We’ve spoken a lot about setting goals, but we don’t often talk about what to do in cases where goals aren’t met.
How do we keep up morale?
How do we help people move forward?
How do we improve our chances of success in the future?
Part of getting value out of goal setting is being able to acknowledge when goals have fallen short and take action to get things back on track. Today we’re looking at some practical tips to make this happen.
It can be difficult to always set the right goals every time, particularly for a new role or team member. If goals fall short, it’s a good idea to reflect on whether this goal was actually worth reaching for, or if that employee’s time and effort is better spent elsewhere.
Perhaps they missed one of the goals they set for themselves, but they achieved great progress in another area that wasn’t even being tracked. Does this contribute to the company mission and help their team? If so, maybe reassess and set new goals in this area instead.
Beyond this, and especially if the goal set was highly relevant, the first thing we need to do is uncover the reasons behind this. Keep in mind the employee’s personal effort and performance are only one small contributor to their overall results.
You will want to look at past feedback from check-ins, like Happiness and Sentiment data to see if there were any other factors impeding on that team member’s progress. For example, you may find they’ve been distracted by other tasks or requests that don’t contribute to any of the big picture goals for their role. In other cases, it could come down to a lack of resources like budgets or equipment, or even a skills gap that can be addressed with the right training.
Once you’ve uncovered these reasons, you’ll be able to start addressing them. As mentioned, some of the most common reasons why you might find a team member hasn’t been able to achieve their goals is a gap in skills or resources.
Perhaps they needed some additional professional development, different equipment or more support from their colleagues to get the results they were aiming for.
This is a good opportunity to put a training plan in place, and ensure the team member is equipped with the skills they need to achieve at the level they’re expected to. This could involve investing in some external training, or even just getting a more senior team member to help mentor and support them for a period of time.
With the resources and skills available at the time of setting the goal – was it actually realistic? It can be difficult to set benchmarks when working towards something that hasn’t been done before, so having to reassess is normal. Ideally, you’ll want to do this at regular increments before the goal deadline and reassess proactively.
But if the deadline has been reached and the goal hasn’t been hit, it’s time to look at what was achieved and use this as a measure of what’s realistic for the future. In doing this, also consider the extra training or resources the team member will be receiving and how this might impact their potential results.
Another key step is to make sure any future goals are set up for success from the start. Good goals should be clearly defined, visible and measurable. Having a central record of all goals that allows the goal owner to track their progress is essential to helping everyone stay on track and minimising any expectations gaps between managers, direct reports and peers.
Another tip is to use a goal setting structure like SMART goals or OKRs to ensure the goals you’re setting are specific enough. SMART goals are a good starting point for most teams, whereas OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) can be used in high-performance driven teams where outputs are easily measurable. We’ve shared some tips on how to decide if OKRs are right for your team here.
So there you have it, our key steps to help get back on track when goals fall short. If you’d like to know more about any of the tools we’ve mentioned, get in touch with the team here.