Setting Goals Your Employees Can and Want to Achieve in 2014

There are two parts to being a successful business leader. One is having the ability to dream, imagine, and think ahead. The other is ensuring those dreams become reality by making a plan, setting goals, and consistently achieving those goals. Unfortunately, the second part seems to be the more difficult of the two. According to, a survey of small business owners by Staples found that more than 80% don’t track their business goals. Not surprisingly, the survey also revealed that 77% of leaders have not achieved their company vision either.

Those two statistics highlight an important, albeit unsurprising, relationship between goals and achievements. To be successful and accomplish something worthwhile, you have to follow a plan. And when you’re referring to workplace and business success, it’s not just about you setting and working towards goals – it’s about your employees doing those things too. That’s why it’s so important to set goals that your employees can and want to achieve.

Set Them Up To Win
Before you can even start thinking about the specifics of your 2014 goals, you must know how to craft reasonable, achievable goals for your team that support your company goals. After all, no one wants to feel like they’ve been set up to fail from the very beginning. Research over the years has revealed a variety of steps for actually achieving goals, such as ensuring your goal meets the SMART-goal standard. But, in the unique case of setting goals for a company that will involve multiple participants, there are a few steps that warrant extra attention.

A how-to guide from The Wall Street Journal on setting goals for employees asserts that involving others in the goal-setting process is critical for business leaders.  In the guide, author Alan Murray states, “You must make sure the goals you set for your team align with those of the broader organization. And you must make sure that your team understands, accepts and commits to those goals. The more you can involve your employees in setting goals for themselves and the group, the more committed to those goals they are likely to be.”

And, while easier said than done, it’s also vital that you find the right balance between a stretching goal and an unachievable one. As The Wall Street Journal’s guide points out, “Goals should give your team something to reach for. But they should not be unreachable, and their attainment or lack of attainment should not be dependent on a host of circumstances beyond the person’s control.”

Focus on Passion
Once you grasp the basic steps to creating effective goals for your business, you should take a step back and consider what types of goals would inspire passion among your employees. Specifically, you’re looking for what would go beyond simply maintaining employee engagement and, as Deloitte’s 2013 Passion Report describes, cultivate “workers with passion to realize extreme sustained performance improvement.” Based on their recent research, Deloitte purports that “While much work has been done to understand and improve employee engagement, employee engagement is no longer enough. Times have changed. Worker passion—defined by three attributes rather than static skills that rapidly diminish over time—will be critical.” Those three attributes, a Forbes article on the study reports, are “a continuing commitment to accomplishment in a particular domain, a disposition to quest and explore, and openness to connect with others.” Currently, only 11% of the U.S. workforce embodies all three.

Cultivating this level of passion among employees may require a restructuring of the work environment, Deloitte found, specifically in relation to organizational silos, predictability, and too restrictive of roles. “Organizations should ask themselves if they reward or punish failure and assess how they encourage, or discourage, workers to actively collaborate with the ecosystem on work projects. Additionally, companies should consider how to provide workers with more visibility and clarity into how each individual makes an impact on the company and the broader industry or domain.” If all these strivings for building passionate employees seem unnecessary, John Hagel, director of Deloitte, would have to disagree. “This transformation effort will be challenging, but external pressures in the form of intensifying competition, mounting performance pressure and continual disruptions will ultimately force companies to confront this imperative or die – the old ways of doing business are simply proving less and less effective,” Hagel said in the Forbes article.

Tap Into Their Desires
Finally, you need to tie the goals and their desired results to something employees really care about. You have to answer the “What’s in it for me?” question before you can earn their true buy-in, which means you need to know what’s important to your employees. A survey from CareerBuilder earlier this year found that employees claim salary is the key factor in job satisfaction and employee retention with a majority of 88%. Other desires that could easily be linked to company goals are making a difference (48%) and challenging work (35%). The survey also found that increased recognition, asking for and utilizing employee feedback, increased training and education, and career pathing are especially important.

Another study from Deloitte – Talent Edge 2020: Building the Recovery Together – uncovered similar findings. When asked what would keep them at their current employer, workers’ top answer was promotion/job advancement. Additional compensation, financial incentives, support and recognition from management, and additional benefits were also noted.

Successful businesses are born out of a great idea and the ability to make that dream a reality. But, most likely, you’re not realizing your dream by yourself. A company is only as good as its employees, so it’s also logical that a company goal is only as good as the employees supporting it. Don’t risk not hitting your goals in 2014 – make sure you can craft achievable goals that inspire passion and directly benefit your team so everyone can succeed in the upcoming year.


  1. How to Dominate Business in 2014 | Wright1 Consulting - January 7, 2014

    […] Turley, A. (2013, October 1). Setting Goals Your Employees Can and Want to Achieve in 2014. Refresh Leadership RSS. Retrieved December 26, 2013, from […]

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