Make Employee Engagement More Human Using Multiple Milestones

March 11, 2020 Sharlyn Lauby

4-minute read

mile marker

In the book “The Power of Moments,” co-author Dan Heath tells the story of Josh Clark. Josh experienced a bad breakup with his girlfriend and to help himself get over the slump, he decided to start running.

But Josh hated running. So, he had to figure out a way to persevere and eventually enjoy it. He did it by breaking down this very large task (enjoying running) into small milestones. Every time he completed a milestone, he saw positive results. And the people around him saw positive outcomes as well and would support and encourage him.

Josh eventually turned his experience into something that everyone could use. He is the founder of Couch to 5K (also known as C25K), which introduces people to the joys of running and the power of setting and achieving exercise goals.

Now let’s take Josh’s story and translate it to a business context. I once worked for an organization that was a lot like the C25K story. Whenever we had a big project, our CEO would remind us, “How do you eat an 800-pound elephant? One bite at a time.”

Unfortunately, we often sabotage our goals – whether they’re individual or organizational – because we don’t break them down into manageable milestones. In addition, we often forget to recognize or celebrate achieving those milestones. We’re so focused on the big goal that we forget the milestones are important too. A great takeaway from Dan’s book is the reminder that just because the big goal hasn’t been achieved, doesn’t mean there’s not cause for celebration.

Milestones help us develop momentum.

Another takeaway from “The Power of Moments” is the benefit of setting and accomplishing milestones. You’re able to see progress over time. As you review your progress, you can say, “Look how far I’ve come.” This process of review and reflection translates into pride. Organizations can build more human workplaces by creating more of these pride moments. Here are three ways to do it:

1.     Keep traditional numerical goals and supporting plans. There’s nothing wrong with them as long as organizations add a level of accountability. Pride comes from being held accountable for something and then accomplishing it. Again, organizations shouldn’t forget to recognize the accomplishment, even if it’s considered part of the job, like meeting a sales goal.

2.     Allow employees to set goals that are intrinsically motivating to them. In addition to company goals, let employees have goals that make them feel good. Companies need to allow employees to have their personal goals on equal footing with team goals. To do this, managers need to spend time learning what motivates their team. They can have one-on-one meetings to support and encourage employees.

3.     Teach employees how to recognize and reward themselves. Managers and co-workers should definitely support and encourage one another. But that doesn’t mean self-recognition isn’t essential. This isn’t to devalue or create a substitute for recognition from others. But sometimes the rewards or splurges that we give ourselves are just as important and special as the ones that come from others. As an example, I have a couple of little trinkets in my office. They’re not big at all, but they’re things I bought myself when I did a particularly good job on something. I’m not sure they would matter to anyone who sees my office, but to me, they represent achievement.

Moments of pride make the workplace more human.

Organizations that create more pride moments ultimately create organizational momentum. Employees can see how far they’ve come, and it gives them the motivation to do more. Pretty soon, they are looking around for more goals to achieve. It’s momentum that helps companies reach their goals, which benefits the bottom-line.


Working Human: Autonomy Leads to Employee Engagement

Purpose Is the Foundation for Working Human

Survey Findings: The Power of Career Milestones

About the Author

Sharlyn Lauby

Sharlyn Lauby is author of HR Bartender blog and president at ITM Group, Inc.

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