5 Steps to Align Your Reward Process and Reach Your Company Goals Ambitious goals and transparency on progress radically improves engagement.

By Kris Duggan

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As 2014 rapidly draws to a close, businesses everywhere and of every size are starting to plan for 2015. The pace of business has accelerated drastically in the last decade. As such, businesses need to update their goal-setting practices to meet today's ever-changing, rapidly evolving challenges. Workers compiling, projecting, and manually uploading their goals for the entire year in January is not going to cut it anymore. HR tools needs to adapt to the demands of the mobile, millennial workforce and fast-paced economy.

Here are five steps that can help every business transform the way they set and meet goals in 2015.

1. Set transparent goals for workers, managers, organizations.

Very few employees today fully understand their company's business strategies and what's expected of them in order to help achieve company goals.

A company committed to impactful goal setting will help educate all teams, track progress and make the necessary changes to keep processes on track. To do this, goals must be completely transparent across an entire organization. Making goals visible company-wide is necessary for consensus and alignment in an organization.

Not all goals should come from managers. Individuals will achieve more when they help shape their own goals and feel like they're able to make a big impact on the top company priorities.

Related: The 3 Steps to Building a Culture of Transparency

2. Make work more than just making a living.

In addition to connecting goals across an organization, employees will make more progress on goals when they feel like they are part of a supportive community. Working as a team to achieve something important in a positive, social environment helps make work engaging, meaningful and fulfilling. Intrinsic, or internal, motivation to help the company succeed can be more powerful than extrinsic, or external, motivation such as getting a bonus. And the former intrinsic goal more often than not leads to the latter external one.

3. Say goodbye to the "annual" review.

In contrast to traditional, yearly goal-setting based on annual performance reviews, modern goal-setting processes should be dynamic and agile. Goals should reflect fast-paced, evolving global work environments, helping workers focus on important aspirational goals.

Rather than a set-it-and-forget-it approach, adopt goal setting exercises that let individuals track progress and modify, archive, or add new goals frequently and continuously as business and personal priorities shift.

Because they can and should be modified regularly, goals do not have to be perfectly defined when they are created. With flexibility around refining goals, employees can be sure they are getting the right work done now.

Related: 10 Reasons to Scrap Year-End Performance Reviews

4. Bring the "Fitbit effect" to work.

The quantified self-movement -- with activity trackers such as Fitbit, Jawbone, and others -- has proven that people want frequent, measurable, visual and graphical feedback on their progress. It has also shown that when individuals get feedback, it helps shape behavior to make more consistent progress toward goals.

Additionally, progress has been revealed to be a powerful force in motivating employees to do their best. Implement weekly check-ins as a best practice and you will create a culture of frequent feedback around progress.

5. Aim high when setting goals.

Every employee should aim high when setting goals because stretch goals also promote greater achievement. Studies show that specific and ambitious goals lead to higher levels of performance than easy or general goals. For example, trimming down a four week deadline to two weeks can lead to greater productivity and a boost in confidence.

Because goals should be somewhat difficult to achieve, consider decoupling goal setting and compensation. Goals should, of course, be used as inputs to inform an annual performance review about what an individual has achieved, but the goal setting process should in no way be connected to annual performance review results. Tying goal setting to compensation and performance reviews often creates silos, demotivates employees, disincentivizes innovative thinking and can lead to gaming the system. Ultimately, it keeps companies from producing the best ideas and getting the most out of their strategic talent.

To help employees work towards achieving meaningful, aspirational goals, be sure your goal setting process is effective. When updating your current goal system, create a method that is transparent, supportive, and quantifiable, and be sure to encourage your teams to shoot for the stars.

Related: Is Goal Setting Missing From Your Daily Routine? (Infographic)

Kris Duggan

Co-Founder and CEO of BetterWorks

Kris Duggan co-founded BetterWorks with the simple, but deeply held goal of helping people feel like they are winning at work. Previously, he pioneered a new category of software called "gamification" for customer engagement and employee productivity by founding a leader in gamification, Badgeville, in 2010. 

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