A lot has changed about where and how work gets done. While hybrid work provides more flexibility and a better work-life balance, staying motivated while working from home can prove challenging. Many people report feeling a lack of focus and drive. Not to mention that dreaded feeling that occurs while flipping between tabs because you can’t find the energy to tackle anything at the moment. 

One proven method for keeping employees motivated and engaged is goal-setting. Although there’s a good chance that your current workforce already uses goals to stay on track, HR can work with managers to take this a step further and use goal setting to counter feelings of stagnation your employees may face while working remotely. When done right, goal setting can boost employee confidence and commitment by creating achievable goals that lead to small wins that will leave your team feeling accomplished and ready for more. Goal-setting is so effective because it helps eliminate distractions by providing employees with a plan of action to follow and a clear finish line to move towards. Working closely with employees to develop goals lets them know that you’re invested in their success, which can give employees the extra mental push to move past productivity dips.

Here’s how to create a goal setting process that will motivate your people and help them stay focused.

1. Involve employees every step of the way

Setting goals shouldn’t be a top-down process. We all want some level of autonomy in our work and ownership over where our skills develop. Therefore, setting goals for employees in an executive meeting room and then simply relaying those goals to your workforce will have the unintended effect of demoralizing and demotivating your people. 

Instead, HR can collaborate with managers to establish benchmarks, which can then be relayed to employees and tailored to match individual skills. For example, if your company goal is to gain 10% new market share, each department should know how their team will contribute to that goal. Managers can then work with employees to develop SMART goals (specific, measurable, actionable, results-oriented, and time-bound). Make it a collaborative process and make sure that the goals outlined are clear and attainable. For extra motivation, try setting one “stretch” goal to push performance and challenge employees to shoot for the moon. 

2. Make the process transparent, ongoing, and measurable

As with anything performance-related, the goal setting process is most effective when it’s transparent, ongoing, and measurable. Setting goals in January and forgetting about them until June renders the whole process useless. Part of what makes goal setting such a great motivator is that when something is accomplished it boosts employee confidence and the positive reinforcement pushes them to continue. Think about how simply marking a task complete on a project management board can make you feel productive and ready for more. Therefore, you want to create small, achievable goals that can be measured objectively and allow for feedback and growth.

If goals are too broad, your employees can feel overwhelmed, as if they’re working towards something far away and out of reach. Instead, you want employees to feel like success is achievable, their “wins” are appreciated, and managers are there to help them grow into all-stars. Be sure managers check in with employees to assess, readjust, gather feedback, and then fine-tune. 

3. Create goals that fit into the big picture but also focus on personal growth

Employees show more commitment if they can see how their performance contributes to organizational goals and the company’s bottom line. When working with employees to create goals, make sure they understand the “why” of what they’re doing. Even if something seems obvious, including the “why” will add an extra layer of motivation in case that languishing feeling starts to set in. So instead of creating the goal “conduct market research on our top three competitors and present your findings” managers can strengthen both the outcome and the motivation by instead stating, “conduct competitive research to identify areas of improvement within our product offerings and to strengthen our marketing efforts on social channels.” Stated this way, your employee now understands the reason for the goal, how it will benefit the company, and the goal is specific enough that the employee knows exactly what needs to get done. 

Goals should also focus on personal and professional development. If goals only focus on the business side, then your employees will feel like another cog in the machine working towards someone else’s success. By combining the business goals with professional or personal development, employees know that you’re investing in them and their future. For the business to grow, your employees have to grow, too. 

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Motivating your people to reach for greatness

An effective goal setting process should help employees feel empowered, eager to succeed, and motivated to tackle new challenges. Be sure your employees and managers go into this process with a growth mindset, as they set goals and then debrief on the outcome and how to improve. This debriefing and ongoing assessment will help employees identify the specific skills they need to work on and where they already shine. With the right goal setting process in place, HR and managers can proactively combat any feelings of stagnation or languishing that your employees may be feeling while working outside of the office. 

Annie Lubin

From Annie Lubin

Annie grew up in Brooklyn, New York. On a Saturday afternoon, you'll likely find her curled up with her cats reading a magazine profile about ordinary people doing extraordinary things.