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Should targets be taboo?


A lot of companies in the UK set rigid targets for staff to meet. It’s not the fault of the company but rather this traditional system of working practice. But has company set targets for individuals become old and outdated?

The process of setting business goals is so established that it’s taken for granted in most companies. Goals define much of our everyday lives, from the number of leads we’re required to generate per month to the number of to-dos we need to complete by the end of the day.

But what if we’re thinking about targets all wrong? What if setting rigid targets doesn’t actually help growth, development, or the bottom line?

Research by Love Energy Savings asked business leaders whether targets should be scrapped or if there’s still value in them.

The argument for target-free business:

One business that has loudly and proudly ditched business targets is the team project-management company Basecamp.

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier, CEO and CTO of Basecamp, have said: “Doing great, creative work is hard enough. So is building a long-lasting sustainable business with happy employees. Why impose some arbitrary number to loom over your job, your salary, bonus, and kid’s college fund?

“Do we want to make things better? All the time. But, do we want to maximise “better” through constantly chasing goals? No thanks.”

Nicola Barrett, founder of Prestige Intouch, also believes that businesses should scrap targets: “Targets incentivise staff to rush the completion of their projects in order to meet KPIs. When this happens, mistakes are made; things are not done properly and procedures are not adhered to.”

So how can a company without targets ensure that their teams still make progress?

Barrett added: “It’s better to have one job done to perfection without a single complaint than having completed 5 mediocre tasks that inevitably receive criticism due to poor service and quality.”

How targets could still hit the mark:

Not everyone believes that business targets are redundant in the modern-day workplace.

Andrew Firth, CEO and founder of Ascensor, says: “Targets are clear lines that can be measured. Whether they are reached or not, they provide a mechanism by which to review performance and set goals for the next period.”

Nicola Lloyd, event marketing team leader at Frank Recruitment Group, agrees: “It’s good for staff to have clear targets and a complete vision of what you want them to achieve, regardless of where they fit into a business.”

Lloyd also asserts that targets can actually be good for team morale if those objectives are realistic and achievable. “If a team feels like it’s pulling towards a common goal.”

Taboos or to-dos?

The backlash against goals and targets stems from the problems that arise when a business assumes the importance of targets without considering the ‘why’ behind them.

Phil Foster, CEO of Love Energy Savings believes that setting the right targets can help a business and its staff fly: “It’s not just a case of whether or not a target is achievable. Employers and managers should think about whether the target has value, both for the individual and for the business as a whole.

“The best targets are those that you set in collaboration with the individual or team that will be tasked with reaching them. What is it that they want to achieve? How can you tie that in with the direction that the company is going in?

“If you can display that an employee’s actions will contribute to the wider success of the company, that’s going to be far more motivating than just setting a goal for the sake of it.”