The Three Ps of Employee Goal-Setting

Incentives do not guarantee behaviour change, but they can motivate and reinforce desirable behaviours among your employees.

NBS’s research on how to drive social change revealed that, indeed, goal- and pledge-setting are some of the most effective techniques for motivating employees. Key to successful goal setting is the credibility of both the message and the organization encouraging such behaviour change. Workplace interventions can use goal-setting to direct attention and pique employee interest in the desired outcome(s). Positive feedback that recognizes employee progress on keeping pledges and meeting goals can provide the incentive employees are looking for as your firm makes its journey to sustainability.

Three important implications surfaced from the systematic review. Managers should consider these three Ps when setting goals and pledges with their employees:


Make sure your employees set personal goals.

Results are most effective when employees set individual goals for themselves; encouraging people to set meaningful personal goals makes them more likely to engage in your firms’ environmental and social initiatives.

Plain & Simple

Keep pledges plain and simple.

A synthesis of experimental studies revealed that simple pledges can effectively increase recycling and conserving energy, water and gasoline. For example, employees might be asked whether they would pledge to conserve energy by turning off lights each evening as they leave the office. Or they may be asked to consider recycling each time they are about to dispose of an item in the workplace. These are simple requests that require little investment of employee time but can have big impacts when the whole workforce participates.

Positive Feedback

Give positive feedback to employees when engaging them in CSR activities or when encouraging behaviour change.

People must accept and commit to goals. Feedback on goal attainment increases the effectiveness of goal setting and strengthens this commitment. Feedback may include a simple overall evaluation or more specific information about the level of performance or the nature of the behaviour. Positive feedback that reinforces feelings of confidence, pride and satisfaction in your employees can sustain behaviour change and provide incentive to further improve.

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