The link between goal setting and performance is both real and crucial. Goal setting is an essential tool for improving self motivation, self-esteem, self-confidence, autonomy and achievement, both professionally and personally.
Setting team goals at work is fundamental to ensure that every employee understands what the company business strategy is, and how they can contribute towards the organization achieving its goals.
Setting specific team goals will motivate team members to perform better than they might otherwise do. According to Robert Kaplan and David Norton in their 2001 book, The Strategy-Focused Organization:
“A mere 7% of employees today fully understand their company’s business strategies and what’s expected of them in order to help achieve company goals.”
So what can you do to ensure that the managers in your organization are setting clear and realistic team goals?
In this article, we’ll explore the importance of setting team goals, the difference between team goals and individual goals, provide you with 15 examples of team goals in the workplace, as well as share with you best practice guidance on how to set team goals.
Let’s dive in!
The importance of setting team goals
If your managers aren’t setting effective team goals that tie into the wider organization's business strategy, they’re negatively impacting the productivity of team members.
After all, if employees don’t know why they’re doing the work they’ve been assigned, or they’re unclear on how their tasks fit into this strategy, they will be less motivated to achieve them.
The simple act of ensuring that each team member understands how their role feeds into the overall business strategy can therefore pay huge dividends company wide. Setting team goals helps your organization achieve its objectives, boosts employee engagement, increases employee productivity, and improves employee retention.
All of which saves time, money, and improves business efficiency.
Setting team goals also helps improve psychological safety in the workplace. By setting team goals and ensuring that every team member understands them and how they can play their part in achieving them, helps bolster a culture of transparency.
By setting team goals and ensuring transparency, employees can work more collaboratively.
When everyone knows what each other is working on, and that they’re all pulling collectively together towards the same team goal, no one feels unjustly burdened to meet the team’s aims, and individuals are less inclined to adopt a me-first mindset.
According to Locke and Latham (2006), there are 5 principles to effective goal setting that will improve the chances of success.
- Clarity. A goal must be specific and clear.
- Challenge. An easy or tedious goal is demotivating.
- Commitment. Employees have to understand and buy into the goal.
- Feedback. Regular throughout the whole process helps to keep the goal on track.
- Task complexity. Break down the process into subgoals with regular reviews.
Team goals vs individual goals
Goals are an important tool for managers, because goals can be both a self-regulatory means to helping individual employees prioritize their tasks, as well as help the entire team achieve success.
Individual goals are specific to each employee’s role and responsibility, whereas team goals are related to strategies that are vital to the team’s success.
It’s important to recognize that there is a difference between individual and team goals, and when managers need to set one or the other, or both.
The Objectives and Key Results (OKR) framework is a popular framework to accelerate growth and drive innovation by helping team members realize how their work individually and collectively fits into the overall company’s objectives.
The OKR framework is a collaborative, goal setting methodology that helps teams reach their goals through identifiable and measurable results.
Broken down, it looks like:
- Objectives - what the team is trying to accomplish. Objectives need to be qualitative and inspiring. They can be long or short lived.
- Key Results - how you’ll measure whether the objective is being achieved.
15 examples of team goals in the workplace
It can be tough to come up with team goals that are specific, measurable and within reach. So to help you out, we’ve created a wide collection of examples of team goals one might set in the workplace:
- Close sales of $X in monthly recurring revenue
- Increase sales volume by X% each month
- Achieve a conversion rate of X% across all products
- Improve employee satisfaction on the team by X%
- Increase production by X%
- Reduce costs of X by $Y
- Improve customer satisfaction score by X%
- Reduce turnaround time by X days/hours/minutes
- Improve quality control by X%
- Increase customer retention by X%
- Improve customer experience by X%
- Onboard X new customers per Y
- Increase social media metrics by X% in Y months
- Launch the new product in X months
- Train all of the team on X new technology by Y
How to set team goals
Identify what the team needs to achieve
These could be targets for the team to hit this week, this month, this year. It doesn’t matter. Just make sure the goals are a stretch, but still achievable.
Make sure the goals are measurable
Don’t set goals that can’t be tracked, i.e. ‘Have more fun’ is a good idea in theory, but in practice, how do you measure it? And if you can’t measure it, how do you know if the team is achieving it?
Admirable achievements like these are too subjective as team goals.
Team goals before individual goals
Individual goals are essential to keep individual team members on point, but these shouldn’t be at the detriment of achieving team goals. Set team goals before individual goals, and then have all individual goals pointing towards the team goals.
Set the team’s purpose first and then assign individual objectives, or within the shared goal all team members decide how they can best contribute to the overall team success.
Don’t forget individual goals
While team goals should be set before individual goals, don’t neglect individual goals at the expense of the team ones.
The team goal might be ‘increase customer retention by X%’, but for that to be achieved, individual goals might be - one team member may need to work harder at sales, while another might need to be more productive at customer retention.
Set deadlines and meet them
Deadlines not only give goals structure, but they make team members accountable for delivering their work. If a deadline isn’t set and stuck to, it’s all too easy for things to slip right.
If the team doesn’t meet the deadline, get them to treat it as a lesson learned for the future for how to improve goal setting next time.
Track team efforts
How do you know if the team has achieved their goals if someone isn’t tracking their progress?
Once managers have set team goals, individual goals and assigned tasks and deadlines, make sure someone tracks every task to see how well the team is performing.
Goal setting meeting
During goal setting meetings, teams should agree on goals, collectively, for the next cycle. A goal setting meeting agenda might look like:
- Reflecting on our last goals - what lessons did we learn?
- What goals should we set for the next 3 months?
- How will you measure success for each of these goals?
- What are the next steps towards achieving those goals?
- How tough will it be to achieve these goals (out of 10 where 1 is easy and 10 really tough)?
- What could happen that would prevent you from hitting your goals?
- What can we do to help you achieve these goals?
The dangers of setting unrealistic goals for teams
While goal setting can be the push teams need to achieve higher productivity, setting unrealistic goals can have real ramifications for the workplace both in the short term and longer term.
The dangers of setting unrealistic goals include:
- Not meeting delivery dates
- Reduction in work quality and output
- Spiralling costs
- Increased employee absenteeism
- Low staff morale
- Higher employee turnover
So, how can you avoid setting unrealistic goals?
To start with, managers should consistently check in with their teams and ask for feedback through both one-to-ones, or in weekly team reviews.
They should also think before they set expectations. Just because they want something completed by a certain time, doesn’t mean it's achievable.
It's also important that managers don't allow scope creep. Instead, they should clearly define requirements and targets at the start of each project or task. If managers keep adding more requirements on top of the original ones, the goal will quickly become unrealistic.
The importance of reviewing team goals
At Saberr we believe that humanity’s greatest achievements are the result of teamwork, not individual brilliance.
We are huge proponents of reviewing team goals. By taking the time to review team goals, managers can have the right conversations both individually and with the entire team, about goal progress.
Getting into the habit of regularly setting time aside to review team goals, to make sure everyone is still focussed on the right priorities will help nip problems in the bud.
Hold a regular team goal progress review meeting and for each team objective, ask the below questions. Prepare the metrics ahead of time in order to assess progress with confidence during the meeting:
- Is the goal on track?
- What did we learn last week?
- What did we do right?
- What's our confidence score for this goal?
- What are our plans to deliver the goal?
- What should we do differently next time?
- Who is responsible for delivering this?
Team goals are not a one and done practice. Managers need to get into the habit of adopting the right habits for success with their teams (as well as these seven habits), and that starts with setting team goals and reviewing team goals.
Which begs the question, how well are you preparing your managers with the right tools, knowledge and support to lead high performing teams in your organization?