Setting goals at work can help provide the discipline and motivation you need in order to succeed. When you set goals at work you can be setting them at an organization level, team level or an individual level. In each instance however the goals should be orientated towards helping you achieve the company’s stated goals and objectives within the definition of your role.
When it comes to setting professional goals at work there are a couple of things we should first consider:
- They help to inspire and motivate
- Goals facilitate easy planning
- They help guide employees
- They help in evaluating control and performance
What these functions essentially highlight is that goals have some course of action attached to them that can then be reviewed and judged on its effectiveness.
How to set professional goals
Before embarking on setting the goals, there are some guiding principles that the goals should meet in order to ensure that they provide value to you and the organisation at large.
Failure to structure a goal properly is almost as bad as not having a goal at all. Without appropriate structure, goals can be hard to evaluate or lack specific criteria and timeframes for completion. To ensure you set professional goals at work you want to use the SMART framework.
SMART goals are:
A professional goal at work should have a particular objective that is easy to define and have a specific outcome. You want to avoid broad goals because they are harder to track and success is not always black and white.
For example a broad goal would be “I want to sell more than I did last year”. While it has some guidance (because you know the amount you sold last year), it is not very specific.
Having a goal that is measurable is closely tied with ensuring the goal is specific. In fact there is often cross over in this domain. A measurable goal is one in which you can directly say whether or not you succeeded or failed.
The more measurable you can make a goal the better that goal is and the clear criteria against which you have to judge your success. For example let’s say you set a goal to increase web traffic by 20% next month. On the surface that goals appears measurable. You can judge whether or not you increased traffic by 20% fairly easily.
For a professional goal to be motivating for you or your team it needs to be achievable. If a goal is too easy or too hard to achieve it has the opposite effect. It discourages your team for striving (in the event the goal is too easy) or from trying (if the goal is too hard).
There is no hard and fast rule about what makes a goal achievable, but enough of a stretch to be a challenge. You have to use your own knowledge and prior experience when setting professional goals at work.
A professional goal also needs to be relevant. It needs to be relevant to you and your role in the organization, as well as relevant to the organization as a whole.
For example if you work in marketing, setting a goal to “improve the staff breakroom facilities” is not very relevant too your role. Neither is it specific or measurable for that matter. Even if you achieved this goal and had people raving about the new ping pong table and bar fridge it is not relevant to your role or what is expected of your team.
Relevant goals don’t necessarily have to be company specific goals.
SMART professional work goals are goals that are time bound. They have a defined end date. Leaving a goal open-ended means that there is no focus on achieving it within a set timeframe. If other priorities emerge that goal can get pushed down the list. After time it may be forgotten about altogether.
When setting professional goals at work you also need to ensure that the time provided for a goal isn’t too long or too short. Much like making sure the goal is achievable, a goal that has short time pressures can be demotivating, while a goal with a long time horizon may not have the immediate focus it requires.