Managerial effectiveness: Going for gold with goal-setting

By Iain Thomson, Director of Incentive and Recognition, Sodexo Engage

When you think about the role of a manager, the words leading, coaching and mentoring probably spring to mind. But while there’s little doubt that managers often have lots of plates to spin, it appears that they’re falling short on the staff development front.

Sodexo Engage’s latest research found that just one in five (21%) UK employees are being set specific goals by their managers. In a study of 3,000 employees, nearly two fifths (38%) had never been set specific goals or targets. A further 41% said their manager had set them “loose” targets.

The findings raise a big question mark over the effectiveness of today’s managers. It’s well known that people and businesses work best when they’re given goals to achieve. So why is it that so many are still being short-changed when it comes to getting the support they need?

Earn respect

The lack of a hands-on approach not only runs the risk of harming a business, it’s also a sure-fire way to lose employees’ respect. Over half of those polled admitted they have four or less one-to-one meetings a year. And, nearly half of those (47%) said they didn’t consider their managers good role models. Worse yet, more than four in 10 (44%) revealed they did not trust their managers to make the right decisions or treat them fairly.

These findings should serve as a massive wake-up call to businesses. For managers, this doesn’t need to be a big scary change, it’s about getting back to basics and focusing on how they can truly support staff. It’s not rocket science. If managers want to make sure their team are firing on all cylinders and everyone is staying on track, they need to set clear, achievable goals.

Unsurprisingly then, when employees know exactly what they’re working towards, they feel more empowered, motivated and supported. On top of boosting employee engagement, setting goals also helps a business meet its own objectives. Employees aren’t mind-readers; clearly communicating expectations through goals will make sure everyone’s on the same page.


Goals shouldn’t be like a new year’s resolution that’s cast aside within weeks. Setting clear, measurable goals, and revisiting those goals on a regular basis, is key to keeping staff motivated all year round. But it’s important that managers get their goals right. That’s where SMART comes into its own: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.

Using SMART goals helps managers to create structure. Goals that are vague, unmeasurable and too big can quickly lead to frustration, and in this case, a bad goal is the same as no goal at all.

With good goals, employees can see how they’re getting on and then be able to see how that ties into the bigger picture. Regular measurement is also incredibly important as it not only lets employees tick off goals as they go, it also helps managers to make sure that the goals stay relevan.

And let’s not forget that hitting goals gives managers the perfect opportunity to reward staff for great work. Managers need to remember that recognising a job well done goes a long way when it comes to staff morale.

For managers it’s about making achieving goals second nature for everyone. After all, a business is only as good as the people it employs and happy employees means a happy workplace.