checkboxes with a pen marking them

Goal setting can be a powerful tool for personal and professional growth. Done well, goal setting helps employees focus their efforts, measure their progress and feel engaged in meaningful work.

But when it doesn’t work well, goal setting can be ineffective and frustrating for employees and managers alike. Worse, poorly set goals contribute to employee disengagement and burnout, which in turn lead to lowered performance and retention rates.

5 reasons your goal setting isn’t working

If you’ve noticed that your goal-setting efforts aren’t providing the results you’d hoped for, though, don’t despair. Here are five common reasons that goal setting doesn’t work — and some tips on how to be successful.

1. The goals belong to someone else

One of the primary reasons goal setting fails is that the goals aren’t aligned with the employee’s values or interests. When goals are imposed by external factors, such as key performance indicators (KPIs), deadlines or other people’s needs, it can be difficult for an employee to feel genuinely connected. The result is often a lack of motivation and poor performance.

Instead of simply assigning goals, give employees the opportunity to ask questions, share their opinions and suggest alternatives. It’s also important to make sure they understand how and why their work contributes to the bigger picture.

2. The goals are too easy… or too hard

The sweet spot for goals lies at the intersection of attainable and challenging. Too easy, and employees may feel bored, complacent or even demoralized by being tasked with something “anyone” could do. Too hard, on the other hand, and employees may become overwhelmed and discouraged.

Goals should be challenging enough to move employees out of their comfort zones and achievable enough to keep them motivated. Multiple goals with varying levels of difficulty can provide different levels of challenge and let you see where the sweet spot lies for each employee.

3. You’re not checking in enough

Another reason goal setting fails is that progress isn’t monitored. Goals are set… and then forgotten about until possibly the next annual performance review, when they may or may not be revisited. Without ongoing feedback and accountability, though, it’s virtually impossible for employees to stay motivated. It’s even harder for them to understand what is and isn’t working so that they can adjust and improve along the way.

Frequent and consistent check-ins are an opportunity for employees to discuss progress, bounce ideas around and get help. Check-in meetings reinforce the importance of the goals, while providing employees with the support they need.

4. The goals aren’t connected to work

If goals are unrelated to an employee’s typical work, it’s easy to forget about them, and difficult to find the time or motivation to achieve them. When goals are linked to daily responsibilities, though, employees are more likely to complete them and remain engaged in the process.

The ideal goal is one that can be integrated with day-to-day work. This helps keep it top-of-mind for the employee and makes consistent progress easier.

5. There’s a disconnect on what success looks like


Boost your goal setting with technology

Technology can play a crucial role in making goal setting and follow up more efficient. Employee performance management software can:

  • Remind employees to complete tasks related to their goals.
  • Facilitate communication between team members and managers.
  • Document, track and celebrate progress toward goals.
  • Support the need to modify, add or delete a goal based on business conditions.
  • Offer accountability through transparent reporting and updates.
  • Demonstrate the connection between individual (or team) goals and organizational initiatives.

BPM Link, for example, explicitly connects individual team members’ work to the strategic direction of the organization so employees can see that their work is making an impact. It also makes communication easy, tracks progress, and provides self-appraisals and instant feedback — all contributing to a more supporting and productive environment for your entire team.

To learn more about how BPM Link can help your team set and achieve better goals, contact us or reach out to BPM HR Consulting Managing Director Stacy Litteral today.


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