Theory of Goal Setting is Key to Motivation and Productivity

5 Min Read
Theory of Goal Setting is Key to Motivation and Productivity

Setting goals is so important whether you realise it or not. If you don’t have them, you might find they offer you a secret way to accomplish even more and improve business results. This theory isn’t just a simple idea but is proven and backed up by goal-setting theory research.

Goal setting is a powerful tool; incorporating the theory of goal setting into the workplace can motivate and challenge employees, improve employee productivity, bolster employee engagement, and help your company succeed. However, there is a correct way and a wrong way in setting up goals.

Theory of goal setting is a proven employee engagement strategy to motivate and guide people towards a specific and measurable goal to improve their motivation and productivity. But when setting goals, it’s crucial to have a goal the person wants to achieve, and something they feel reflects their skill sets and talents. They’ll be more likely to engage in your whole business culture and feel part of the overall business strategy if you do.

If you don’t already use goal-setting in your business, this guide on the theory of goal setting will provide you with a clear reason why along with a simple, practical framework for doing so. In addition, this guide outlines some best practices when it comes to goal setting, including how to create goals employees will want to achieve and how to incorporate them into your business culture and how they can overall benefit your business strategy.

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What is goal setting theory?

Goal-setting theory, theory of goal setting or Locke’s goal setting is a study that explains how setting goals and achieving them can improve employee performance.

There is a straightforward process of deciding what we want to achieve and then setting out a course of action to achieve it. Goal setting theory of motivation was first introduced in the 1960s and is still relevant today to help businesses and individuals thrive.

It’s widely acknowledged that the secret to high employee engagement is to encourage employees to set attainable goals for themselves. If a goal is specific and measurable, employees are more likely to be motivated to work harder. Setting goals has been proven to increase employee performance, as well.

It’s based on Edwin Locke’s, one of the founders of goal-setting, five principles of goal-setting: Clarity, Challenge, Commitment, Feedback, and Task Complexity.

It’s an effective strategy for motivating employees to do their best.

If a goal is specific and measurable, employees will have a greater chance of attaining it, and they will likely increase their efforts toward reaching those targets.

Who created the Theory of Goal Setting ?

Goal setting theory has been around for decades, and Edwin Locke is the father of the theory. His study on the impact of goal setting on motivation and productivity led to the theory we know today as the theory of Goal setting.

Edwin Locke developed it in 1968, so it’s sometimes referred to as Locke’s Goal Setting Theory. Even though it’s referred to as Locke’s goal Setting theory, he didn’t work alone. It was a collaboration between two psychologists Edwin Locke and Paul Latham.

The theory of goal setting was developed over 25 years and over 400 studies and established that employees who have specific and measurable goals increase their effort to reach those goals and are more engaged in their work.

Locke published an article called “Toward a theory of task motivation and incentives“, covering the research on the theory of goal setting.

The theory of goal setting is primarily based on the premise that people are motivated by a desire to achieve and maintain positive self-evaluations.

5 Principles of Goal Setting Theory

Setting goals is an effective way to improve performance. Goals should be specific, challenging, provide feedback, be based on your present abilities, and have high levels of task complexity.

5 Principles of Goal Setting Theory

Locke and Latham’s set out five principles in the theory of goal setting:

Clear and precise goals are a must for success in any endeavour. You want to know what the goal is, why you want it, and how you will reach that goal. It is essential to define your goal because it helps keep you focused and motivated. It’s always important to be clear about what you want.


Setting challenging goals motivates everyone to give their best every time. Setting goals that are too easy, or ones that are too hard, can be counterproductive. If your goals are too easy, you will likely not have much motivation to reach them. If they are too hard, you will probably get discouraged or quit before even beginning. The key to goal setting is that they are challenging enough to find the motivation to meet them, but not so difficult that you will fail.


If you are not committed to reaching a goal, it’s not worth the time or effort it would take to achieve it. Goals need to be consistently applied to be effective. The key is to set a consistent daily routine around goal achievement. Helping you stay focused on track for success. When you achieve your goals, reward yourself for your efforts.


Learning from your own mistakes and overcoming challenges is asking for feedback. It’s essential to get immediate feedback on your progress toward your goals. Ask for honest, constructive feedback. Don’t expect perfection. Accept it takes time and that you may make mistakes along the way. The sooner you get feedback, the better.

Task Complexit

It is essential to have challenging and semi-complex goals. Too simple, you won’t have enough motivation to meet them. If they are too complicated, you may give up before even beginning.

Benefits of Locke and Latham Goal Setting Theory

If you don’t set goals, you’ll probably not be able to measure whether you achieved your goals or not. Goal setting is all about taking a step back and asking yourself what you want to achieve and then coming up with a plan on how you plan on reaching.

Every goal you set will be different from the goals of others. That is why you need to know what you want and select the right goals. 

Performance & Productivity: Creating action plans around meeting or exceeding goals.

Boost Morale and Employee engagement: Team members will feel more invested in the company’s success and will go the extra mile. This will help with the hiring process and with the retention rate. This will improve the efficiency of business and make all employees happy.

People have many goals they need to attain and often set goals that they cannot objectively measure or know if they have been met. One needs to pay attention to the details to avoid falling into this trap. When setting a goal for employees, it’s crucial to have a goal they’ll want to achieve, something they feel reflects their skill sets and talents. 

Tips on Goal setting

  • Employees are more engaged and productive if they have clear, measurable goals.  
  • Goals can be broken down into smaller, more manageable steps.
  • Clearer goals are easier it is to achieve.
  • Make sure your goals are realistic but also achievable.  
  • Creating too many goals can become overwhelming and lead to less productivity.  
  • Goal setting should be a continuous part of your employee’s daily routine.
  • Create goals for yourself, as well as for your team. Set your own goals first, and then work backwards to develop your team’s goals.
  • Use visual and written goals to make it easier to keep track of progress.
  • Goals can be measured in various ways, depending on what you want to achieve.
  • You can measure progress by looking at the number of completed tasks, the time spent on each task, or the number of meetings held. – You can measure goals in terms of results, such as improved customer satisfaction, reduced operating costs, etc.
  • Quantitative goals are usually easier to measure than qualitative goals.

Step to help achieve goals

The action takes you from where you are to where you want to be. If you do nothing else, set some action steps in place for each goal. Make sure that you are clear about the actions you need to take to reach your goal.

Goal without a plan is like reaching a destination without knowing where you are going. It would help if you had a plan in place before you start working toward your goal. If you plan to reach your goal, you are much more likely to follow through with the actions needed to achieve it. If you don’t have a plan, you can quickly lose focus. When setting goals, be sure to write them down to refer back to them when you are ready to take action.

Your plan should include a step-by-step process to get you to your goal. Don’t get discouraged or give up if your plan doesn’t work out. Then start again with a new plan.

Believe in yourself and others. Successful if you believe that you can be successful. It will help if you believe in yourself and your ability to reach your goals. If you don’t believe in yourself, you won’t have the motivation or drive to reach your goals. It would be best if you thought that you could do it and succeed.

Your beliefs about yourself and your abilities are the most crucial factor in determining how you feel about yourself and how motivated you are to reach your goals. These can be influenced by your past experiences and expectations for the future. If your believe about your abilities are negative, you will likely not be motivated to meet your goals.

Checkify and Goal Setting

Think about looking at other goal setting methods as there are many different types of goals, if the theory of goal setting isn’t right for you. Try others like SMART goals, CLEAR goals and OKRs.

Always remember achieving a goal is one step towards attaining another goal and more tremendous success for everyone.

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