Successfully Setting & Tracking Goals
As far as the performance of a company and its employees is concerned, effective goal setting provides indisputable value. Not only is the company’s success significantly related to goal setting, goals also have a vital impact on motivation and engagement. Setting and tracking goals is a very common management method, and rightly so: goals have been proven to serve several functions:
- They provide guidance and facilitate important coordination: Goals direct everyone’s effort towards a specific objective and help to coordinate different hierarchy levels, teams, and individuals.
- They motivate, energize and keep you going: Research could prove that working towards a specific result is more motivating that just “doing your best” without having a definite target. Also, goals affect persistence. They mobilize employees even when they meet obstacles along the way.
- They allow for performance evaluation: Goals help to make success measurable, allow to track progress and facilitate evaluation in retrospect.
Although it seems natural to us, setting helpful goals for ourselves and others is not as easy and self-evident as one might think. For goals to serve their purpose and guide our energy into the right direction, they should be SMART, that is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely.
Vague goals won’t lead to success, and neither do goals with an extremely wide scope. Instead, try to make precise statements about what you want to achieve. For example, do not just set the goal to increase customer satisfaction, but define how you want to achieve this: Expand the customer support team.
Measurable goals are important for two reasons: To track progress and to know when you have reached the goal. If you plan to hire as many new employees as you can find, this goal will give you little guidance. Instead, add a metric, e.g., hire three new Customer Success Managers.
How feasible your project is, is closely linked to the metric and time component (see below) of your goal. For example, depending on the labor market situation, it may not be possible to hire three new employees by the end of the month. However, the outlook might different if you plan to reach this goal by the end of the quarter. At best, set challenging and ambitious goals that at the same time are not completely overwhelming.
Setting goals at work contributes to short-term and long-term company success. Thus, set goals that are relevant and meaningful, either to yourself and your work, to your employees, your team, your company. Goals also help to prioritize and focus on the tasks that make the biggest difference at a given moment. Obviously, if you plan to increase customer satisfaction, it is not supposed to be an end in itself. Rather it’s vital to build up a positive image of the company and drive business growth in the long term.
Goals should be timely. Set specific, realistic, yet challenging deadlines. "Sometime in the next three months" will not give you any guidance as to when to start and finish working toward the desired outcome. Precise is better: by the end of this quarter, three new employees should have started work.
The goal to hire additional employees in customer care is SMART: To increase customer satisfaction (R - relevant), we want to hire further customer success managers (S - specific). Hiring three new employees (M - measurable) by the end of the quarter (T - timely) requires increased recruiting effort, but is feasible (A - achievable).
Employees and teams that set SMART goals are more motivated at work and work together more effectively. But how do the goals of individual employees relate to team goals? At each company level it is possible to set SMART goals. Read our OKR guidelines to learn about how the Objectives and Key Results management method helps to create alignment across the company while relieving stress for individuals and fostering transparency and communication.