Setting Realistic Objectives To Get The Most From Your Workforce

by Mike O'Neill

Being a leader is hard — even in the best of times. And it’s no surprise that things have changed for everyone since COVID altered the way everyone works.

We can hope that eventually, things will go back to normal, but the reality is that some of the changes will be here to stay. Leaders everywhere are working hard to figure out how to adapt and thrive. 

You’re looking at new software, new methods, and possibly even new employees. You are facing uncertainty in the future along with your team. How do you measure productivity when staff is now working from home, juggling more responsibilities and stress than ever.

You have to keep the company moving in a positive direction. So we’re going to take a few minutes and help you understand how to set achievable and measurable goals for your staff. 

These simple steps can help you lay the groundwork for productivity and decision-making.

Why Setting Goals for Productivity Helps

Setting goals for your employees is crucial. It sets expectations that they can measure themselves against. These goals help you and your employees get on the same page with what’s expected of them.

However, if you set unrealistic goals, you can experience a decline in efficiency and motivation. Striving to reach a goal and missing it is demoralizing.

You have to make an effort to consider the many factors that affect productivity.

  • What are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • What are the demands on their time — are they overloaded, or do they have free time? Do they have other obligations that might be taking their focus?
  • Do they have the training they need to do the job you’re asking for correctly?
  • Have you explained what you’re looking for and made sure they understand the job requirements and expectations?

You can set goals on a variety of levels as well. For example, you might choose to set a goal for a specific project you want the employee to work on. You can explain what you want them to accomplish and when you expect them to complete it by.

It’s also possible to work with employees to set goals for their career trajectory. For example, they may need to meet or exceed set criteria to be considered for pay raises or job advancement.

You can also consider goals around furthering their training or education. Maybe you want them to attend specific training programs or achieve a certain certification level within a particular time frame.

4 Tips to Make The Most of Your Employee Goal-Setting

Goal-setting tends to make or break your workforce, so we’ve worked out what we believe to be the most important things you should do to help ensure your staff's success in the face of these goals.

Tip #1.
Make Sure that the Employee Goals Align with the Goals of the Company

An employee's goal should be set with the company's growth in mind, and this should be made clear to the employee. When an employee understands what their work, in particular, does for the company and how they contribute to its success, the employee tends to have a more profound sense of accomplishment and success, leading to improved motivation and quality of work.

Tip #2.
Reward Accomplishments without Creating Competition

When an employee feels as if their hard work is not appreciated, they begin to consider leaving. By rewarding hard work, you will respect and place value on the employee’s efforts and incentivize the rest of the workforce to do the same.

However, It is not uncommon for this to create an air of competition in the workplace, which can build tension and drain morale, negatively affecting the staff’s effectiveness. This mistake can be avoided by merely considering the individual employee’s traits when setting their goals. 

Tip #3.
Regularly Review and Adjust Goals

It’s essential to review the goals with your employees regularly. You’ll assess their progress towards reaching their goal and discuss anything that might be holding them back.

Together, you may decide to make adjustments to the goals to make them more realistic, or you might decide that their goals are complete and work with them to set new ones.

Tip #4.
Use the SMART Method When Setting Employee Goals

While it might be the employee’s job to accomplish the set goals, management’s job is to make sure they have what they need to do it. A simple way of making sure you are doing your part in setting these goals is to follow the SMART method's framework.

  • Specific — Simply telling your staff to “Do Better” won't be enough. Make sure your staff knows what they have to do and how they need to do it. 
  • Measurable — By measuring the goal, you make its progress trackable. By making the goal trackable, you give the goal meaning and motivate the employee.
  • Achievable — The goal should be challenging but reachable. A challenge gives the employee a sense of accomplishment through hard work and confidence through its completion.
  • Relevant — The objective needs to fulfill the company's goals for growth and, at the same time, be worthwhile for the employee.
  • Time-Bound — Set a date for the goal's completion to build a sense of urgency to finish the tasks but not one strong enough to convince them to rush.

Examples of SMART Goals

Let’s take a look at a few examples of some SMART goals that you might set with an employee:

Reduce overtime in your department from 140 hours per month to 90 hours per month by the end of the fiscal year with no increase in incidence reports.

  • Specific — because “overtime” is clearly defined as any hours over 40 per week. 
  • Measurable — because overtime hours are easily tracked.
  • Achievable — because it’s a manageable reduction.
  • Relevant — because overtime costs negatively impact the bottom line.
  • Time-Bound — because it needs to take place by the end of the fiscal year.

Ensure that 90%+ of your team has completed training on the new HR software by the end of the quarter.

  • Specific — because 90% is clearly defined.
  • Measurable — because 90% is easy to calculate.
  • Achievable — because it’s early in the quarter.
  • Relevant — because the new HR software affects all employees.
  • Time-Bound — because the end of the quarter is defined.

On an on-going basis, reconcile the department’s financial reports by the 15th of every month with no increase in reconciliation errors. 

  • Specific — because ”reconcile” can be clearly defined.
  • Measurable — because it’s date-specific.
  • Achievable — because it allows over two weeks per month to complete.
  • Relevant — because it’s needed to effectively manage the department.
  • Time-Bound — because it must be completed every month by the 15th.
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