Goal setting at work often revolves around easily quantifiable and trackable performance objectives.
To increase sales, you can dissect conversion rates, compile customer response times, and A/B test prices and sales platforms. You can then transfer that quantified information into charts, graphs, and spreadsheets to analyze.
But what about the behavior that impacts your ability to make a sale in the first place? You need negotiation skills to convince customers to purchase, organization skills to improve response times, and creativity to build unique sales strategies.
These behaviors are equally essential to a sales department’s success — and they’re examples of behavioral goals employees from every department should improve to enjoy further professional success.
What are behavioral goals?
Behavioral goals focus on developing valuable soft skills, such as active listening and time management. Regardless of how technical your job is, your ability to perform well depends on combining your technical knowledge with interpersonal and personality-based capabilities.
Behavioral goals also help you reinforce positive habits and contribute to sustainable business practices, meet performance standards, and promote positive company culture.
Hiring managers are in line with this thinking. According to a LinkedIn Global Talents Trends report, 92% of hiring managers believe soft skills are equally or more important than hard skills, and 89% claim bad hires typically lack soft skills.
The good news is you can use behavioral goal setting to develop and improve on soft skills no matter where you’re at in your career. This will help you create positive behavior changes, whether for your professional development or to assist in your team or organization’s continued improvement.
The importance of behavioral goal setting
Hard and soft skills don’t exist in separate bubbles. Successful employees find ways to drive forward technical capabilities with soft skills.
Imagine a software developer who’s fluent in several coding languages, knows how to debug programs, and is an adept software tester. While these hard skills are necessary to perform their responsibilities, failure to meet deadlines trumps the best technical abilities.
Even if this developer delivers the best product to clients, problem behaviors like absenteeism and poor organization will negatively impact team productivity, client relationships, and, ultimately, their job security. Time management and communication skills are crucial to their success, and they can set behavioral goals for strengthening these skills.
Behavioral goals versus outcome goals
Behavioral goals are instrumental in achieving company-wide outcome goals. Here’s how the two types work in unison:
Outcome goals (sometimes called performance goals) drive forward an organization’s mission, market competitiveness, or productivity. These objectives are typically more linear and follow a measurable step-by-step process or strategy.
Examples include increasing sales, decreasing redundancies by a certain percentage, or launching a new product or service.
Behavioral goals help employees understand why or how to perform a task and are highly subjective, like the social skills and motivations one needs to perform well.
Examples include self-confidence or communication skills like negotiation to increase sales, problem-solving skills to uncover workflow redundancies, or creativity to conceptualize a new product.
Measurable behavioral goals to try out at work
Behavioral goals aren’t as concrete as numbers-driven performance goals and might require more outside-the-box thinking. To inspire your next goal-setting brainstorming session, here are seven goals you, your team, or your organization might set.
1. Develop self-awareness
Self-awareness means objectively evaluating yourself, regulating your emotions, and aligning your behavior with personal values. Understanding your baseline regarding certain traits is one of the best ways to improve your behavior, and developing stronger self-awareness can help you more honestly reflect on your current strengths and help others nurture theirs.
You can foster greater self-awareness alone or in a group. Consider mindfulness practices, starting a daily journal to track how you typically address work challenges and how you’d like to improve or asking coworkers or managers to give you feedback about your strengths and weaknesses.
These methods require you to observe yourself as an outsider to learn about your proficiencies and where you can improve, in turn developing your self-awareness.
2. Upskill communication skills
Effective teams know how to clearly explain their ideas and actively listen to others. These strong communication skills provide more efficient work processes, decreased miscommunications, and safe spaces that welcome inclusivity and creative expression.
Improving your communication skills means improving several overlapping transferable skills. Consider practicing active listening techniques such as remembering five things the person says and repeating them to yourself later or making eye contact more often.
Other methods include learning how to write a professional email or working on your public speaking skills.
3. Enhance financial literacy
Understanding finance basics helps you make more informed decisions, negotiate and advocate for your team’s budget, and be more financially efficient.
Consider taking an introductory class to learn financial terminology and concepts you can implement into your decision-making to positively impact your business’s financial security.
4. Improve problem-solving skills
Problem-solving strategies help you and your team find innovative solutions for complex problems. And the importance of adaptability in an ever-changing world makes problem-solving an in-demand skill no matter what role or industry you’re in.
Practice your problem-solving skills daily with puzzles, crosswords, and logical reasoning apps to train your brain to think creatively. And teams can practice lateral thinking, mind mapping, and simulated problem-solving questions to improve communication and brainstorming competencies.
5. Become more inclusive
Humans yearn to feel a sense of belonging, and 34% of people feel their greatest sense of belonging at work. To help cultivate this close-knit culture at your organization, you can embrace cultural diversity so everyone feels they fit in and can contribute their unique perspective and ideas.
Reading about different histories and cultures, visiting museums and other educational spaces, and watching documentaries are wonderful ways to expand your cultural knowledge and openness to understanding others’ point-of-view.
And if you’re an organization leader, you could hold diversity workshops, hire more diverse teams, and actively ask team members to speak up and share opinions to foster social interaction and teamwork.
6. Work on organization skills
Effective organization makes or breaks every other workplace process, like communication, problem-solving, and project management. Not knowing where information is or what communication cadence to follow in different situations impedes your workflow and slows everyone down.
Instead, you can improve your organizational skills to better manage client and coworker expectations, stay on top of deadlines, and help the organization move forward efficiently. Build your organizational skills by strategically planning your time and energy, prioritizing tasks, and physically organizing your workspace.
And managers can take several measures to support better organization, like auditing and streamlining communication channels and investing in time-tracking apps to help workers set accurate schedules.
7. Foster self-confidence
High self-esteem leads to more satisfying relationships, better work performance, and improved physical and mental health.
And if you have healthy workplace relationships, are performing well, and feel physically and mentally fit, you might feel confident and energetic enough to take the initiative to help coworkers and managers out, share innovative solutions that solve sticky problems, and better work toward your goals and improve — all of which are priceless to performing well and assisting your employer.
Foster self-confidence by asking for words of affirmation from friends, family, and coworkers, practicing a power pose stance when feeling shy or nervous, and starting each day by jotting down a couple of your achievements.
And if you’re a manager, you can foster a sense of confidence in your team by thanking them for good work, encouraging a culture of experimentation, and teaching them to learn rather than run from their mistakes.
How to write a behavioral objective
Behavioral objectives aren’t quantifiable like performance goals, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have an outcome. To create an impactful behavioral objective, write your desired outcome in as much detail as possible. The more descriptive the expectation and reward, the more motivated you’ll be to meet your target.
Here’s an example:
Goal: Improve my organizational skills.
Action: I’ll find a task prioritization method that works for me and clear out my email inbox at the start of every day.
Result: I’ve improved if I start my project work with an at-zero inbox every day and meet every deadline for a month.
7 tips for achieving your behavioral goals
Achievable behavioral goals require careful planning, monitoring, and positive feedback. Here are seven tips for empowering successful behavior goals:
Find the connection: Managers and employees should work together to align behavior goals with the company’s mission and culture. This helps managers understand why you’re working toward certain goals and motivates you since you understand how your desired behavior connects to your future with the company.
Be honest with yourself: Giving yourself constructive criticism isn’t easy, but taking the time to honestly reflect on your strengths and weaknesses will help you discover improvement areas and start growing.
Set time frames: Since you’ll typically judge behavioral goals via feedback and observation, break your objectives into time-bound check-ins with yourself or your supervisor to ensure you’re progressing.
Be a team player: Work toward these goals with your coworkers to ensure your objectives align with what they need from their teammates. This also means you can support one another and hold each other accountable.
Learn from others: Chances are someone you work with excels at the behavioral skills you’re developing. Pay close attention to your surroundings — talk less and listen more — to pinpoint potential mentors.
Enroll in a class: Check out online courses or seminars for the tools, resources, and professional feedback you need to reach your goal. And consider visiting human resources or checking in with your manager to inquire about upskilling or continued education opportunities.
Commit to long-term improvement: When it comes to improving behavioral skills, there’s always room for growth and learning. Once you reach your goal, check in with yourself and re-evaluate where you can still improve.
Be on your best behavior
Communication, time management, and conflict resolution are all examples of behavioral goals that improve every aspect of your workflow — including those more easily trackable outcome goals.
While noting progress might seem more ambiguous with behavioral goals, change will start from within and extend to every interaction and task you take on. Even if it’s difficult to quantify your success, all progress is good progress.