The Effect of Stretch Goals on Employee Engagement

a giraffe stretching for food to show the Effect of Stretch Goals on Employee Engagement

The Effect of Stretch Goals on Employee Engagement
Stretch goals are performance goals that can only be achieved by extending oneself to the limit.  According to Google, which has become known for its audacious business goal philosophy, “Stretch goals are the building blocks for remarkable achievements in the long term.”  But even Google sometimes fails to reach its goals and those disappointing results can have unwanted consequences – killing motivation and damaging performance.  We need to understand the effect of stretch goals on employee engagement.

Positive or Negative Effect of Stretch Goals
Regarding the question of the effect of stretch goals on employee engagement–whether stretch goals positively or negatively affect employee engagement–it depends.  It’s all a matter of degree.  Realistically attainable and appropriate goals can be a spur to employees’ expending extra effort.  But near-impossible goals can have the opposite effect.

What We Know
At its core, employee engagement is the willingness of employees to consistently exert discretionary effort toward their work.  It is human nature to want to succeed.  Most of us are psychologically predisposed to prove our ability to meet reasonable challenges.  And, so, when offered realistic and meaningful challenges at work, employees are naturally drawn to address them.

To Increase Employee Engagement
One of the ways to increase the engagement of your employees is to ensure that you offer them opportunities to grow and to “stretch” appropriately beyond their comfort zone.  Employees want a certain amount of variety in their work responsibilities.  Just doing the “same old-same old” crushes one’s spirit.

If you want to encourage creativity and innovation, you need to expand the boundaries of what you ask your employees to do.

A Manager’s Role
Managers have a direct impact on employee engagement.  Managers have the means to offer challenges to their employees at both the team and individual levels.  They can work with their teams to identify goals that will inspire coordinated effort and improved performance.

For the individual employee, managers can identify challenges that take advantage of the worker’s specific talents and personal aspirations.  The closer a challenge is to what an employee does well and likes to do, the more engaged they will be in meeting it.

The Bottom Line
When you are working toward increasing employee engagement, it would be smart to evaluate how you set goals.  Be sure you take into account the effect of stretch goals on employee engagement. If you want to create a high performance culture, strive to create goals that are:

  • Clear and relevant
  • Reachable but only with extra effort
  • Meaningful personally and professionally
  • Aligned with the corporate strategy and cultural norms
  • Recognized and rewarded

Then watch your engagement measures increase as they reflect the positive effect of appropriate challenges.

If you want to learn about research-backed ways to improve employee engagement, download The Top 10 Most Powerful Ways To Boost Engagement

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