Employees discussing their career goals

Helping your employees set and reach goals at work is a great way to help them grow in their careers, resulting in more confident and competent employees for your business — and happier, more satisfied workers. From fostering new skills to increasing employee retention, let’s talk about why it’s important to set short- and long-term goals for your employees and help them achieve those goals.

Short-term and long-term goals

When helping your employees define goals that will help them grow personally and professionally, a good place to start is to reinforce the difference between short- and long-term goals.1

A short-term goal is one that can realistically be achieved within the near future. Examples of short-term goals could include achievements such as completing a class or certification or taking over a section of a project. Short-term goals can be set individually or as milestones on their way toward a long-term goal.2

A long-term goal is one that may take a year or more to achieve. Long-term goals can serve as guiding lights for your employees’ efforts in the short term, as something they can continually work toward and measure their progress against. Examples of long-term goals include completing a new degree or purchasing a home. Whether it’s a career, personal or financial goal, long-term goals help your employees shape their lives into their version of success.3

Benefits of goal setting at work

There are numerous benefits to setting goals in your personal and professional life. Helping your employees define and set goals for themselves and then supporting them in their efforts to bring those goals to fruition can be very beneficial for both them and your business.

Helps guide employees’ careers

Setting goals can help guide the career path your employees take and help you tailor their growth opportunities accordingly. Ask your employees what their hopes for the future are with questions such as:

  1. What is your favorite part of your job, and what would you change?
  2. What parts of your career are most important to you (fulfillment, job security, salary, etc.)?
  3. What do you envision your life looking like in 10 years?

Helps employees advance in their careers

Once your employees have a clear idea of the career path they want to follow, working toward those short- and long-term goals will help them continue to advance in their career. As they achieve some goals, be sure to help them set new ones that will encourage them to continue advancing. Many people respond positively to having goals in mind, and your employees will likely feel more fulfilled and secure in their job knowing that you support their growth and advancement within your business. You will also benefit from having employees who are consistently gaining new skills and competencies.

Helps employees remain focused on their tasks

Setting clear goals can also help your employees stay focused on their jobs. Short-term goals can be especially useful in outlining the expectations you have for employees and the results you hope they will achieve. If your organization has overall goals, for instance, a sales goal, encourage your employees to stay on track by setting smaller, short-term goals that will help them reach the larger ones.1

Helps employees manage their time better

In a similar vein, having clear goals in place for your employees can actually help them manage their time better. As the adage goes, “time is money,” and anything you can do to improve your employees’ time management skills will not only make their job easier for them but also benefit your business in the long run. Creating goals that act as micro-milestones within a project, or even day-to-day, can help your employees discern which work should be prioritized on a busy day and even help prevent them from being distracted.4

Improves decision making

When your employees know what the goal is, for themselves or for a project, they can more easily make decisions that create successful outcomes. Knowing what they’re working toward can help eliminate decision paralysis by giving them a metric by which to evaluate their decisions. This can be helpful at all levels of the organization, from the greenest employee all the way up to the business owner. Keeping the established goals in mind will help any employee make decisions that ultimately benefit the organization.

How to help your employees set achievable goals

Now that we’ve talked about why your employees should set goals, let’s talk about how to facilitate that. Use these tips to help your employees set achievable goals.

Have employees set SMART goals

One very well-known and respected strategy for setting goals is called SMART goals. SMART stands for:
  • Specific: Goals should be clear and detailed.
  • Measurable: You should be able to measure progress made toward goals.
  • Achievable: Goals should be realistic even as they stretch you.
  • Relevant: Goals should be worthwhile to the company and the individual.
  • Time-based: You should set a target timeline to help keep the progress on track.

Using the SMART criteria helps you craft goals that are realistic and achievable, but still powerful and useful. Goals should stretch your employee so they learn and grow but shouldn’t make them feel like they’re drowning in uncertainty or workload. Evaluating the goals you help your employees create against the SMART criteria can ensure the value of the goal.5

Ensure each employee’s goals align with company objectives and values

While setting goals is very important for your employees’ personal and professional growth, the goals must also align with the interests of the company. However, that’s not just for the company’s benefit. Your employees will feel more connected to the company and its mission if they feel that their goals are important to the success of the organization. Showing them how their goals ladder up to the overall goals of the company can help keep them engaged in and excited by the work they do, resulting in a more fulfilled employee and a more successful company.5

Recognize when an employee achieves their goal

One way to help keep your employees moving toward their goals is to reward those who achieve or exceed their goals. Consider recognition moments, bonuses or certifications that celebrate your employees’ efforts and successes. It’s a good incentive to complete more goals down the road, and it can inspire others around them to do the same.

How to help your employees meet their goals

Once you have helped your employees set their goals, how can you help them achieve them? Here are a couple of ways you can support your employees as they work toward their goals.

Talk about goals throughout the year

Goals should never be “set it and forget it.” Make time for conversations about your employees’ goals, both in formal settings such as annual or mid-year reviews and on a more regular basis. Encouraging a discourse about your employees’ goals will not only help you stay on top of their progress but will also help you remove roadblocks they encounter, get ahead of potential problems and maximize their momentum. Don’t make this conversation a checklist of what they should and shouldn’t do — instead, let them own and guide the conversation while making it clear that you’re available as a resource should they need it.6

Reevaluate goals regularly

Change is inevitable, and sometimes goals you have previously helped your employees set are no longer applicable or effective to the current state. Reevaluating goals periodically will help you ensure that the goals your employees have set are still useful and achievable for both the business and your employee. You might find that a goal that originally seemed strong turned out to be too aggressive for that employee. Or, you may find the opposite: a goal isn’t stretching your employee enough and they aren’t growing at the rate you hoped. If a goal needs adjustments, work with your employee closely throughout the process and be transparent about why. At the end of the day, the goal should serve your business and your employee — and if it’s not, it might warrant change.

Setting goals in your business

When you help your employees set and achieve goals, your business will likely achieve more goals too. As you continue to build your business and reach new heights, protect your business’s success with commercial insurance coverage from Nationwide.

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[1] “How to Set Goals at Work (with Benefits and Tips)” Indeed Editorial Team, https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/set-goals-at-work (Accessed June 2023)
[2] “14 Short-Term Goals to Improve Your Career Today” Jennifer Herrity, https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/short-term-goals-for-work (Accessed June 2023)
[3] “Setting Long-Term Goals: 45 Examples and Helpful Tips” Indeed Editorial Team, https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/long-term-goals-examples (Accessed June 2023)
[4] “7 Reasons Why Goal Setting is Important” https://engagedly.com/7-reasons-why-goal-setting-is-important/#Time_Management (Accessed June 2023)
[5] “How to Set Employee Goals: Tips, Examples & More” https://www.paychex.com/articles/human-resources/7-tips-for-effective-employee-goal-setting (Accessed June 2023)
[6] “6 Ways Managers Can Help Employees Achieve Their Performance Goals” Lisa Rabasca Roepe, https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/summer2022/pages/how-managers-can-help-employees-achieve-their-performance-goals.aspx (Accessed June 2023)
[7] “6 Ways Managers Can Help Employees Achieve Their Performance Goals” Lisa Rabasca Roepe, https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/summer2022/pages/how-managers-can-help-employees-achieve-their-performance-goals.aspx (Accessed June 2023)

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