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Goal setting for the modern workforce

September 17, 2018

Monitoring Teams

Every Sunday evening without fail, I sit down with my diary, a notebook and my phone. There’s usually my favourite fountain pen, some vinyl and a glass of Spanish wine involved too. And I plan. I decide on my goals for the coming week. Work goals, life goals, whatever. I decide what I want and need from the next 7 days, and how to go about putting it into place. In many ways, the process of setting those goals and deciding on those priorities has become a goal in itself. And it is certainly as enjoyable a process as achieving the goals. The goals are my driving force, they’re where I get my mental and physical energy for the week. Without my goals, I’m lost. Or on holiday…

It sounds organised, doesn’t it? Super organised. Almost like I know what I’m doing. Well, it wasn’t always that way. For a long time - too long - I flew by the seat of my pants, touching wood, crossing fingers, and hoping for the best. Life was surprising at best, and challenging at worst. I dealt with situations reactively instead of proactively. I needed goals. My own personal goals.

Personal goals bring us clearer focus, help us organise our thoughts, bring clarity to the way we live and work, and free-up headspace so we can think, live and work more creatively. They bring balance, control and a sense of calm.

We all know about the value of setting goals in the workplace. We understand the five principles of SMART goal setting, we all did the training. And we understand that the process of goal setting can boost engagement and retention, motivation, performance and ultimately, can improve productivity. Goal Setting Theory has influenced business for decades. It’s one of the ways that managers manage, and how they themselves are managed. It’s in the culture and structure of the workplace and the mindset of the worker. 

In the modern workplace, more and more companies are turning to a new way of viewing goal setting. Driven by rapid advances in technology, and the modern, digital workforce, companies such as Microsoft and Google are seeing the benefits in giving their people more autonomy in their work. This new approach allows workers more control over their schedules and assignments, deadlines and working hours. This is proving highly effective in reducing costs, engaging workers and boosting that all important productivity.

The science is good on this too. Research carried out by J. Goerg, Professor of Economics at Florida State University shows that when goals are self-assigned, workers are more likely to excel, and good quality work is produced. People like having that self-control. They feel better for having it. And given we’re moving into an age where, instead of the old job-for-life system, workers will have many short careers in line with those technological advances, they see it as a valuable tool for progression. Modern workers are driven, it seems, more by their own sense of self, the confidence they have in their autonomy, than in the old system of reward and punishment. What Goerg’s research showed most of all was that modern workers want to commit to goals, and to actively work towards them, something that is more likely to happen when they have that autonomy.

Today’s employees will still benefit from feedback, still need the support of their managers. Professional Development, Training and targets must all still play their part. But if we give our people the motivation, the encouragement and most importantly the trust, we can create a new, modern way of thinking. A modern way of doing business, with a motivated, engaged, happier and more productive workforce.

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