Why companies should have short-term goals to fit the younger generation

In these times, when everything is bite-sized for convenience, why can't goals be too, for ease of achievement?


The younger generation, including Millennials and Gen Z, are rapidly becoming the largest demographic in the workforce and job market. Therefore, companies need to adapt their strategies to cater to this cohort’s preferences and values. These youngsters do not believe in long-term rewards and are unwilling to make short-term sacrifices for the long-term rewards. Therefore, companies should consider setting short-term goals that align with the needs and aspirations of the younger generation.

How can companies benefit from short-term goals?

Focusing on the long-term goals alone, will not help manage the changing needs of businesses. Short-term goals can benefit companies in many ways as follows:

To keep pace with changes: Given the dynamic business orientation, short-term goals are important in today’s context. “It’s not only the preferences of the younger generation, but the demands of the business that require organisations to have short-term goals in place,” points out Praveen Purohit, deputy CHRO, Vedanta Resources.

Long-term goals alone are not enough to fulfil the changing needs of the business. For instance, the information technology (IT) sector used to have five-year goals in the past. That is, goals used to be set for longer periods. The time span then reduced to three years, and then finally down to a year. Many functions such as sales and marketing are even following weekly targets in line with their business needs. Purohit points out how in his company, “In addition to the sales and marketing teams, even the HR, is required to provide weekly updates — on what’s happening, where we are and what’s our plan. Short-term goals are not for the younger generation alone, but the need of the hour, given the dynamics and the way changes are happening.”

“It’s not only the preferences of the younger generation, but the demands of the business that require organisations to have short-term goals in place.”

Praveen Purohit, deputy CHRO, Vedanta Resources

To cater to changing preferences of the younger generations: The younger generation has different preferences and values than the previous generations. For instance, they prefer experiences over material possessions. They are interested in sustainable and ethical products, and higher pay scales. They are volatile and want things to be done quickly. “By setting short-term goals that align with these preferences, companies can meet the needs of this demographic and remain relevant,” adds Tanaya Mishra, VP & head-HR, Endo International. The younger generation tends to be more risk-averse and wants to be assured that their efforts will lead to tangible outcomes. By setting short-term goals that are achievable and impactful, companies can build confidence and engagement among this cohort.

To ensure agility and adaptability: In today’s fast-paced business environment, companies need to be able to quickly adapt to changing market conditions and customer needs. Short-term goals allow companies to be more agile and responsive, enabling them to pivot their strategies as needed to stay ahead of competition. By setting achievable goals that can be quickly accomplished, companies can build trust and loyalty with the younger generation. Also, if anything goes wrong, there’s time to counter the fall-back in time and run again with a new strategy.

“Setting short-term goals that reflect the values and aspirations of the younger generation can help companies create a positive image and foster a culture of innovation.”

Tanaya Mishra, VP & head-HR, Endo International

To attract & retain talent: As the workforce becomes increasingly dominated by younger workers, companies that are seen as innovative and forward-thinking are more likely to attract and retain top talent. “Setting short-term goals that reflect the values and aspirations of the younger generation can help companies create a positive image and foster a culture of innovation,” opines Mishra.

To build confidence: Short wins not only help measure progress, but also help build more confidence to do better in the future. “Experiencing the outcomes of short-term goals gives people confidence for the long term,” points out Purohit. The entire process (achieving short-term goals) helps motivate the younger generation to do better and improve themselves in the process.

To gain the trust of stakeholders: Short-term goals can provide a sense of momentum and progress, which can be motivating for both employees and customers. By setting achievable goals that can be quickly accomplished, companies can demonstrate their ability to deliver results and build trust with their stakeholders. “The pace of measuring progress in business is becoming really fast and this is where short-term goals come into play. These are the scales that people use to measure how much they’ve progressed and achieved,” says Purohit.

Stating the example of Shark Tank (the reality television where budding entrepreneurs make business presentations to a panel of investors, convincing them to invest in their enterprise), he explains that for startups or companies that are just starting out, progress is always measured based on what they did in the previous year — the targets they had in mind, the strategies they followed, and how they achieved the set goals/targets.

To enjoy the convenience: Additionally, establishing such short-term goals is much easier than waiting to see results in the long span. For both large companies and startups, the approach is more convenient as both the businesses interpret numbers and manage their cash flows on a regular basis. “Since the entire ecosystem is demanding this, the transition from setting long-term to short-term goals is much easier,” confirms Purohit.

Setting short-term goals that are tailored to fit the younger generation can help companies stay relevant, attract top talent, remain agile and adaptable, and also generate quick wins. It also demonstrates a commitment to understanding and meeting the needs of an important demographic that will increasingly influence the marketplace in the times to come.

Disadvantages of focusing on short-term goals

Despite the benefits for the younger generation, there can also be a flip side to focussing on short-term goals alone.

Being focused only on short-term goals can lead to short-sightedness among the younger generation. As a result, the bigger picture tends to get lost. Short-term goals do help achieve the daily targets, but without a long-term vision or purpose, the energy to keep going goes down the drain. Hence, “it’s important to strike a balance between the two (long and short term goals), as one can’t move without the other,” points out Mishra.

Sometimes, focussing on short-term goals alone can also lead to a loss of direction. It can cause people and the business to wonder about the next course of action once the set target is achieved. Therefore, it’s also important for companies to understand their long-term goals and then take steps accordingly. “Short-sightedness when it comes to what is to be achieved without a proper direction can even do more harm than good. The ideal approach is to understand the organisation’s long-term goals, and break them into short-term components which are more attainable,” concludes Mishra.

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