Goal Check! How to Help Employees Stay on Track and Achieve Their Goals This Year
Posted by Melissa Meunier on Thu, Aug 01, 2019 @ 01:30 PM

We’re halfway through the year. January seems like a long time ago and December is still a long way out. But the clock is ticking toward Q4, and that means it’s time for a goal check-in. It’s easy to set ambitious goals in January, but how are you doing on them now? How about your employees? Have they accomplished what they set out to do?
If so, congratulations! Celebrate those wins and keep up the good work!

But sometimes goal check-ins can be discouraging. Maybe your direct reports haven’t hit their sales goals or completed those training courses. Maybe your team just feels burned out. There are plenty of reasons for unmet goals, from individual setbacks to organizational changes. In some cases, however, it’s because team members haven’t set the right goals in the first place.

If that sounds like your team, don’t despair. In this post, we’ll help you evaluate your team’s goals and show you how to help them stay on track as we head into the back half of the year.

SMART Goals Keep Teams on Track

You’re probably familiar with the concept of SMART goals, but here’s a quick review just in case you need a refresher. SMART goals should be:

S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Attainable
R – Relevant
T – Time-Based

It’s the difference between saying, “I want to increase my sales this year” vs. “I want to acquire five new clients by the end of the third quarter.”

SMART goals don’t just state a desirable outcome; they specify what you are going to do to make it happen. When you don’t build these specifics into your goals, they feel vague and unattainable. When you do, you have a game plan.

How to Help Employees Set – And Achieve – the Right Goals

In a recent Trendicators report, we explored employee perceptions of goal setting practices in their organizations. In the survey, 62% of respondents said their employers have an individual goal-setting process in place. While we would love to see that number even higher, it’s a good indicator that many companies already value goal setting.

That’s a great starting point, but what if your employees aren’t reaching their goals? Failing to meet goals, especially on a regular basis, can have far-reaching impacts on morale and productivity. But the solution isn’t to micromanage your employees’ goals. It’s to create an environment that Harvard Business School professor Linda Hill calls "supportive autonomy."

Here are some keys to getting it right.

  • Connect goals to your company values and mission.
    Employees should have a clear understanding of how their goals will promote the values and mission of the organization. This is a key factor for engagement, and it also provides grounding when things don’t go as planned. If the employee understands how the goal fits into broader strategy, he or she can pivot effectively when something goes wrong.

  • Involve employees in the process.
    Resist the urge to script goals for your employees. They are the ones who must put in the work to achieve their goals, but it’s hard to care about something you don’t have a stake in. When employees articulate why their goals matter in their own words, they will be more likely to buy in.

  • Aim for attainable but challenging goals.
    Well-written goals give employees a target to aim for and encourage them to stretch themselves. When goals are too easy or too far out of reach, performance suffers. Poorly set goals create boredom on the one hand (it’s too easy) or apathy on the other (it’s too hard). Either way, you’ll undermine both productivity and morale.
  • Schedule frequent check-ins and feedback.
    According to our survey, two out of three employees prefer to get feedback on their goals more than once a year, and over 60% of young workers would like to get feedback at least once a quarter. In addition to these formal feedback sessions, it also helps to schedule frequent coaching-style check-ins where managers can answer questions or make recommendations.


  • Recognize achievement.
    Even simple acts of recognition let employees know that you notice and appreciate their hard work. A word of appreciation or a quick email from a manager can boost morale just as much as larger rewards for big wins.

It’s Not Too Late to Meet Your Goals

The good news is that even if your employees haven’t made the progress they planned to, there’s still time to get the ball rolling. Revisit current goals and adjust them if needed, and put structures in place to help employees make incremental progress. Then, celebrate tangible wins and check in with team members on a regular basis to set them up for success when Q4 rolls around.

Topics: Productivity, Motivation, Recognition, employee recognition, Goal Setting, feedback, SMART goals, Company Values, Goals, Employee Morale

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