Based on what we have seen above, the importance of goals is not only in setting them in the first place, but in learning from the experience of achieving or missing them. Sometimes what looks like a realistic goal can be difficult or impossible to reach in the current situation and either the goals need to be re-set or the employee needs to be retrained or coached. Sometimes the goals will be achieved easily and ahead of schedule with a minimum of effort, in which case they may well need to be revised upwards or the employee’s methods scrutinized. What is certain is that realistic and accurate goals can be used to evaluate an employee’s performance and to see where changes can be made.
Based on an employee just narrowly missing their goals a few months in a row, it may be possible to find out one factor which is holding them back and preventing them from achieving what they are capable of. It may also be that they are hitting all but one of their targets, but just failing on the final one. In these cases, a target or goal can be used as a way of motivating the employee. If they can just hit that last target, then they will be rewarded. There are ways that they can improve their performance on that front, so they know what they need to do in order to hit it. This can be a very useful tool in ensuring that people take their training to heart and are motivated to apply it.
What can be said for certain is that misapplied targets and goals can have a detrimental effect on employee motivation from either side. Too easy and the employee becomes complacent, too hard and they become frustrated. This is why it is necessary to set SMART goals for an employee, and to fine-tune them if they cease to be SMART.