Focusing on meeting goals is not the best way to achieve
overall organizational results.
Researchers have found that when we ask employees to meet
a target, they will focus on the target to the point that
they miss glaring risks, dismiss other opportunities, push
the boundaries of ethical behavior, and cooperate less
Additionally, by rewarding people for meeting goals,
employees will tend to pick less demanding objectives and
miss out on the opportunity for stronger overall
performance that would be achieved by more demanding
What if everyone was wrong about assessing performance
based on achieving goals?
The fact is that assessing the behaviors to achieve goals
is different than appraising people based on meeting
HR POINTER: Setting goals is not the problem. In fact, we
should encourage employees to set a wide range of goals
designed to improve the business. Assessing employees
based exclusively on achieving goals is the problem.
We all acknowledge that we need businesses that have
results-oriented cultures in order to survive in today’s
competitive environment. However, it is time to
reconfigure performance around the inputs (i.e., how
people work) while still keeping an eye on the
outputs (i.e., what one produces).
By concentrating on the inputs or behaviors related to
problem-solving, innovation, sales process, etc., we will
help employees develop the skills and competencies that
they need to generate new products, improve bottom lines,
close more deals, etc.
Goals should be based on results that the business wants
to achieve. As such, goals should be frequently assessed
throughout the year. What managers don’t understand is
that assessing or reality testing goals throughout the
year is different than managing people based on achieving
The idea of evaluating a salesperson on the skill and
competence which he/she exhibits by following the sales
process (e.g., contacting leads, executing pitches,
networking, etc.), rather than how much the salesperson
sold, is anathema to most managers.
Let’s face it, behaviors drive results. As such, if we
only assess results, we will never know why something goes
wrong or how to replicate something that goes right.