5 ways to set ‘big' goals that won't lead to staff burnout

5 ways to set ‘big’ goals that won’t lead to staff burnout

stretch targets

Everyone is familiar with the idea that work is most rewarding when it is challenging. But there is a delicate balance to strike. Take the challenge too far and you risk burning out.

This creates a challenge for companies, managers, and HR teams. How can you encourage employees to take on new projects and learn new skills—ultimately allowing them to progress in their careers—without throwing them to the bottom and risking them collapsing under the pressure or leaving the company?

Here are five ways to balance a worker’s personal growth with their well-being and the practical needs of the business.


Get them involved in the mission of the company

Before you start looking for ways to challenge your employees, you need to decide the basics. Generating meaningful employee engagement is an important starting point, and particularly relevant for the UK. gallup annual State of the Global Workforce The report found that 9% of British employees are engaged or enthusiastic about their work, with the UK ranking 33rd out of 38 European states.

Ron Gutman is an entrepreneur and an adjunct professor of leadership at Stanford University. He believes that reversing the employee disconnect requires senior leaders to sell their company’s overall mission to their teams and change the narrative from viewing work as a purely contractual relationship. After all, why should employees worry about taking on new challenges if work is just a nine-to-five chore for them?

“There is a problem with the language that employers currently use,” Gutman explains. “At the moment, he is focused on results and that is not inspiring. The language needs to be much broader, so that your employees understand how everything they do relates to the overall mission of the company.”

In short, do it right, and employees will see the value of the challenges that have been thrown at them.


Establish a culture of listening

Listening to employees is a critical component of that mission to promote employee engagement. And what’s more, when leaders take the time to actively listen to employees, they not only gain valuable insight into the day-to-day realities of their operations, but they can also identify opportunities for individual growth and, more importantly, , any sign that an employee may be struggling with the challenges they have taken on.

David Ard is SVP for Employee Success at Slack and believes senior managers need to create an open leadership style. This is where all employees are encouraged and given the space to voice their concerns, whether it’s about their regular duties or how they are finding their new challenge.

“By hosting regular feedback sessions, employers can gauge what employees want from their workplace and gain insight into the concerns they have about the future of the company, their own development, and the day-to-day parts of their roles.” says.


Train your line managers

Line managers arguably play a bigger role than any other senior team member in developing and retaining employees. As the first point of contact between employees and the company, line managers have a great influence on the daily experiences of their team members.

Despite this, many line managers are poorly trained in management skills. Research by the Inside Group of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations found that only 15% of companies include mandatory training for line managers.

Emma Parry, a professor of human resource management at Cranfield School of Management, believes this figure reflects a world of work where line managers are promoted primarily for their industry experience rather than their management credentials. “A lot of organizations are really bad at training line managers,” she says. “Usually they get promoted because they have become good in their technical field. But after we promote them, we don’t give them any line management support, even though line management requires a different set of skills.”

Without proper training in areas like communication, leadership, and conflict resolution, line managers can have a hard time building trust and fostering a sense of collaboration and camaraderie with their teams. So how can they be expected to guide employees through new challenges?


Adjust your management style for remote workers

When workers split their work time between the office and home, line managers play an even more crucial role in ensuring that employees don’t feel overwhelmed by their current job and that new projects challenge them enough.

For many remote workers, their line manager is their main, and perhaps only, daily point of contact with the company. As a result, line managers and development leads need to be deliberate with their communications, create opportunities for engagement, and avoid a one-size-fits-all management approach.


Set clear expectations for the project.

Micromanaging helps no one. It increases the likelihood that employees will “quietly quit” their existing roles and the new challenge that has been thrown at them.

One way to avoid micromanaging is to switch to an expectations-based management style, where the manager sets the ultimate goals for any new project and gives employees the support and skills to achieve them without forcing them down a particular path.

Paula Allen is a global leader and senior vice president of research and total wellness at Telus Health, a Canadian digital health provider. She cautions that any expectations set by the manager must be achievable. “Expectations need to be aligned with what is possible,” she says. “You can run the risk that a project will not turn out well. You can’t risk breaking a person.”

Parry agrees with this view, adding that for managers to adopt an expectations-based management style, they must avoid preconceived notions of what work is like. “You have to set clear expectations and let them follow through. Line managers often struggle with this because our culture equates long hours and seeing people working in the office with results. We all know that people can sit in the office for long hours without delivering anything.”

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