’re invested in what’s important to them. It also allows you to help them work through obstacles and resolve questions, ultimately making their success more likely.

While an organization isn’t responsible for helping employees achieve their personal or health goals, staff members don’t leave their personal lives behind when their workday begins. At the same time, work goals — what they are, why they’re set and whether they’re achieved — can impact employees’ lives at home. Give them the tools to succeed as full people and you won’t regret it.

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