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Published on July 21, 2021

How To Set Employee Goals To Help Everyone Grow

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How To Set Employee Goals To Help Everyone Grow

With companies around the globe transitioning to in-office or hybrid workplaces, employees are bracing themselves for new (and maybe some familiar) challenges. During these times of transition, buoying employee motivation is critical for an organization’s continued growth. So, how do we ensure our employees’ well of motivation runs deep? It begins with employee goals.

But before we dive into strategies for setting them effectively, let’s take a closer look at why regularly setting employee goals is indispensable.

The Importance of Establishing Employee Goals

It’s well-settled that writing down your goals increases the likelihood of achieving them.[1] The simple act of committing an objective to paper helps to encode that objective in your brain. As a result, you’re more likely to actively work toward accomplishing it.

In the workplace, clear goals give employees a means of objectively measuring their progress. That way, if a task or project isn’t advancing fast enough, the employee can step back to determine how to get back on track and, if need be, management can intervene.

But you might be wondering: why is employee motivation so critical right now?

The year 2020 was a turbulent year, to say the least. More recently, many people are experiencing what bestselling author Adam Grant calls “languishing”—a sense of stagnation or emptiness. You’re not completely burned out, but you’re not exactly thriving either.

As Grant, an organizational psychologist at Wharton, explained in the Times,[2]

“Languishing dulls your motivation, disrupts your ability to focus, and triples the odds that you’ll cut back on work.”

The risk of low motivation at the workplace looms larger than ever. For your company, that can mean higher turnover, low engagement, and a drop-off in productivity.

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With those considerations in mind, here are some expert-backed strategies for setting employee goals and recharging motivation.

1. Connect Them to the Larger Mission

You know the phrase: can’t see the forest for the trees. This notion—that we become so focused on our own tasks that we forget to pause and consider the bigger picture—is not uncommon, especially in fast-paced, growing organizations. In fact, before I launched my webform company, JotForm, I experienced it firsthand. Working as a fledgling developer, management rarely stepped in to remind us how our work contributed to the larger mission.

Employees siloed in their own personal missions run the risk of losing a sense of purpose—and when that happens, motivation is bound to take a nosedive.

On the other hand, when employees understand how their day-to-day contributes to an organization’s larger mission, their motivation to help achieve that mission is continually replenished. This, in turn, helps the entire organization to grow and hit new benchmarks.

So, how can managers connect the dots?

Routinely discuss your organization’s goals and elaborate how your employees’ objectives contribute to those goals. As Amy Gallo writes for Harvard Business Review, “No matter what level the employee is at, he should be able to articulate exactly how his efforts feed into the broader company strategy.”[3]

The keyword is “routinely” because as your company grows and business needs change, your company’s goals will inevitably evolve in tandem.

2. Be More and Less Specific

You’ll often hear leaders talk about taking a hands-off approach—that is, giving employees the autonomy to figure out how to achieve their objectives. And while that is true—research has shown that autonomy increases engagement—there is a caveat to making this strategy even more effective.[4]

Specify less, but also, specify more. What does that mean? Go ahead and give employees autonomy but first, spell out explicitly (i.e., specify more) their targets.

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Harvard Business Review authors elaborate:[5]

“This means we need to be very explicit with employees about how we measure success and the metrics that drive it.”

That’s what we aim for at JotForm—being highly specific about our targets and then getting out of our employees’ way so they can figure out how to get there. More times than not employees wow us with their innovative thinking.

How to Specify More and Less?

To succeed at this paradoxical state of more/less, the HBR authors recommend encouraging exploration—experimenting and risk-taking—and connection. Create a physical and social workplace where employees are regularly interacting and exchanging ideas.

For example, to encourage exploration, a leader might applaud failures and underline the teachable moments. That’s not to say that poor or lazy work is acceptable but sometimes, well-meaning failures hold valuable lessons.

At JotForm, we hold weekly demo days—similar to the idea of hack weeks, demo days are creative sprints during which our employee teams are welcomed to explore their boldest ideas without necessarily churning out a work product.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg famously said,[6]

“Okay, is this going to destroy the company? Because if not, then let them test it.”

To encourage connection, you can reimagine the office to make it more conducive to casual interactions—an open office layout or an onsite cafeteria with communal tables.

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By exploring and connecting, employees are more likely to find creative solutions to achieve their goals.

3. Enforce Accountability

Speaking of failures, when employees fall short of their objectives, it’s important to peel back the next layer of the onion and determine where they went awry.

Linda Hill, the Wallace Brett Donham Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School and co-author of Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader, tells Harvard Business Review:[7]

“Hold people accountable. You can’t say ‘Gee, that’s too bad.’ You need to figure out what went wrong and why.”

It’s important that employees understand that there are stakes involved in goal-setting. Otherwise, the entire practice will be going through the motions with little or no impact.

4. Consider Reframing Objectives

It might seem surprising, but subtle changes in the way we spell out a goal can have a big impact. According to recent research, how you frame a goal can affect the likelihood of whether you reach that goal. Specifically, framing a goal in a way that seems inconsistent with that goal can lead to setting more ambitious targets.[8]

What does that look like in practice?

Let’s say an employee wants to reduce their distractions at work. Framing the goal as “I will not web browse or use social media,” will be more effective than “I will work undistracted for 6 full hours today.” It turns out that the negative feelings like guilt and shame associated with failing to live up to the goal-inconsistent framing are even more powerful than the same for the consistent framing. This will ultimately lead the employee to set higher goals.

What’s more: we know that employees are responsible for creating their own goals. But managers can be proactive about helping them in the goal formation stage.

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A little language tweak can lead to significant results, pushing employees to go the extra mile, and on an organizational level, the impact can be exponential.

5. Recognize Significant Goals Achieved

While it would be impossible for leaders to offer a pat on the back for every objective met, accomplishments that move the needle for your company—breaking into a new market, reaching a new sales target, etc.—merit recognition.

According to Hiver founder Niraj Ranjan Rout, leaders should spread employee feedback and recognition democratically, rather than showering it on select “star” employees. Rout writes:[9]

“Reward performers modestly and reward them all! People who are recognized and appreciated perform better.”

That means rewarding everyone from the intern to senior leaders. And recognizing employees doesn’t require a formal banquet either. Even informal recognition, like congratulating an employee via a company newsletter or offering a “job well done” at the water cooler, can give a colleague a much-needed motivational push.

Final Thoughts

Setting employee goals helps not only the employees but the whole company as well. Employee motivation is a driving force toward a company’s success, and that’s exactly the aim of setting employee goals. Hopefully, as your company navigates the coming months, these strategies will help your employees to set and achieve goals that boost momentum for the entire organization.

More Tips on How to Motivate Your Employees

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Aytekin Tank

Founder and CEO of JotForm, sharing entrepreneurship and productivity tips at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on August 25, 2021

Why Personal Branding Is Important to Your Career

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Why Personal Branding Is Important to Your Career

As a recruiter, I have met and interviewed hundreds of candidates who have no idea who they are.

Without a personal brand, candidates struggle to answer the question: “tell me about yourself—who are you?” They have no idea about who they are, what their strengths are, and how they can add value to the company. They present their CV’s believing that their CV is the key to their career success. In some ways, your CV still has its use. However, in today’s job market, you need more than a CV to stand out in a crowd.

According to Celinne Da Costa:[1]

“Personal brand is essentially your golden ticket to networking with the right people, getting hired for a dream job, or building an influential business.” She believes that “a strong personal brand allows you to stand out in an oversaturated marketplace by exposing desired audiences to your vision, skillset, and personality in a way that is strategically aligned with your career goals.”

A personal brand opens up your world to so many more career opportunities that you would never have been exposed to with just your CV.

What Is Your Personal Brand?

“Personal branding is how you distinctively market your uniqueness.” —Bernard Kelvin Clive

Today, the job market is very competitive and tough. Having a great CV will only let you go so far because everyone has a CV, but no one else has your distinct personal brand! It is your personal brand that differentiates you from everyone else and that is what people buy—you.

Your personal brand is your mark on the world. It is how people you interact with and the world see you. It is your legacy—it is more important than a business brand because your personal brand lasts forever.

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I have coached people who have very successful careers, and they come to me because they have suddenly found that they are not getting the opportunities or having the conversations that would them to their next role. They are having what I call a “career meltdown,” all because they have no personal brand.

A personal brand helps you become conscious of your differences and your uniqueness. It allows you to position yourself in a way that makes you stand out from the pack, especially among other potential job applicants.

Don’t get me wrong, having a great CV and a great LinkedIn profile is important. However, there are a few steps that you have to take to have a CV and LinkedIn profile that is aligned to who you are, the value you offer to the market, and the personal guarantee that you deliver results.

Building your personal brand is about strategically, creatively, and professionally presenting what makes you, you. Knowing who you are and the value you bring to the table enables you to be more informed, agile, and adaptable to the changing dynamic world of work. This is how you can avoid having a series of career meltdowns.

Your Personal Brand Is Essential for Your Career Success

In her article, Why Personal Branding Is More Important Than Ever, Caroline Castrillon outlines key reasons why a personal brand is essential for career success.

According to Castrillon,[2]

“One reason is that it is more popular for recruiters to use social media during the interview process. According to a 2018 CareerBuilder survey, 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates during the hiring process, and 43% of employers use social media to check on current employees.”

The first thing I do as a recruiter when I want to check out a candidate or coaching client is to look them up on LinkedIn or other social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Your digital footprint is the window that highlights to the world who you are. When you have no control over how you want to be seen, you are making a big mistake because you are leaving it up to someone else to make a judgment for you as to who you are.

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As Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, once said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.”

In her book, Becoming, Michelle Obama writes about the importance of having a personal brand and her journey to defining her personal brand. She wrote that:

“if you don’t get out there and define yourself, you’ll be quickly and inaccurately defined by others.”

When you have a personal brand, you are in control. You know exactly what people will say about you when you leave the room.

The magic of a personal brand is that gives you control over how you want to be seen in the world. Your confidence and self-belief enable you to leverage opportunities and make informed decisions about your career and your future. You no longer experience the frustrations of a career meltdown or being at a crossroads not knowing what to do next with your career or your life. With a personal brand, you have focus, clarity, and a strategy to move forward toward future success.

Creating your personal brand does not happen overnight. It takes a lot of work and self-reflection. You will be expected to step outside of your comfort zone not once, but many times.

The good news is that the more time you spend outside of your comfort zone, the more you will like being there. Being outside of your comfort zone is where you can test the viability of and fine-tune your personal brand.

5 Key Steps to Creating Your Personal Brand

These five steps will help you create a personal brand that will deliver you the results you desire with your career and in life.

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1. Set Your Personal Goals

What is it that you want to do in the next five years? What will your future self be doing in the next five to ten years? What is important to you? If you can answer these questions, then you are on the right path. If not, then you have to start thinking about them.

2. Create Your Unique Value Proposition

Create your unique value proposition by asking yourself these four questions:

  1. What are your personality features? What benefit do you offer people?
  2. Who are you and why do people enjoy working with you?
  3. What do you do and what do people want you to do for them? How do you solve their problems?
  4. What makes you different from others like you?

The answers to these questions will give you the information you need to create your professional story, which is the key step to creating your personal brand.

3. Write Your Professional Story

Knowing who you are, what you want, and the unique value you offer is essential to you creating your professional story. People remember stories. Your personal story incorporates your value proposition and tells people who you are and what makes you unique. This is what people will remember about you.

4. Determine Which Platforms Will Support Your Personal Brand

Decide which social media accounts and online platforms will best represent your brand and allow you to share your voice. In a professional capacity, having a LinkedIn profile and a CV that reflects your brand is key to your positioning in relation to role opportunities. People will be connecting with you because they will like the story you are telling.

5. Become Recognized for Sharing Your Knowledge and Expertise

A great way for you to promote yourself is by sharing knowledge and helping others. This is where you prove you know your stuff and you gain exposure for doing so. You can do this through social media, writing, commenting, video, joining professional groups, networking, etc. Find your own style and uniqueness and use it to attract clients, the opportunities, or the jobs you desire.

The importance of having a personal brand is not going to go away. In fact, it is the only way where you can stand out and be unique in a complex changing world of work. If you don’t have a personal brand, someone will do it for you. If you let this happen, you have no control and you may not like the story they create.

Standing out from others takes time and investment. Most people cannot make the change by themselves, and this is where engaging a personal brand coach is a viable option to consider.

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As a personal brand coach, working with my clients to create their personal brand is my passion. I love the fact that we can work together to create a personal story that defines exactly what people will say when you leave the room.

Other People’s Stories

Listening to other people’s stories is a great way to learn. In his article, 7 TED Talks About Personal Branding, Rafael Dos Santos presents the best Ted Talks where speakers share their stories about the “why,” “what,” and “how” of personal branding.((GuidedPR: 7 TED Talks About Personal Branding))

Take some time out to listen to these speakers sharing their stories and thoughts about personal branding. You will definitely learn so much about how you can start your journey of defining yourself and taking control of your professional and personal life.

Your personal brand, without a doubt, is your secret weapon to your career success. As Michelle Obama said,

“your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.”

So, go own your story. Go on the journey to create your personal brand that defines who you are, highlights your uniqueness, and the value you offer to the world.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

Reference

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