When most of us think about employees disliking their work goals, the image that often comes to mind is someone who's lazy and unmotivated. However, laziness and lack of motivation aren't always the problem.
In fact, even a company's top employees occasionally find themselves dreading the goals or goal systems their managers put in place. When this disconnect grows too large, it becomes a fullscale epidemic made up of negative employee experiences and burnout.
To make matters worse, as a Kronos and Future Workplace January survey found, 46 percent of HR leaders polled said that employee burnout is responsible for up to half of their annual workforce turnover.
So, the takeaway here is that if employers don't take a critical look at employee goals, they face losing motivated and quality team members. Plus, companies will miss out on a major benefit -- improved performance -- if they don't help employees set impactful goals.
The truth is that goals set right can be extremely useful: A 2015 March study published by Elsevier on ScienceDirect, for instance, found that goal-setting improved work performance by 12 to 15 percent, compared to situations involving no defined goals.
The trick is finding the right way to establish goals. And here, unfortunately, a lot of employers fall short, leaving their workforce disengaged and unmotivated. Here's a look at three possible reasons employees may hate their goals and what employers can do to help:
1. They're vague.
Leaders have the ability to look at each employee goal and understand the big picture. However, not being fully involved in company-wide processes, many employees have no connection with their goals.
The major issue with vague goals is they're difficult to turn into actionable steps. When employees feel stuck on one goal for too long, with no direction, they quickly become frustrated and disinterested. For example, if employees see an objective directing them to "grow their sales," they don't truly know what that means or how to accomplish the goal.
Tip: Sit down with employees and create both long- and short-term goals. This way, employees have a better idea of what's needed to achieve each.
Most importantly, be sure employees are making strong connections by attaching each short-term goal to a long-term one. This will help them stay motivated throughout the course of the year as they strive to reach those larger milestones.
Google offers a good role model: The search giant uses objectives and key results (OKRs) to set ambitious goals for its teams and help them track their progress. Objectives might seem a bit beyond possible as a means to motivate employees. So, the company defines "success" as achieving 70 percent of those objectives.
What's more, it links key results to each objective. Measurable milestones are expressed, and desired outcomes are often measurable. This system has pushed Google's teams to reach for peak performance and focus on thinking bigger.
2. They're not solutions-focused.
Most of today's employees are looking to better themselves and their company, while also making a difference. So, when employee goals aren't tied to definitive solutions, employees become disconnected from and disinterested in the end results.
Tip: Employees need more meaning attached to goals than simply a required number of sales calls or dollars earned each quarter. Frame goals around how to solve specific problems; bring team members in on department-planning meetings.
Then, as employees begin tackling their goals, host weekly brainstorming sessions. This will give each team member an opportunity to openly discuss his or her goals and any trouble that's arisen in reaching them.
3. They don't go beyond the individual.
Just as employees want to solve problems, they want to see and advance the company's bigger picture. In order to do that, employees need to understand the "why" behind their daily tasks and goals. When employees become aware of how their actions impact the company, co-workers and clients, they become far more motivated and enthusiastic about hitting their goals.
Tip: Involve employees in company-wide goal planning. Show them larger-scale business objectives and how the company cascades them into division, team and individual goals. Get staffers involved in planning for the company's future by asking for their feedback.
Then, hold end-of-quarter events (big or small) to celebrate those employees and everything their goals are accomplishing. At this event, highlight positive client feedback, company growth or even how employee goals have bettered the workplace for all. This will get them excited and passionate about moving forward.
4. They aren't collaborative.
When employee goals are left to each individual, the road to success can be long, exhausting and lonely. Even top employees can become overwhelmed when goals seem unattainable, and those employees feel alone. Each person should feel that he or she is working toward solutions and company-wide missions as part of a supportive team.
Tip: Team up employees on certain goals to promote both collaboration and motivation. Give each group a time each week to meet and discuss goal details, expectations and future planning. This will give everyone the opportunity to improve teamwork while unifying the company through goal partnerships.
One of the best companies that effectively gets everyone on the same page is Netflix. That entertainment organization focuses on the idea of "context, not control."
Management can help set the context for its workforce, empowering employees to make their own decisions and set impactful goals. But first those employees have to understand how their performance links to the organization's bigger goals, the priority of the objectives and what success looks like in that context.
Team meetings reinforce context and help employees better understand the company's and their managers' expectations. Employees can also inspire one another to define success and achieve it together.