In the first personal goals meeting for ‘Accountability Squad 2’ the excitement over the program is palpable. In the chat, Project Manager, Peter Hix, uploads links to useful courses and resources. Chief of Staff, Sofia Verkhoturova, jokes that she’s been so inspired by her squad members that she’s modified her goals twice over the course of the meeting. Non-techie individuals who work on the marketing and managerial sides of the company pair up to take courses in Python. Everyone is eager to get started.
The importance of goal setting to business and productivity is well known. According to psychologists Locke and Latham, goals help to mobilise your energy, leading to higher and more persistent effort overall. Goals guide your focus and the dopamine hit of seeing yourself progress helps you to sustain momentum. While Hadrian does use overall company goals, they’ve introduced a program that goes a step further: personal goals.
Every quarter employees are asked to set two personal goals to help them grow professionally. They are then put in accountability ‘squads’ of five people who help by offering guidance and encouragement. Support is offered by Hadrian in terms of financing courses and books. So long as it doesn’t interfere with day-to-day tasks, employees are encouraged to work on their goals during company time.
“As the company grows, the people have to grow with it,” says CEO Rogier Fischer. “If they don’t, two things can happen. One, they become obsolete and we have to replace them - which we don’t want to have to do ever. Or, and this is the bigger risk, in order for people to keep up they start working harder instead of smarter. Working like that can lead to burn out and stress. At the end of the day we want people to be happy.”
There are also clear benefits to having personal goals alongside overall company objectives. For one, the autonomy awarded to employees when it comes to creating their goals increases feelings of ownership. Fred C. Lunenbeg, professor at Sam Houston State University, has shown that owning goals is important to success. If individuals don’t truly accept the benefits of their goals they are more likely to fail. When employees choose their goals themselves they have the chance to really reflect on what will increase productivity.
Fischer highlights autonomy as a value which drove the program. “Being more productive for the company is a second-hand effect. First, you learn something you like, something you find interesting, and that increases engagement. And then, because of that, you become more productive.”
While another company might feel that employees should keep to their specialty, Fischer doesn't agree with that: “We have a Project Manager learning how to hack. He will not join the hacker team, but will end up being more productive when working on a project with our hackers.”
The freedom to design your own goals also helps employees to consider how they want to develop beyond just their performance within the company. According to Fischer, generally two types of goals emerge. The first is skill oriented, like wanting to learn a new coding language. The other kind of goal is more personal, often centred around leadership’ “People say hey I want to become a better interactor, a better communicator – a goal that is a bit less quantitative,” says Fischer. Through this program not only do they have the ability to do that, but team members can suggest resources or provide contacts to guide them on their way.
Accountability is also emphasised through the ‘accountability squads’. Dr Gail Matthews found that those who share their goals with a friend and write weekly updates were on average 33% more likely to accomplish their goals. The groups also have the added benefit of allowing individuals in different parts of the company interact and get to know each other better.
Chief of Staff, Sofia Verkhoturova, emphasises that she thinks being in a group also working towards a goal will help people be more comfortable expressing any struggles they might have.
Having launched just last week the program has been received with much enthusiasm. If ‘Accountability Squad 2’ is any example, the goals being set are ambitious and a growth mindset is being embraced. When asked what excites him most about the program Fischer says: “It forces people to take time off their regular duties and focus on personal growth. It’s a long-term investment in our most valuable asset, people..”