Process-based approaches study what goals we choose and why. It also explains why we choose certain goals over others. To do that it takes into account personal goal orientation of an individual as well as analyzes the nature of the goals to understand what kind of goals lead to higher performance. In general, personal goal orientation can be broken into two further categories – goal choice (how an individual decides if a goal is worthy of pursuit) and goal striving (how an individual pursues a goal)
Among the many theories on goal choice, the most popular one is the Valence-Instrumentality-Expectancy (VIE) Theory. It says an individual is motivated to act or behave in a certain way over others based on what they expect the result of the behavior will be. The theory has three components –
Expectancy – the belief that one’s effort will result in the attainment of the desired goals
Instrumentality – the belief that the person will receive a reward when the expected performance is achieved
Valence – is the value an individual attaches to the expected outcome. Valence is characterized by the expected satisfaction of a particular outcome instead of the actual satisfaction one receives
Most companies set goals top-down based on key business priorities for the year and expect a standard of performance from their employees. However, according to VIE Theory, if we expect an employee to be motivated to work hard towards achieving a goal, they must perceive some degree of control over the expected outcome. When they feel that their skills and abilities are not enough to achieve the said goal, naturally their motivation remains low. This is where newer ways of goal setting such as OKR with nested cadence becomes useful. When goals are set collaboratively with the employees, their sense of perceived control increases. Thus, raising Expectancy.
Secondly, Instrumentality in the workplace is often related to the rewards of performance appraisals such as promotions, hikes, bonus and benefits. For example, sales professionals are often motivated to exceed their sales quota as it directly relates to their sales bonus.
However, when performance is directly related to the rewards, it can lead to unnecessary stress in employees. As instrumentality also needs to fulfil the universal need for distributive justice. Which means employees must have trust in the organizational policies surrounding rewards as well as the people who get to decide the rewards for them i.e. their managers or supervisors.
Therefore, the onus of the process-approach of motivation lies on the management’s ability to accurately understand what their employees value and creating policies around that to bring out the best in them.
The second stage of the process-based approach is goal striving i.e. how an individual strives to achieve the set goals. Goal striving theories help us understand why we make sustained effort to achieve some said goals instead of giving up in between. A good understanding of this in the context of the workplace can help organizations to work on their employee engagement practices to boost continuous high performance.
Goal striving can be better explained by two theories – the theory of self-regulation and the theory of self-efficacy.
Self-Regulation Theory caters to the process by which an individual controls their thoughts, feelings and behaviors in order to achieve their goals. It is a great measure of a person’s self-motivation and discipline. This is why it is often said that “Discipline can you take you to places where motivation cannot”.
For example, a self-regulated employee will take personal accountability to make sure that the job gets done on time and tend to work well with minimal supervision.
When employees find their work to be personally meaningful or when the rewards attached to performance are lucrative to them, they make sure to exercise self-control so as to not risk the goal attainment.
To reinforce self-regulation, many organizations are moving towards a continuous performance management approach instead of the traditional annual performance review process. SuperBeings ensures regular performance check-in reminders and talking points with managers, updates on goals and quality 1:1 conversations helping employees stay on track throughout the year.
Even when the goals are chosen in alignment with the personality and needs of the individual, the often missing key to actually drive performance on ground is the employee’s belief in their own capacity to achieve the goal within the given time. This is called self-efficacy. In most cases, high efficacy leads to higher motivation and vice versa.
Self-efficacy can also be task specific, i.e. if you receive a simple project from your boss such as hitting 10% of their sales target every month, you will be more confident to achieve it than when the target is 35% per month.
Organizations can increase employee’s self-efficacy in collaboration with the managers, team leads and peers. When their effort is recognized, celebrated and rewarded by their peers and bosses, they gain confidence. This is why it is crucial for managers to regularly check-in with their employees, and hold 1:1 conversations to build better work relationships.
While goal choice and goal striving theories clarify how the nature and quality of goals influence behavior, there has been significant research to bring these two aspects of goals together and develop a uniform framework that can be easily employed by companies. The rising popularity of Goal Setting Theory over the last few decades implies the need for such an integrated approach.
Goal Setting Theory successfully combines the previous two approaches into a single model. It was presented by Edwin A. Locke, an American psychologist in 1968 and popularly known as the SMART Goals Theory.
This theory states that self-selected, specific, measurable, personally meaningful goals with the right balance of challenge and ease induces self-motivation in employees to put sustained effort in order to achieve the goals in time if there is frequent, relevant feedback and an expectation of fair and personally meaningful rewards when the goals are achieved.
Thus, Goal Setting Theory offers a comprehensive framework to boost high-performance. This can be explained through the following diagram of the High-Performance Cycle.
High Performance Cycle shows the mechanism how certain goals lead to higher employee efficiency, satisfaction and commitment over others. It is important to note that different aspects of the above cycle can come from different sources.
For example, for a sportsperson, most of these drivers of performance, motivation and satisfaction are inherently built into the nature of their work itself. Each game provides sufficient challenge, has clear, specific, measurable goals and has a system of continuous performance feedback built into how and where the game is played i.e. the scoreboard that records their performance at all moments. Moreover, when the game is won, it intrinsically satisfies the sportsperson by fulfilling their personal need for autonomy, competence and meaning.
On the contrary, in a corporate set-up, the feedback and progress on goals are not always evident. Hence, it is the responsibility of the organization, even more so of the managers, to make sure that employees are given clear, regular, frequent and actionable feedback to change, improve or adapt their work behaviors.
We will talk about how SuperBeings facilitates the High Performance Cycle in detail later, but in short – our intelligent OKR tool helps managers set challenging stretch goals based on individual team member’s strength as well as business needs. Moreover, we help organizations set customizable need based cadence for feedback and 1:1 conversations to promote a culture of continuous feedback. Thus, driving continuous high performance.
This need for external feedback (from managers and peers) as well as the organizational context in which the task is to be performed in motivation brings us to the third approach of workplace motivation – context-based approach.