1. What Is A Performance Goal?
A performance goal means a target level of performance expressed as a tangible, measurable objective against which actual achievement can be compared, including a goal expressed as a quantitative standard, value, or rate.
Performance goals and goal performance review can then be an agreement between an employer and an employee. However, they can also be self-imposed.
Many companies use a performance management system to assess how employees achieve their goals. This assessment forms the basis for employment decisions like promotions, raises, transfers, and dismissals.
In a way, employment goals lay out a short-term career path for each employee. They tell the employees what they should work toward to earn a pay raise or a new position.
2. What Are The Best Practices For Setting Performance Goals?
Talent is the current single biggest differentiator in business success, and organizations do not have the luxury of failure towards employee performance.
Leverage the following three best practices to ensure goal setting aligns with the work. Ensure that employee goals are impactful and drive business outcomes.
No. 1: Help managers provide context for goal setting
To help their teams set goals, provide managers with information about business strategy and how it relates to the diverse roles of employees. Managers must then give direction that translates information into specific tasks and actions. Providing guidance lets employees see the link between their work and overall company strategy. HR plays a strategic role in helping managers understand business strategy and translate it to their teams.
No. 2: Make goal setting more collaborative
Given the increasingly collaborative nature of work, transform goal setting from a solo activity to a team activity. Have individuals share goals with their team and ensure that everyone understands how their goals relate - and that they are jointly accountable for achieving the results outlined in their business strategy.
Also, implement team goal calibration sessions rather than just requesting peer feedback at the end of the year during the formal performance review process.
No. 3: Empower employees to update goals regularly
Organizations must build flexibility into the goal-setting process so employees can evolve their goals as their roles and the business change. Have employees review their objectives with their manager quarterly, at minimum, and at the start of the year. Help managers and employees identify triggers for adjusting goals, including changes in company or business unit financial performance, staff turnover, or technology advances.
3. Why Is It Important To Set Performance Goals?
Here are some excellent reasons an employee should be setting their goals:
- To boost employability
Your performance in your current position is the key to your future employment. When you achieve uncommon results by setting performance goals, you are opening up future opportunities for yourself.
- To position for a promotion
Setting performance goals will earn you a favorable reputation in the organization. It will also open you up to many incentives, including pay raises, promotions, and elevation to a higher office.
- The ordinary worker is rewarded for efficiency, whereas the extraordinary worker is promoted for achieving goals.
- To meet organizational demands
The requirements of your work might be daunting and even beyond your reach. However, when you carefully plan and set goals for meeting these requirements, you will find energy, resources, and even more opportunities to accomplish your goals.
- To be efficient and effective
As Peter Drucker said: Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.
Your boss might have to tell you how to do the job right, but you must figure out your role. For that, you should look for uncommon ways to achieve the organizational business objectives and go the extra mile to do what the organization never thought was possible.
4. How To Get the Most of Your Employees with Performance Goals?
Writing performance objectives can be an annual challenge for managers. But it should not simply be a tick-the-box exercise.
The most effective performance goals need to motivate employees. We have listed below 10 methods that you can apply to boost the achievement of the goals by your employees.
1. Set SMART Goals
With SMART goals, your employees can see what you expect of them. Vague, general objectives fail to provide adequate instruction or enthusiasm.
SMART goals are Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, and have a set Time frame. They give your employees real goals that are achievable yet challenging.
- Be specific
Be clear with each goal. Use action verbs that indicate what you want your employees to do: increase, reduce, win, develop, etc. Include specific details or targets to give your employees something to aim for. Shelve vague objectives such as improving customer service or increasing customer satisfaction.
- Made to measure
Your employees should easily see how they are progressing toward the goal. General objectives can lead to misinterpretation and potentially unhappy employees. Explain how you measure each target, so both parties will know if it has been achieved.
- Ensure goals are attainable
The goals you set need to be possible yet challenging. If they are too difficult, employees will give up; if they are too easy, you will fail to motivate staff. Give your employees attainable goals and offer them an opportunity to shine. Finding this perfect middle ground might not happen immediately. You can make any necessary refinements by measuring progress and evaluating an employee’s final performance.
- Be relevant
Your ultimate objective is to ensure that each goal you set is relevant to specific employees, realistic within their role - including job responsibilities and relates to the larger organizational goals. While it is great to be creative with goal setting, writing SMART goals is about establishing objectives that make sense to your employees and their day-to-day role.
- Make a time-frame
A goal should not stretch too much in time because it will be harder to achieve. Instead, it should have a time frame with a specific deadline. Employees need to know what they should achieve and by what date when setting a timeline (and milestones along the way).
“If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” –Zig Ziglar
2. Align with your business purpose
SMART goals work best when they are similar to the overall organizational objectives. So before you start writing your employee goals, take a look at the latest business objectives: do you need to reduce customer churn, do you need to meet increased demands for popular products, or has a competitor edged ahead of you?
Use these organizational goals as a starting point: what goals can you set that fit in with the business.
3. Use a goal-tracking platform
To handle your work better, we recommend using a work management platform designed to track, manage, assign, and see the progress across your team. Such tools help to streamline communication and provide collaborative elements to help you and your peers to understand what is important, find the status of various tasks, and understand how to advance with the overall team goals. When you want clarity, accountability, and collaboration in your business, you know what’s missing from your success toolkit.
Tip: We do recommend using tools like Asana.
4. Break big goals down into smaller tasks
Goals are often very challenging and look impossible to achieve; however, experienced managers know that if these goals are divided into several subgoals and tasks, the responsibilities are distributed, and a clear timeline is created. The execution is closely monitored and supported every time there is a blockage, then big goals can be achieved.
“The great danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” –Michelangelo
5. Act on your goals
Once you set up the tasks is time to put the plan into action. Your employees will need some push from time to time; you will need to find out the bottlenecks and solve them. If you leave such situations unsolved, your employees’ motivation will go down, and they will doubt their confidence and might be less accountable for the upcoming tasks.
Ensure your people are accountable by having weekly reviews and 1-on-1 meetings where you discuss the state of play and advise on how to move things forward.
“Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal.” —Earl Nightingale
6. Make adjustments
Being open to changes is a crucial part of any goal-setting. As you know, you might not get everything right the first time. But for your objectives to resonate with employees, you must remain flexible. Here is where the evaluation and adjustment steps combine: evaluation shows you if there are issues with your set objectives, and you can re-adjust if appropriate.
Tip: Don’t be obsessed with meeting all the deadlines. This might lead to burnout. Be flexible; give a few days to get things done.
“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” – Confucius
When devising employee objectives, ascertain your scheduled performance evaluations within the established time frame of the goal. By evaluating progress, you can monitor what is being achieved (or not), discuss the headway towards the objective, and make any necessary adjustments. This ongoing evaluation also means that goals do not disappear or get put on the long finger.
“Set realistic goals, keep re-evaluating, and be consistent.” - Venus Williams
5. Employee Performance Goal Examples
Setting goals is crucial to establishing best practices in the organization. When you seek help online to develop employee goals, you will come across many sample goals for employees that you can benefit from. Every example differs from the other based on the industry and what the organization’s ultimate goal is.
Here are the top 10 employee performance goals and objectives examples:
1. Collaboration Goals
People who work together to achieve the team’s goals are more successful. The benefits of collaboration are numerous. Famous sayings are saying that 1+1=3. And that the quality of work within diverse teams gets better, they are more creative in finding solutions, teach each other how to deliver more effectively, and boost the overall productivity and motivation of the team.
Example of a SMART goal: By October 15, help Joanne with organizational tasks of the Sales Training for the Q2 newcomers.
- Specific: Help to organize a Sales training
- Measurable: One training to be organized for the newcomers joining the company in Q2.
- Achievable: The employee must find the date for the training, book the location, invite the new hires, and give the training. Joanne is qualified in the field and will have support for the organizational tasks.
- Relevant: After the event, the newcomers will understand how to become better sales representatives
- Time-based: The goal needs to be achieved by a set date.
Other examples of collaboration goals
- Acknowledge good work with peers
- Provide constructive feedback to the colleagues involved in developing the online product.
- Acknowledge the team-members hard work, creativity, and dedication
- Listen actively to each party before making any statement
- Ask open questions to your peers so that they discover the optimal way to solve a challenge
- Support the team in their judgments, even if you’re not entirely convinced.
2. Professional Development Goals
How are your skills now compared with when you started your first job? Many hours of training, practical work on real projects, and continuously striving to improve your skills will help you be more valuable in a competitive market.
Example of a SMART Goal: Get certified as a professional coach by the end of the year
- Specific: Get the training + pass the exam to become a coach.
- Measurable: Participate in the required training, deliver the required number of coaching sessions, and pass the exam to obtain the certificate successfully
- Achievable: The employee is highly interested in obtaining this accreditation and is willing to work hard to obtain it.
- Relevant: By obtaining this certification, the respect, reputation, and people skills will be boosted
- Time-based: The certification needs to be achieved by the end of the year.
Other examples of professional development goals
- Get a leadership certification
- Enhance time management abilities
- Host a practical communication workshop
- Plan your work more effectively
- Attend a workshop on conflict resolution
- Have a dedicated meeting with your managers on remote task delegation.
3. Self-Management Goals
Effective employees possess self-management skills such as accountability, focus, adaptability, organization, planning, stress management, and time management skills. Having mastered these competencies, you can grow on the career ladder and work independently on essential tasks.
Example of a SMART Goal: Improve time management skills by tracking time worked on tasks and completing 3 Pomodoro sessions every workday for the next two weeks.
- Specific: Implement time tracking at work and use the Pomodoro technique.
- Measurable: Track time for the next ten days and work in a focused way to achieve three Pomodoro sessions.
- Achievable: Measure how time is spent at work and focus using the Pomodoro technique.
- Relevant: Experts in time management have vetted the technique to get more done and boost employee productivity.
- Time-based: The employee shall test the new hobbit within the next two weeks.
Some other examples of self-management goals you can follow:
- Boost productivity
- Be accountable
- Take ownership of new opportunities
- Manage time more efficiently
- Improve prioritization
- Get better with organizational qualities
- Improve your decision-making abilities.
4. Soft-Skills Development Goals
Teamwork, problem-solving, conflict management, adaptability, time management, and communication are soft skills that recruiters are looking for within their new hires. Keep in mind that there are not just some words; they need to be implemented in your day-to-day activities at work to gain respect, build trust, and succeed professionally.
Example of a soft-skill goal
Objective: Develop an employee development plan for the five marketing team members and assign specialized training to them by the end of the month.
- Hold five 1-on-1 meetings with the marketing team members to understand their training needs
- Have a written development plan for each one of them
- Discuss with the training manager the feasibility of implementing the plan.
Image by Enterra solutions
Other examples include:
- Offering better feedback
- Improve critical thinking abilities
- Provide opportunities for public speaking
- Boost interpersonal relationships
- Be more self-aware.
5. Creativity Goals
Creativity reflects how you will be able to execute a set of tasks. Think about leave management: you can do it on paper, using excel spreadsheets or Google sheets, or use automated leave management software. Creative thinking helps in communing with new solutions for existing problems.
Example of a creative goal:
Objective: Refresh the homepage of our website by the end of Q1.
- Have the homepage of our business redesigned
- Work with the marketing and design colleagues to analyze the old website and what is working, identify areas of improvement, set up goals for the new website, set up a timeline, assign tasks and responsibilities
- Communicate better to our audiences online over our key offerings.
Other examples include:
- Learn to use vector graphics software, i.e., Adobe Illustrator, or Figma
- Learn to write scripts for YouTube videos in a creative way
- Practice creative thinking for improving marketing aims
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”- Henry Ford
6. Emotional Intelligence Goals
One of the most important skills among leaders is emotional intelligence, known as EQ. EQ practically refers to several less discussed competencies such as: listening assertively, avoiding confrontations, listening more than speaking, keep your emotions aside when having a difficult situation.
According to Daniel Goleman, the author widely known as a pioneer of the field, there are some sub-skills as part of EQ: Self-awareness, self-regulation, self-motivation, and empathy.
Some goals in this category include:
- Admit your mistakes
- Stop judging your colleagues
- Be more assertive in communications
- Take time to celebrate positive results
- Practice empathy with your team members
- Take an emotional intelligence course.
Image by EPM
“Between the stimulus and response, there is a space. And in that space lies our freedom and power to choose our responses. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Victor Frankl
7. People Management Goals
Whether you are an employee or a manager, your people management skills show that you are a team player, communicate efficiently, and develop the skills to motivate others. It also supports transdisciplinary skills development goals that enable you to align with different departments in the organization.
Example: Schedule 1-to-1 meetings with each team member every week, to understand what are the key challenges each employee has and offer support to advance with the team objectives.
When you must work with other colleagues, it is very important to have good people management skills; otherwise, you will see that your colleagues will quit, complain or be very stressed. You don’t want to be that kind of manager – you want to boost motivation, lead the team forward, grow each of your members, and have a good time.
Example people management goals:
Objective: Schedule 1-to-1 meetings with each team member weekly to understand each employee’s key challenges and offer support to advance with the team objectives.
- Understand better each team member
- Boost the work relationships
- Help in advancing the bottlenecks.
Learn more about the 12 key people management skills and how to implement them in your team.
8. Negotiating goals
Negotiation is an ability you will use at work and in your private life. Think how often you asked for a deadline extension, asked a colleague to support you with a specific task, or discussed a detailed roadmap. You believe you had a better opinion but couldn’t explain it clearly enough. Negotiation has a lot of nuances. It can be learned and will be very useful in the case of managing people, solving conflict, and getting a better deal; however, the basics are the same.
Examples of negotiation goals:
- Assess the situation and create value for each side
- Manage expectations better for each side
- Think outside the box to achieve win-win results
- Act with respect, calm, and patience when handling a difficult situation.
9. Virtual Communication Goals
The last years showcased a revolution in how we communicate. Many of us were used to Skype; however, the popularity of apps like Zoom was exceptionally driven, especially by the recent epidemy when people had to work remotely. Tools like Zoom or Google Meet help with online video calls, while Slack and Microsoft Teams revolutionize how we work on demanding and fast-paced projects, and platforms like Asana or Notion allow us to prioritize our tasks and follow them accordingly. Software for remote work teams are making the difference between successful and average teams.
Example Virtual communication goal
Objective: Organize a visual brainstorming meeting using Miro to discuss the marketing strategy until the end of the month.
- Have a virtual meeting
- Start using a virtual whiteboarding tool
- Assess team-members ideas for our marketing strategy
- Have a marketing timeline for engaging content
- Be more engaging online (voice, body, energy, tone).
- Break down complex messages and maintain focus
- Improve your Camera, Audio, or Lightning
- Use a visual communication tool for brainstorming/training sessions.
10. Decision Making Goals
The process of evaluating multiple choices and selecting the one that fits your goals better. Although the actor discussing such decisions is a manager, most employees must make decisions daily. Shall I call this contractor, or shall I send an email? Shall I negotiate the price, or is it ok like this? Can I trust these numbers, or should I double-check them with the accounting expert?
By investing in having your workforce with better decision-making skills, your results will also get better overall.
Example decision-making goal:
Objective: Practice shared leadership for one month. When handling a difficult situation, invite one-two of your best employees and discuss how to address the issue.
- Key employees get experience on to handle difficult situations and the steps that help to reach the best results
- Get a fresh perspective on challenging assumptions and eliminating biases
- Boost trust by sharing key decisions.
Other examples include:
- Start at the end and work backward
- Document your assumptions, time frame, and key reasoning before having a decision-making conversation
- Reflect on 2-3 past decision-making situations that didn’t go according to plan and see what you can learn from them.
- Help your team members to navigate successfully through challenging decision-making situations
- Observe how your coworkers are addressing important and urgent situations to give better constructive feedback
- Use a decision journal and capture the issue, the expectations, the assumptions, and the time frame for evaluating results.
"Decisions are the hardest thing to make, especially when it's a choice between where you should be and where you want to be." - Unknown authorFrequently asked questions:
Difference between goals and objectives
Asana defines the differences as follows: A goal is an achievable outcome that is generally broad and long term, while an objective is shorter term and defines measurable actions to achieve an overall goal.
Here are two clear examples on the differences between goals and objectives:
- A goal: I want to learn to post YouTube videos for our business.
- The objective: I will learn to make YouTube scripts, record them with professional camera and learn to use a video editing tool before uploading them by the end of the month.
Setting employee performance goals should be a common practice within your organization. By setting such goals, you have the opportunity to positively impact the lives of your employees and the potential to uplift your entire organization’s bottom line.
You might have realized that in the employee performance goals examples above, a number of them include self-reflection.
Self-awareness and reflection are key for every individual to grow personally and professionally. It allows you to determine your strengths and areas you should improve.
Moreover, the beauty of the skills and goals above is that they closely relate to each other. For example, improving emotional intelligence will boost your decision-making skills and people management. Or by improving your active listening skills, you also contribute to your negotiation and people management skills.