How to Keep Your Employees’ Goals High Yet Attainable

By Sara Pollock

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Managers walk a fine line when setting goals. High and aggressive goals have a high reward when achieved. When a team reaches a goal they’ve worked hard for and put significant time into, they feel inspired and motivated to take on new challenges. This confidence boost unites the team to push on. It’s no wonder managers often set goals that are a little too aggressive; the reward is so tempting.

But the flip side is worth considering too. When managers set unattainable goals, the team suffers a hit to their motivation and confidence. The effects of this blow could last longer than you’d think. As a leader, do you struggle to find a balance in setting high yet attainable goals? If so, you aren’t alone. Finding the right fit for your team will take time and likely some trial and error, but it’s worth the effort.

Start with SMART Goals

Most HR professionals are familiar with the SMART goal system, but if this is new to you, here’s the basic breakdown. Goals should be:

S = Specific

M = Measurable

A = Attainable

R = Realistic

T = Time-bound

Attainability is literally and figuratively at the core of SMART goals. Consider looking at your SMART goals through this lens; a goal can only be attainable when it is specific, measurable, relevant, and time-bound. Do not allow your team to set ambitious goals like “become a leader in campus recruiting this year.” This is not a SMART goal because it doesn’t define how to measure whether or not you have become a leader in campus recruiting. Instead, define what being a leader in campus recruiting means to your team and add it to the goal. For example, “Recruit (number) of students from (local university) by the end of May this year.” Now, this is truly an attainable SMART goal.

Consider Past Performance

Closely tracking past performance has many benefits, one of which is assistance in setting future goals. While people can surprise you, most of the time humans are creatures of habit. Growth does not happen all at once; it happens incrementally. When setting goals, take a hard look at past performance. These numbers will serve as benchmarks as you create new goals.

For example, if you’ve been in business for 15 years and have never seen an employee’s average number of sales increase by more than 10% a year, setting a goal of 20% increase in sales is a recipe for failure. Surely there will be exceptions, but note that those situations are just that, an exception to the rule.

Set Them Up for Success

As a leader, you should aim to provide your employees with the tools they need to reach their goals. This could mean additional training or new technology or updates. However, it doesn’t stop there. Providing your employees with the things they need also means:

  • Actively listening to the team’s needs and concerns
  • Providing detailed and timely feedback
  • Creating channels for the team to provide upward feedback
  • Setting reasonable deadlines
  • Celebrating milestones
  • Adjusting processes as necessary to fit the unique needs of your team
  • Providing recognition for extraordinary work

Setting ambitious goals is important for a team’s growth. After all, it’s when teams aren’t challenged that they settle for mediocre work and make costly mistakes. It’s crucial that the entire team understands the goal and signs off on it.

When you’re setting goals that you want to make attainable, remember to be critical of them. Ask yourself “Is this goal truly a SMART goal?” If not, make edits. Draw upon information from past performances when creating new goals. Past performance serves as a great benchmark. Lastly, give your team the tools they need to be successful. These simple tips will help you craft ambitious but attainable goals your team can crush.

This article was originally published on the ClearCompany Blog.

About Sara Pollock:    
As the head of the Marketing department, Sara makes sure that ClearCompany’s message, products, and best practices reach and assist as many HR practitioners as possible. ClearCompany offer ClearText which will help recruiters get their message across easily and connect with your candidates conveniently, capturing text conversations on the candidate’s profile for a comprehensive view to help your recruiters find the best-qualified candidates.

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