As business owners and managers, we all want more productivity from our employees and associates. Often as managers we have no choice, because in reality we need more productivity. We must continue to raise the bar under pressure from all sides; enforced cost cutting, volatile labor markets, fresh competition from developing nations, increasingly in charge customers, and we have to do it with fewer people and less leverage.
It’s a well-established fact that setting concrete objectives raises workplace productivity. Moving the bar upward is practically guaranteed to produce higher returns. People respond to targets by striving to reach them.
Goal setting must be considered regularly. Generally, the subject of new objectives is only raised annually, at performance appraisals – usually dreaded by all parties. It’s important that new goals don’t appear arbitrary or seem to take precedence over quotidian core tasks. They should be produced collaboratively, through manager – employee discussions. Incremental targets, or sub goals, are more effective than distant goals.
Increasing targets requires greater effort from management; it’s your responsibility to put that additional work in context. You can’t simple raise the bar and assume everyone will rise to meet the new standards. No size fits all; pushing up standards in a knowledge-economy era of amorphous jobs requires more than cookie cutter solutions.
The key to setting effective targets is to understand the needs of the team, the individual, and the tasks involved. Managers need to ensure that targets are both realistic and challenging. Nothing de-motivates like failure to meet expectations, while success in meeting targets will generate further confidence and productivity. Reinforcing a positive attitude to abilities will promote future success and a flexibility to engage new and more challenging targets. Setting a clear, unambiguous direction, ensuring that people are ready to meet the new challenges and that they remain on course is not easy. It requires a great deal of attention and keen leadership skills.
This necessitates leadership, not only by example, but also by making a real commitment to keeping staff engaged, productive, and flexible. You’ll have to balance what is possible with how much of your people’s lives you can legitimately ask for.