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Published on July 21, 2021

How To Set Employee Goals To Help Everyone Grow

How To Set Employee Goals To Help Everyone Grow
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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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Published on July 27, 2021

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow
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During the pandemic, video conferencing replaced in-person meetings and has now become the standard option for business meetings. Over the past 17 months, most workers have gotten past the video conferencing learning curve with Zoom or Microsoft Teams (or their platform of choice).

But just as with in-person meetings, attention can wax and wane. Some say we’re just not used to staring at ourselves so much on the screen. Instead of fixating on that, try employing smart video conferencing etiquette, or you may risk indiscretions that will flag you as a slacker.

Put the Pro in Professional

After more than a year of fine-tuning, here are the new rules of video conferencing etiquette.

1. Mute Your Mobile and Other Devices

The first video conference etiquette you need to know is muting your other devices. Just as in the pre-COVID days, someone’s obnoxious ring tone blaring Taylor Swift’s newest single in the middle of a meeting is also an annoyance if it happens during a Zoom meeting and so is the inevitable fumbling to turn off the sound. Even the apologies to the group get tiresome.

Also, when notifications are activated on the computer that you’re using for the meeting, the incoming message takes over the audio and you’ll miss out on snippets of the conversation. Be sure to eliminate this possible faux pas.

2. Dress the Part

While working from home, you may have fallen into the habit of slipping on your comfiest T-shirt each day. Hey, no judgments! But before you log on to your video conference, try to make an effort with your appearance.

Depending on your company culture and the importance of your meeting, consider dressing the part of the professional whom you wish to project. It will help you feel more self-assured, and others will likely take you more seriously.

For women, wear light make-up, put on earrings, and make sure your blouse is crisply pressed. For men, show up freshly shaved. Wearing a crisp collared shirt in a solid color will usually suffice.

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Pro Tip: Stay away from wearing white or black, unless those colors look great on you. Consider wearing light blue or brown instead.

3. Stage Your Workspace

Have you noticed the backdrops of experts interviewed on news shows? Bookshelves and photographs are carefully curated, and no busy-patterned furniture or artwork is in sight.

Take note of what appears behind you when you choose the location of your video conferences. Piles of junk mail on the table or stacks of folded laundry on the couch will convey more about your personal life than you care to share. Make sure you remove clutter from the camera’s eye, and present a tidy, orderly workspace to your colleagues, coworkers, and bosses.

4. Put Some Thought Into Lighting and Perspective

Be aware that in a video conference, your computer camera can actually make you look up to ten pounds heavier depending on where you sit. But you can easily drop those added pounds by moving back from the screen to diminish the wide-angle distortion.

Frame your head on the screen by tilting the screen up or down. Also, it’s best to not place yourself in front of a window or bright light, which makes you appear in shadow. Instead, face the light source, moving it (or yourself) until you have a flattering amount of illumination. You can also purchase some small spotlights that allow you to add light as needed.

Pro Tip: If your lights add too much redness to your skin, consider counter-balancing with a green filter.

Remember That Half of Life Is Showing Up

5. Arrive on Time

In the old days of in-person meetings, it was nearly impossible to slip in late into a meeting unnoticed. In today’s video conferences, logging in late still shows poor form. Instead, strive to arrive five minutes early and get yourself settled.

Once the meeting is underway, the host may be less attentive about late arrivals waiting to be let in. Diverting the host’s attention away from the meeting with a tardy entry request is the ultimate giveaway that you didn’t honor the schedule. If you don’t want a black mark against you, log in on time.

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6. Turn on Your Video

Few people like to see their face on the screen, but buck up and turn on your camera in video conferences. In most cases, it’s better to be a face on a screen than a name in a blank square. Your statements will be more memorable when other meeting attendees can see you.

If you need to turn off the video, either because of a poor connection, some commotion in the room, or a need for a quick break, give a short explanation via the chat feature. Then, go back on video as soon as you’re able.

Pro Tip: Keep your explanation for your departure pithy. “Sorry! Doorbell rang. Back in five” says it all. Be sure to honor what you say in chat and really do return in five minutes.

7. Plan Ahead Before Sharing Your Screen

Don’t be one of those people who makes everyone else wait as you click through folders in search of a document. That’s just poor video conferencing etiquette. If you know you’ll need to share a document or video on your screen, prepare by pulling it out of its folder and onto your desktop. Also, clean up the files and folders on your desktop to reduce clutter and facilitate easy access. Close other programs like chat, calendar notifications, and email. Disable pop-up notifications to ensure there’ll be no unforeseen distractions.

Be sure to remind the host before the meeting that you’ll need them to activate the screen-sharing function. Show courtesy once you’re finished by hitting “stop share” to return to the screen with participants.

Attend to the Pesky Details

8. Make Sure That Meetings Remain Right-Sized

With the easy accessibility of video conferencing, it can be tempting to extend the meeting invitation beyond the core group and include everyone peripherally involved in a project. But just as with in-person meetings, the more people involved, the more unwieldy the meeting becomes.

Use good judgment when asking others to sit through a video conference so that you don’t needlessly take up others’ time and so that participants can be fully engaged.

9. Remember to “Unmute” Before You Speak

Most of us are likely able to count on one hand the number of video conferences when someone didn’t have to be reminded, “You’re on mute!” Forgetting to unmute before speaking has become one of the most common missteps in video conferencing.[1]

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Show everyone your impeccable video-conferencing poise by managing your mute feature with flawless control.

10. Stay on Point to Keep the Meeting Length in Check

As with in-person meetings, an agenda with assigned time limits for discussions remains necessary to keep a meeting focused. Data shows, however, that video conferencing can actually reduce meeting time.[2] Reasons include the elimination of commuting time and the ability to screen share and annotate to keep everyone on task.

Additionally, side conversations are virtually impossible with video conferencing now that you can no longer have back-and-forth exchanges with the person beside you.

Pro Tip: If you’re running the meeting, let attendees know in advance the protocol for the chat feature. Is it okay for them to “chat among themselves” or not? (See point 11, as well.)

Talking Has a Time and a Place

11. Chat Appropriately

Just like side conversations or texting in an in-person meeting, the use of the chat feature during a video conference can be disrespectful unless it’s directed to all participants. Hence, it’s good video conferencing etiquette to mind your use of the chat.

At the start of the meeting, you may want to ask the host if it’s alright for participants to use the chat feature. This allows them to disable it if they choose. Used appropriately, it can be a helpful tool to clarify or amplify an earlier point once the conversation has moved on or to let the group know that you need to sign off early (and why).

12. Use the “Raise Hand” Feature to Avoid Interruptions

The slight lag in many video conferences can result in speaking over another person if you attempt to jump into a conversation. To avoid this awkward interruption, indicate when you have something to add to the discussion with the raise-your-hand feature that signals the host you would like to speak. This effective meeting management device makes video conferencing run more smoothly, especially with a large group, but it must be activated and monitored by the host.

Pro Tip: For meetings of six to ten people, sometimes the old-fashioned raising of your physical hand may be the best option. But it’s up to the meeting host. Ask them what they would prefer, and follow that.

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13. Don’t Record the Session or Take Photos Without Prior Permission

In this case, not sharing is caring. The “sharing culture” made popular through social media has little place in video conferencing. Before recording a meeting or capturing a screenshot of the participants, always ask for consent in advance from the full roster of attendees. Knowing that a video conference will be photographed or recorded could have a bearing on what others are willing to discuss.

Manage Yourself

14. Minimize Distractions

While de-activating audio and video features can keep distractions from affecting the other participants, you will need to manage noise and disruptions on your end to give your full attention to the meeting.

Move out of high-traffic zones in your home, keep your door closed, and ask family members to be considerate.

15. Save Snacking for Later

Save snacking for later—or earlier. Eating while on video conference is a no-no. Munching in front of the group while close to the camera—as you are when video conferencing—subjects the participants to an up-close and (too) personal view of your food consumption process.

However, it’s perfectly fine to sip quietly from a glass of water or cup of coffee or tea. If the meeting threatens to last for more than two hours, you may want to ask the host in advance to schedule a five-minute break at the halfway point.

Final Thoughts

Even though bosses are now beginning to ask workers to spend some of their workdays on-site, up to 80 percent will permit employees to work remotely at least part of the time, which means more video conferencing in your future.[3] Mastering these video conferencing etiquette tips will help you dial in—as well as dial back—your participation and demonstrate your unwavering level of engagement to the team.

Featured photo credit: Chris Montgomery via unsplash.com

Reference

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