Let’s be honest, goal setting with employees doesn’t always work, even though the benefits are well researched.  Goal setting with employees results clarified direction, increased productivity, a sense of control and autonomy and ultimately better results.

Despite these benefits, people still can lose motivation and give up on their quest for development and improvement.

Listed below are the reasons why this may happen and what you, as a manager, can do to help increase your employees stick rate to their goals.

1. Ownership:

Goals, improvement plans, development plans, stretch goals, what ever you want to call it, take work. There is often work involved outside or on top of the day to day role. The work required could take an individual out of their comfort zone. Some individuals are naturally driven and will thrive with this. Others will feel like it’s too hard, it’s additional work or even question why bother because ‘what’s in it for me?’

In any form of goal setting, you need to ensure that the goals and objectives come from ‘inside’. The individual needs to own the goals, objectives and the outcome in order to feel committed to it.
Rather than tell an employee what their goals are and hope they will work on them, ask them what they want to achieve.

To increase the ownership a member of your team feels towards their goals and development use questions such as:

  • What would success look like for you with regards to this?
  • If you were looking back in 12 months-time and reflecting on what a great year it has been, what have you achieved?
  • If you took 100% accountability and ownership for this, what would that look like? What is different, what changed, how did you behave?

2. Time:

When it comes to goals, people often underestimate how long it will actually take to reach their targets. When progress towards goals starts taking longer than planned, it can be tempting to give up on the goal.
It is important to ensure your employees are realistic with time frames when setting goals. Have they considered conflicting goals, priorities and current workload?

Is their goal behavioural focused? If so, it is important that they realise real change will take work. Changing habits/behaviours or their approach for one week won’t result in the long term change they are looking for. They will need to continue to work at it, consistently, despite how hard it may be or how long it takes.

3. Difficulty:

Not only do people underestimate how long a goal will take, they also underestimate how much work can be involved.
Just because a concept is simple to understand, it doesn’t mean it will be simple and easy to execute the plan and achieve results.
Eating healthy and exercising is probably the most simple and easy concept to understand when it comes to weight loss, yet, so few do it because the implementation is hard. It’s easy to understand but hard to do. This can be the same with goals in the workplace.

How can you help your employee?

  • Break goals down into detailed action plans – quarterly, monthly and weekly.
  • Regularly catch up with them to check in on how they are going.
  • Ask them upfront what areas they think they may need help on and coach them through those areas. It’s easier to help proactively rather than deal with the frustration of things being too hard, not progressing and an employee giving up.

4. Obstacles and distractions:

Obstacles and distractions do come up. Rather than be unprepared and the obstacle or distraction result in quitting, help your team member to anticipate them beforehand.

Remind your employee at the start of the goal setting process that distractions, obstacles and perhaps even crisis will occur. Plan for these by expecting the unexpected and build time into the plan to allow for these.

Ask your employee to list out all the roadblocks and obstacles they think might occur. Rank them based on their likelihood of occurring and the impact if they do. Any that have a high likelihood of occurring or a high impact if they do occur need a contingency plan.

By planning for obstacles and distractions in advance, your employee will be less likely to give up on the goal should these occur.


Put the time in when goal setting with your employees to ensure they:

  • feel they own the goal and are internally motivated to achieve it
  • are realistic with the time frames and the level of work involved
  • have prepared for any obstacles and distraction before hand

Taking the time to discuss this with your team members when setting goals will result in more commitment and motivation to see the results to the end.

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