Human Resource Management – Establishing Targets

The setting of goals leads to the overall performance improvement of the employees concerned. Goals and targets improve performance through four main mechanisms, as discussed below. They direct the attention of the employee to what needs to be achieved, they mobilise the effort put in by the employee, they increase the persistence of the employee in their desire to reach the goal and get them to think carefully about the right strategies they need to employ to achieve the targets.

To achieve the best results from an objectives-based system, there are a number of essential requirements:

  • Ensure that the targets set are in the SMART mode. This acronym helps to set out the key features of a successful set of targets:
  • Firstly, they should be specific and stretching. Specific means that they are transparent and not open to dispute or discussion. To set stretching targets, further aspects of Goal theory is supported, which states that motivation and performance are higher when goals are difficult but accepted, support is given to achieve them and feedback is regular and valued by the supervisor.
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  • Secondly, targets should be measurable, so that all sides can agree when they are achieved (or not). Measurable targets also make interim feedback so much easier as to anyone can criticize and comment on it.
  • Thirdly, targets should be agreed and achievable. If employees show that they are not comfortable or disagree with the targets because they find them too difficult to achieve, then they may well set out to prove this by determining to fail.
  • Fourthly, targets should be realistic and relevant, which makes them more attractive to all the parties.
  • Finally, they should be time-related, so that it is clear at what point they should be achieved, these criterions should be as vivid as possible.
  • Review the targets at regular intervals. The external environment is constantly changing and the targets need to be adjusted to meet those cultural changes.
  • Setting the right number of targets. The right number of targets is difficult to judge. If an individual has a large number of targets, then the process of monitoring and measuring these targets would be complex. If there is only one target, then too much is at stake on this one target from the employee’s viewpoint and he may sometimes be confused about achieving the same. Many organisations reach a compromise and provide for employees to have a minimum and maximum number of specific targets.

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