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Should employees set their own goals?


Goals are a fundamental part of any organization. High level goals define the strategy for the enterprise, and these typically cascade down to teams and individual employees. At least that’s how it usually works.

Executives might for instance decide they wish to be the number 1 in their region or industry, with departments and teams then having goals given to them that contribute towards that high-level aspirational goal for the enterprise.

Imagine if the teams and employees set their own goals though. Imagine an environment where teams are encouraged to construct their own goals that are relative to others in their peer group or industry.

When goal setting is transferred to local teams, ownership of the goals and the commitment to reach them are greatly increased. Suffice to say of course, this doesn’t mean that senior executives have no input into proceedings. Far from it.

One of the key roles of senior executives in such an environment is to establish expectations for employees. They also play an important role in challenging the strategies and goals that are produced by the local teams.

Setting goals and targets in this way avoids the traditional arbitrary targets that teams are often lumbered with that can so often lead to unproductive behaviours as employees and teams work to their targets rather than what is best for them and their organisation.

Relative goals such as these are commonly used at Hilton Hotels. They set internal benchmarks for each individual property, with an expectation that each hotel closes the gap between themselves and the best performing hotels in the chain on a variety of metrics, such as customer satisfaction.

Setting relative goals and encouraging teams to continuously improve (relative to their peers) is a much more sustainable method of stretching employees than setting absolute goals that often do just the opposite of their intention.

When these goals are achievable only by innovation and step changes in performance then you have an incredibly positive culture within which your executive team can support and enable those goals to be achieved.

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