Opinion

Published

Forget focusing on the next match, employees respond best to long-term goals

6 Mins

While there are many positives we could take from Ranieri’s managerial style that could deliver results in a business environment, it’s generally accepted that to achieve maximum performance in the workplace employees respond better to being set clear and challenging longer-term goals. But don’t just take my word for it.

It was American psychologist Edwin Locke’s ground-breaking work into goal setting and motivation that first helped us understand the positive link between setting goals and employee performance. His 1968 work, “The Goal Setting Theory”, was the first to explore the impact specific types of goals had on performance. He found that 90 per cent of the time, specific and challenging (unless too challenging) goals led to higher performance than easy or “do your best” goals.

Read more about sports and business:

Locke discovered that employees perform to a higher level when given a clear, metric-led goal like “You need to secure three more clients each month”, rather than simply saying “Do your best to secure some more clients.” He found that the harder the goal, the harder the employee worked to try and achieve it and therefore the greater the outcome.

We’ll never know whether Raneiri could have had the same success if he’d adopted Locke’s theories at the start of the season, but Locke did lay down five key principles which every SME manager can adopt to help them set goals and improve employee performance:

(1) Make goals clear

If a goal lacks clarity, then it’s nearly impossible to achieve. Therefore, its important to set employees clear goals which can be measured accurately so its clear when the goal has been achieved. It is also imperative that goals are clearly communicated and understood by both parties when they are set in order to ensure their success.

(2) Create challenging goals

In order to drive motivation, goals must be challenging, but as Locke found, not too challenging. If an employee deems a goal to be unachievable it is likely they won’t be motivated to even attempt to achieve it. However, make a goal too easy and an employee won’t be motivated to strive past that point. Just as goals have an effect on motivation, motivation levels can also impact goal attainment. If employee motivation is low, then even the most well-defined and achievable goals will be difficult to fulfil, so it would be recommended to monitor employee performance.

(3) Ensure your staff are committed

For your goals to be effective you really need your team to believe in them. Involving your staff in the process of setting the goals and hearing their views will help them to believe in the goals. However, don’t feel like every goal has to be negotiated with the entire team. By sharing with your employees your future vision for the business, it can not only reassure them that they are a part of the business’ future, it also empowers them to help you get there.

(4) Regularly provide feedback

If you give an employee a goal its important that you let them know how they are doing. Its sad, but its more common for employees to know when they aren’t on target to reach their goal than when they’re doing a good job or exceeding expectations. Make sure you give regular feedback and look to discuss the goals in question. Company goals aren’t static and can change according to the course that the business wishes to take. So, if needs be, maybe look to adjust a goal that isn’t being achieved before assuming the employee isn’t motivated to achieve it.

(5) Monitor task complexity

Take care to ensure that your employees’ workloads don’t become too overwhelming when you set them complex goals. People who work in demanding roles and are task-oriented can be prone to pushing themselves too hard and overworking. Likewise, if goals are too complicated it may result in employees losing their confidence in their ability to complete the goal. If this is the case, managers need to ensure that they are providing employees with the time and resources they need to fulfil the tasks successfully.

Jonathan Richards also once argued that the way Dragons’ Den portrays pitching to angels is harming British entrepreneurialism.

Jonathan Richards is CEO of HR software firm breatheHR.

Image: Shutterstock

Share this story

Feel-good Friday: Leonardo DiCaprio backs beverage firm and donates shares to Amazonian families
Universities can live or die by rankings, so recent global results spell bad news for UK
Send this to a friend