29th March 2022

How Goal Setting Improves Job Performance

Connection Between Motivation and Goals

What motivates you to get work done? Perhaps you’d say it’s rewards, compensation, or simply a good personal work ethic. These are all factors that can play into your productivity and job performance! But another major motivator for many people that I want to talk about today is goal-setting.

Goal-Setting Theory of Motivation

In the 1960s, researcher Edwin Locke proposed the goal-setting theory of motivation. A simple definition of this theory states that goals indicate and give direction to employees about what needs to be done and how much effort to put into it. This clear direction, in turn,  helps employees be more productive and motivated overall. However, not every goal is created equal. Especially when an employer sets goals for employees, they need to set goals that are:

  • Specific and clear; ambiguous goals create confusion and frustration
  • Realistic and challenging; achieving a challenging goal releases those feel-good chemicals in our brains and makes us more likely to perform well on the next goal, but if a goal is too challenging that we can’t meet it, then we will get discouraged and perform worse next time
  • Feedback should be given during and after an employee meets a goal; this leads to greater feelings of satisfaction on the job and can help identify your employees’ strengths

How to Set Performance Goals

When we set goals, what we are essentially doing is evaluating where we are now and where we want to be. The process of goal-setting should involve creating a strategy to get there, and there are all kinds of goals we can set to help us get to where we want to be. At work, a common type of goal is a performance goal. Performance goals are short-term objectives set for achieving specific results in your current position. Performance goals might be set to make improvements, take action, or increase efficiency, productivity, or effectiveness. Sometimes, an employer sets performance goals for employees, and sometimes employees create their own performance goals to achieve management’s desired results, and sometimes employees and employers work together to set goals.

Here’s a tip! If you are an employee at a company and you set your own performance goals (and then met them!) be sure to let your manager or team leader know–that shows great initiative and dedication and may lead to a promotion or raise or greater leadership opportunities in the future.

How to Set SMART Goals

So, we know that goal setting is important for work performance, but how do we do it in an effective way? It’s great to name a goal, but I know that so many of us have set personal goals to “exercise more” or “lose weight” or “have less screen time” or any number of worthy goals….and then we just never seem to be able to follow through on them. That’s why we need a good strategy when we set goals!  One way we can set realistic, achievable goals is by using the SMART goal-setting technique.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Bound

You can use this method for both  personal and workplace goals. Let’s walk through an example of what a SMART goal might be. An example of a SMART-goal statement might look like this: Our goal is to [quantifiable objective] by [timeframe or deadline]. [Key players or teams] will accomplish this goal by [what steps you’ll take to achieve the goal]. Accomplishing this goal will [result or benefit].

First, to make a goal specific you need to answer the questions:

    1. What needs to be accomplished?
    2. Who is responsible for this?
    3. What steps need to be taken to achieve this?

Making a goal measurable answers the questions:

    1. How much?
    2. How many?
    3. For how long?
    4. How will we know the goal is accomplished?

An attainable goal answers the questions:

    1. Is this goal something we can actually achieve with our given talents, resources, time, and knowledge?

A relevant goal answers the questions:

    1. Why are we setting this goal?
    2. Why is this goal important?
    3. How does this goal fit into the overall mission and vision of our organization or department?

A time-bound goal answers the questions:

    1. When will we start working on this goal?
    2. When will we stop working on this goal?
    3. When is it necessary to achieve the results of this goal?

Goal setting is so important for our work performance. Even if the responsibilities at your job feel impossible to accomplish, by breaking them down into smaller, achievable goals, you can create a plan for accomplishing whatever needs to be done!

If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed at work, or you aren’t sure how to boost your team’s productivity, check out the resources on my website. I offer coaching for teams looking to boost their productivity and I’d love to hear from you!

What goals do you have in your personal life or at work right now? Share them with us down below.