How to Set Goals to Increase Labor Productivity

One of the first factors for increasing labor productivity is to have a management style which is based on positive reinforcement. If you don’t, your people will quickly give up or will be difficult to motivate. Setting goals is an essential part of engaging your people. Productivity goals should be set by the leader in conjunction with the staff. Too often, goals are prescribed and never reached. There a few things that are central to the goal setting process and the first one is understanding that goals in themselves do not motivate. It is the consequences associated with the goals that is the driving factor towards increasing labor productivity. Productivity goals should be set so that the probability of reaching them is high. This is contrary to traditional productivity goal setting that insists there should be plenty of “stretch” in the goals.

It’s the success and the consequences that not only cause excitement about the current goal but also about future goals. This is why any goal setting exercise should have milestones that can be celebrated on the way to the main goal. This enables plenty of positive reinforcement which should be present in the work place every day. There is always a sense of achievement when one of the milestones is reached on the way to the goal. This is obviously compounded by the application of positive reinforcement. What is not obvious is that positive reinforcement accelerates behavior and this, in turn, creates some momentum that is not normally present.

When you have difficult goals or “stretch” goals momentum is decreased over time which subsequently creates the potential for de-motivation in the labor force. It can be safely said that unrealistic productivity goals are one of the major reasons why so many productivity improvement plans fail. Small goals don’t mean that people won’t work hard to achieve them or that little is accomplished. Being patient and adding small increments to behavior that increases productivity will produce real and sustainable growth. Having small but reasonable goals sends the message to the staff members at they are possible and desirable. If, on the other hand, they decide that the goal is either impossible or unreasonable, the only tasks that will be completed are the ones that are demanded.

Setting goals with small increments is a well-established technique for effective behavioral change. It has been described a way of positively reinforcing every part of the behavior that moves the person towards the ultimate goal. Every movement in the right direction is the opportunity for positive reinforcement.