Productivity and cost improvement: numerous studies have shown that setting a specific difficult goal leads to significant increases in employee productivity (example in figure 3).
Performance appraisal: the higher the goal, the higher and more positive the performance appraisal (and the more satisfaction with the performance appraisal process).
Selection: In situational interviews, each question contains a dilemma that assesses an applicant's goals or intentions for what he or she would do when confronted by these situations. Meta-analyses have shown that the situational interview has higher criterion-related validity than all other selection interviews.
Self-regulation at work: goal setting is a key variable in self-regulation.
e.g. Training in self-regulation can teach employees to set specific high goals (e.g. for attendance, see Frayne and Latham, 1987), to monitor ways in which the environment facilitates or hinders those goals and to identify and administer rewards for making goal progress, as well as punishments for failing to make progress toward a specific goal. Being able to exercise influence on your own behavior, increases self-efficacy, which in turn helps you reach your goal.
e.g. Mental practice (symbolic guided rehearsal of a task in the absence of any physical involvement) with implicit or explicit goal setting led to significantly higher self-efficacy compared to the control group. Self-efficacy correlated significantly with goal commitment and communication skills on the job.
The high performance cycle:
High goals --> high performance --> rewards --> high satisfaction/self-efficacy --> even higher goals
This cycle explains the lack of a direct connection between job satisfaction and subsequent productivity (high satisfaction is the result and not the cause of high performance when rewards are commensurate with performance; the relation is indirect). Job satisfaction leads to performance only if it fosters organizational commitment, only if this commitment is to specific and challenging goals, and only if the moderator variables discussed in the article are taken into account.
Goal setting is applicable to any self-regulated activity.
New directions and Limitations
Goal Conflict - Personal vs. organization goals. When specific, difficult goals of the person are aligned with the group's goal of maximizing performance, the group's performance is enhanced. Without such alignment, personal goals have a detrimental effect on a group's performance.
Goals and Risk: A study found that difficult performance goals increased the riskiness of the strategies participants chose and improved performance. Higher risk strategies may of course lead to worse performance than lower risk strategies; the conditions under which better or worse outcomes occur need to be studied further.
A number of studies have that goals, along with self-efficacy, mediate the effect of personality measures on work performance.
If goals mediate personality effects, then goals should be better predictors of action than traits. Thus far, research supports this statement; the setting of a high goal creates a strong situation.
Goals and Subconscious Motivation
In a study by McClelland et al. (1953), need for achievement had no concurrent or longitudinal relationship with a firm's performance and no relationship to entrepreneur-set goals.
Other research shows that even over a long period, Ryan's first-level explanation of motivation as conscious goal setting, may be more reliably and directly tied to action than are second-level explanations (e.g. motives).
The conscious and subconscious aspect of achievement motivation are unrelated.
Yet the subconscious is a storehouse of knowledge and values beyond that which is in focal awareness at any given time. People can take action without being fully aware. The lack of focus on the subconscious therefore is a limitation of goal-setting theory. Research is needed on the effect of the subconscious on goals and the ways in which goals arouse and affect subconscious knowledge.
Conclusion Goal-setting theory is fully consistent with social-cognitive theory in that both acknowledge the importance of conscious goals and self-efficacy. The focus of goal-setting theory is on the core properties of an effective goal:
Goal-setting theory is not limited to but focuses primarily on motivation in work settings. The effects of goal setting are very reliable. Specific difficult goals have been shown to increase performance on well over 100 different tasks involving more than 40,000 participants in at least 8 countries working in laboratory, simulation and field settings. This makes goal-setting among the most valid and practical theories of employee motivation in organization psychology.