Are you wondering why you should set goals for your team? After all, the rest of the company is following higher level business objectives and each team is feeding into them - so why bother?
It is vital for companies and for managers to be aware of ways in which they can increase motivation, task engagement and productivity among team members. The fact is, goal setting is an important practice - particularly in the workplace. Research has found that setting strong goals boosts performance by motivating people to increase their effort, inducing stronger focus and helping them prioritize.
It’s not all about the money… engaging modern employees
While this may seem surprising, it has been suggested that financial rewards like bonuses are not actually the best incentive for a wide variety of tasks. In fact, one study found that people who had goals were faster at completing tasks regardless of potential financial rewards.
In his TED talk, Dan Pink discusses the importance of autonomy when it comes to goal-based motivation. With companies such as Google and Microsoft adapting to an approach of giving workers more control over their schedules, assignments and responsibilities, this seems to be the way forward to engaging employees over the more traditional ‘if you reach goals you gain a financial reward’ approach.
Beyond that, goals provide motivation and clarity for people in their jobs. There is nothing worse than working on a project without knowing what it's meant to achieve or what it's contributing to. With a goal in sight, projects take on more meaning and purpose.
There are different types of goals you can set for your team and for yourself, (see an introduction to setting SMART goals here ) but the key takeaway is that it's important to have something to aim for. Here's how goals support that:
They help people define a vision of where they want to be, and imagine a path of how to get there.
They encourage people to think about the meaning of their work and how it ties into the bigger picture.
They build accountability i.e. do people meet their goals? What are the reasons for meeting them (or not)? How did they get there?
They encourage people to measure their work and think beyond "simple" execution.
Finally, research suggests that once you have set goals, it's important that people be committed and actively want to work towards them. People need to be working towards something they feel is important, rewarding, or aligns with their personal values, especially with an increasing percentage of workforces now being made up of millennials, who generally (as outlined in Deloitte’s survey) have high regard for their personal values in the workplace.
It is clear that goal-setting is beneficial in a variety of ways, both for individuals and for companies. Having a clear focus in the form of a goal not only helps keep people on track, but actually motivates them even more than factors such as financial gain.
Done properly, goal setting can also help steer performance management conversations. Start by encouraging regular feedback on employees’ progress towards reaching their goals, and you have a recipe for a productive, motivated and high-achieving team.