How to set and hit team goals (with tips for remote workers)

Studies show that setting team goals can lead to a 10-15% boost in performance — and that’s without any financial incentives. But for goals to work, they need to be clear, achievable, and measurable, and that’s often easier said than done.

According to recent research, only 40% of employees across organizations know what the goals of their company are. That means that more than half of the organization is bumbling around doing day-to-day tasks without really knowing why. Is it any wonder 85% of employees are not engaged in the workplace? How can you support your businesses’ goals if you don’t know what they are? And how can you stay motivated at work if you don’t know what you’re working toward?

Setting team goals is vital for business success. But it’s not easy: To get everyone pulling in the same direction, you need to make sure the company’s goals are clear as water and everyone understands how their role feeds into the bigger picture. To help you out, here are 7 tips for setting team goals. Let’s get started!

What are team goals?

Team goals are objectives everyone on the team commits to working toward. They can be process-based or skills-based — and involve the team alone, or the team as part of the wider company.

What are the benefits of team goals?

Team goals help employees feel engaged and focused. They help everyone involved pace themselves and work out whether they’re on track (or not). Here are some of the benefits of goal-setting:

  • Provides direction
  • Helps teams focus
  • Provides structure
  • Helps provide clarity in decision-making
  • Gives teams a sense of control
  • Provides motivation
  • Boosts team collaboration
  • Gives individuals the opportunity to shine

What do team goals look like?

Team goals vary wildly depending on your business, its objectives, and the style of your team. However, they tend to fall into the following three categories:

Idea generation

Many heads are better than one. For this reason, many teams work together when the goal is to generate ideas for a particular project or task. Working together allows multiple ideas and perspectives to shape the output.

Building morale

Working together does wonders for team building. Your team might work together toward a weekly or monthly goal with the sole aim of building rapport, strengthening relationships, and building morale.

Boosting efficiency

Goals to improve efficiency tend to focus on processes and tools. For example — a factory might improve efficiency by implementing Lean processes. Or a web development agency might implement diagramming tools to speed up their wireframing process.

Here are some examples of typical business goals:

  • Improve website conversion rate by 1%
  • Take part in one team-building activity a month
  • Secure enough funding to cover 12 months of activity
  • Increase customer reviews by 10% by the end of the first quarter
  • Hold four interviews a week to hire a new project manager
  • Secure $50,000 in sponsorship commitments
  • Come up with a new name for the business
  • Come up with three venue options for the work summer party
  • Create a design style guide
  • Launch a new product and get signoff by the end of March
  • Reduce overtime by 50% by the end of June
  • Ensure everyone on the team is using the new chat app by the end of March

How to set team goals

The more efficiently you set your goals, the more likely they are to come to fruition. Here are 7 simple steps to make sure you get it right every time.

1, Know what it is you want to achieve

It sounds like an obvious one, but it’s surprisingly easy to launch into a project without really having a clear understanding of what it is you’re doing.

Before you do anything, think about what it is you want to achieve. How will it benefit the organization? The team? The individuals on the team? You’ll also want to think about how you’ll measure your progress as you go.

Once you have answers for all of the above, distill your goal into a one or two-line sentence. Treat it like an elevator pitch: Anyone who hears it needs to get what you’re doing in a few seconds flat. If they do, then you’ve successfully defined a clear goal.

2. Set team goals

Now it’s time to involve the rest of the team. Goals work best when they take the individual into account, so when you’re planning them, consider the unique skills on your team — as well as the team’s combined strengths. You can do this bit by yourself, or as a team in a brainstorming session.

As you work, remember to stick to the SMART criteria.

  • Specific: Making your goal specific means your efforts will be focused and the overall objective clear.
  • Measurable: It’s important to measure your progress, otherwise you have no real way of knowing whether you succeed or not. Examples of measurables include website traffic, revenue, reviews, or time saved.
  • Attainable: Goals need to be within reach, otherwise you could end up draining time and resources trying to reach something that’s unrealistic.
  • Relevant: Make sure your goals have purpose and are prioritized over others for a reason.
  • Time-bound: Having an end date helps with planning time, resources and deadlines. It also makes it easier for the team to pace themselves.

3. Let team members set their individual goals

Once you have overarching team goals set out, it’s time to assign goals on an individual basis. Use the SMART framework again to help team members make sure their goals fit the criteria and be on-hand to offer support (not everyone is good at goal-setting).

Once everyone’s individual goals have been defined, review them collectively to ensure they’re all aligned with the overarching team/organizational objectives.

4. Set deadlines

Without a deadline, you’re like a boat adrift in the middle of the ocean: no clear destination, you do nothing but float, gradually using up resources without achieving much. Deadlines provide an endpoint for the team to focus on. They’re important for accountability, structure, and for providing a sense of focus. Without them, the team could end up feeling disengaged, or keep pushing their tasks back until they drop off the schedule entirely.

When setting deadlines, consider creating a project management timeline, which should include a start and finish date for the entire project and each individual task. It also commonly includes milestones, which can be helpful when working on a big project: Breaking it down into smaller chunks will make things feel that little bit more achievable.

5. Measure your progress

Athletes measure their progress to see how they’re improving. The same goes for projects: Tracking allows you to see what’s working and what’s not. If you notice that the team is missing deadlines or hitting targets faster than planned, it means you can step in early and remove roadblocks or reallocate resources as needed.

Being able to see how far you’ve come is also a great team motivator: Use milestones as an opportunity to celebrate together and thank the team for their hard work so far.

Top Tip: Use project management software to make the tracking progress much less admin-intensive. Simply create schedules with a few clicks, then let the program automatically monitor progress and send out updates and alerts. Not only does this save time — it also lets you take a more hands-off approach because team progress is tracked in real-time.

6. Provide ongoing support

Not everyone has the same ability when it comes to working toward goals — as manager, it’s your job to take everyone’s needs into account. Some team members will love a hands-off approach and will be fine left largely managing themselves. Others will need more encouragement. Here are some tips:

  • Have catch-ups. No matter how independent and confident an employee is, have regular catch-ups to make sure they know what they’re working toward, there aren’t any obstacles getting in their way, and they’re on target to meet their deadlines.
  • Make yourself available. This is as simple as letting your team know you’re there to offer help when they need it as well as the channels they can use to reach you. If you’re working with a geographically diverse team, let everyone know when you’ll be online.
  • Offer advice on how to achieve goals. This could include team-building exercises, guidance when setting out SMART goals, or tips on how to get the most out of your team’s project management tools.
  • Give your team ongoing feedback. With a lot of communication, they’ll know how they’re doing.

Top Tip: Different messages need different channels for communication. For more official information (e.g., the finalized team goals) an email and/or in-person/video call is ideal. For more casual check-ins, or to thank a team member for doing something, a quick message shared via your team’s chat app is perfect.

7. Run a project post-mortem

Once your project has come to an end, it’s time to run a post-mortem with the team to celebrate successes, work through any hiccups that happened, and prepare for future team goal-setting. It’s a nice idea to celebrate the end of a project with something rewarding, like a team lunch, or individual rewards that help employees feel appreciated. It’s a small gesture that goes a long way.

Final thoughts

The ultimate aim of team goal-setting is to bring the team together to do better work — whether that’s achieving tasks, completing a project — or simply learning to work better together as a unit.

Communication plays a vital role in keeping everyone working cohesively. Team goals should be explained and shared. Progress should be tracked (ideally via project management software), and managers should have regular catch-ups with the team — both face to face (or via video), and using email or chat. Master these, and almost any goal is within reach.

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