reating clear and achievable performance goals allows employees to reach their highest potential. Without such goals, employee growth and organizational success will be limited. But with the evolving nature of work, what does an effective performance goal look like today?
Strong performance goals must address the multifaceted roles employees play in today’s dynamic work environment. In this article, we’ll delve into practical examples of performance goals that meet this high standard. From customer satisfaction and marketing to innovation and continuous learning, discover how HR professionals can foster development of performance objectives that empower personal growth and strengthen teams’ collective abilities.
Table of Contents
Advantages of Strong Performance Goals
First, what counts as a strong performance goal? Let’s review their key qualities.
Meaningful goals take time and effort to achieve. Goals that are challenging and specific enhance performance far more than vague or easy goals, share psychology researchers Edwin A. Locke and Gary Latham in New Developments in Goal Setting and Task Performance. These strong performance goals deliver multiple benefits to individuals, teams, and companies:
- Enhancing capabilities. Strong performance goals stretch employees’ strengths and promote continuous learning. In turn, this brings an organization to a higher level of excellence.
- Engaging employees. Relevant goals engage employees in their own success. Their work becomes more purpose-driven, so they show up with greater commitment to achieve their objectives, as Locke and Latham explain.
- Clarifying expectations. With strong goals, employees know what to aim for and fully understand their roles. This avoids wasted time and resources.
- Boosting satisfaction and retention. With clear goals and support to achieve them, employees feel more secure in their roles, says the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Plus, the overall employee experience is more positive. In turn, employees remain more loyal to the organization.
When goals align with the needs of both employees and organizations, performance can increase by 22%, found Gartner. Moreover, with clear goals, people are more likely to work in a state of flow—a state of “deep concentration, confidence in their performance, and feeling in control of the situation,” as Deloitte explains. Within this state, people become fully engrossed in their work, allowing them to push past limits and experience greater rewards. The greatest employee growth happens while people are immersed in this highly engaged state.
Practical Examples of Performance Goals
Now, let’s talk about the different types of performance goals. Some relate to target outcomes, while others pertain to employee growth or leadership. Below, we share examples of performance goals in each of these categories.
Goals for Achievement
Each employee needs goals for work outputs. The specific goals they set for achievement will depend on the employee’s role, of course. Here are some examples of such objectives.
Customer Satisfaction Goals
An employee might aim to increase the satisfaction of the clients they work with personally. For instance, they might strive for a 25% improvement. Or, an employee might aim to reduce the time required to respond to customer requests by 15%.
Marketing and Sales Goals
Employees on the marketing team could aim to reach goals such as these:
- Increase conversion rate by 20%.
- Enhance social media following by 15%.
- Boost website traffic by 10%.
On a larger marketing team, several employees might team up to accomplish each of these goals. An individual’s goals might then include completing specific tasks related to these performance objectives, like the redesign of a website.
Meanwhile, sales staff could aim to increase revenue by 10% through strategic outreach to customers.
Product Development Goals
An employee focused on product design might aim to create two new product features to enhance the company’s offering. Creating one innovative idea that senior leadership loves could be another goal. Or, they could work to resolve issues with a product’s design.
Personal Development Goals
Employees can also set performance improvement goals that help them meet their targets. The younger generations (people ages 18–34) particularly seek out and expect continuous learning opportunities, notes SHRM.
That’s fortunate, since job responsibilities are continuously changing today as well. In fact, according to Gartner, the number of skills needed within a single role has been increasing by 10% per year since 2017. A 2023 LinkedIn survey found that between 2015 and 2027, the skill sets needed for particular jobs will change by 50%. Setting the right continuous learning goals will help employees successfully update their skill set. Further, providing this continuous learning support is the number-one way to improve retention, says LinkedIn.
Managers should help all employees assess the skills needed to achieve their performance objectives. Then, they can set continuous learning goals accordingly.
Here are some examples of developmental goals.
An employee could set a goal of learning to collaborate more effectively with his team. Progress could be measured through participation level in meetings as well as feedback from peers.
An employee could aim to improve the quality of her work output. For instance, she could strive to increase the accuracy of reports she creates for the company. In the process, she’ll work to become more detail-oriented.
Knowledge and Technical Skills
Employees might also aim to build their knowledge base or specific skills. For instance, they might aim to grow proficient in using particular software. They could aim to become the in-house expert on that program.
In an increasingly agile environment, workers might strive to become more flexible. Welcoming change and working with it rather than against it can bring major benefits. An employee might also work to grow more comfortable tackling different types of projects.
An employee might strive to let his innovative abilities shine. Spending more time brainstorming on new ideas and fleshing them out could brand him as a strong creative thinker.
Communication-related goals may include improving presentation skills. An employee might also aim to be more articulate in meetings. Or, she might strive to share clear project updates with her team.
An employee could also set a goal of exuding a positive attitude at work. This could mean showing up to meetings with a higher level of energy and focus, for instance.
The manager and the employee’s peers can provide input on progress toward many of these goals. For instance, the employee might receive positive feedback on a presentation.
Talent Management Goals
HR, managers, and leaders must have specific types of goals for themselves. Here are some examples of such goals.
Leaders and supervisors will aim to successfully manage particular projects to completion. This involves making sure all team members understand the tasks assigned to them and complete them on schedule. The manager must also ensure the quality of the finished project.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)
DEI goals include ensuring equal opportunities for all employees and improving the diversity at higher levels of the organization. Addressing implicit bias through trainings could be another goal. HR and organizational leaders must design and spearhead such initiatives.
Managers should set goals for employee development and training. A manager could aim to train 20 employees in how to use a new system, for example. Success could be measured not just based on workshops held, but on the percentage of employees who use the software correctly.
Finally, here are a few examples of HR-specific goals:
- Benefits development: Upgrading the benefits package for employees.
- Workshop design: Producing training modules for staff.
- Compliance: Filing paperwork on time and with 100% accuracy.
- Employee satisfaction: Enhancing the employee experience by a given percentage.
Of course, HR and leaders should set personal improvement goals as well. For instance, an HR manager could aim to become an expert in emerging compliance topics.
Designing Effective Performance Goals
With the fast-paced nature of today’s business world, strategic goal-setting has become more crucial than ever. Support growth and goal achievement by helping employees craft strong performance goals in these ways.
Partner with Employees
“Thirty percent of employees strongly agree that their manager involves them in goal setting,” says Gallup. When involved in goal-setting, they become 3.6 times more likely to be engaged. Involving employees in goal-setting increases the likelihood that they’ll achieve them.
Consider their long-term goals and ambitions when setting shorter-term goals, as McKinsey urges. Check in about what they aim to accomplish professionally in the next 1–3 years.
Review Higher-Level Goals
Following the cascading goals approach, set employee goals that support team, department, and organizational goals. Look over higher-level goals with the employee, then set personal goals that align with them.
Define the “Why”
“Achieving goals becomes easier when they’re meaningful and connected to a reason and purpose—your ‘why,’” says Allison Walsh in Harvard Business Review. This allows you to become laser-focused on the goal, channeling all your energy toward it. “Your vision and ideas become easier to outline, understand, and communicate because you’re intentionally focusing on the reason you want to do something and how it will impact you,” she says.
Lean on Strengths
Help employees set goals that leverage their key strengths, says Gallup. For example, if an employee is highly analytical, she can set goals related to critical thinking or knowledge building. Meanwhile, an exceptional communicator might set goals centred on influencing others.
Every performance goal should be a SMART goal—specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. That means each goal must have specific key performance indicators (KPIs) attached to it. If you can’t think of KPIs, try to make the goal more specific. At that point, measurable outcomes will become more clear.
Begin with the End in Mind
Start with the end in mind as you create a strategy for goal achievement, as Paycor recommends. Define what you aim for an employee to achieve. Then work backwards, stating tasks that will help them get there. For example, setting two new appointments with clients per week may help sales staff reach their goal, they note.
Name Your Obstacles
Identify the potential hurdles to achieving employees’ goals, as Walsh says. Recognizing these challenges—and any related fears—allows people to strategically confront them. Help employees map out how they’ll overcome these hurdles on the path to their goal. Discuss any support you can provide.
Focus on Building Habits
Striving to master something can feel daunting, causing people to procrastinate. Focusing instead on creating new habits can make a goal feel more achievable—especially when people are struggling with confidence. For instance, if an employee aims to grow her knowledge base, encourage her to spend one hour a day on this personal growth.
Set Goals Collaboratively
Hold collaborative team goal-calibration sessions, Gartner advises. Here, team members can make sure their personal goals align and support team and organizational goals.
Allow Goals to Evolve
Adapt goals as organizational priorities change. Gartner notes that just 44% of employees modify goals when their responsibilities change, which hinders organizational success.
Use the following template to set goals, identify potential hurdles to achieving them, and determine how to overcome these challenges through personal growth. Using this framework will help you craft mutually supportive goals for achievement and continuous learning.
Template for Crafting Performance Goals
Employee Name: ___________________________________
Key Steps Toward This Goal:
Personal Development Goal:
Key Steps Toward This Goal:
Tracking Performance Goals
Finally, use the right tools to measure steps taken toward goals. For example, Primalogik offers goal-tracking software that teams and individuals can use to visualize their progress. Using such tools boosts motivation by showing employees how much they’ve accomplished.
Encourage employees to set “mini goals” each day, as Deloitte suggests. Setting target objectives for each workday will bolster motivation, and in turn, momentum toward bigger goals.
By setting and tracking goals, you can dramatically boost employee growth and organizational success. Through promoting continuous learning, you’ll support employees in meeting performance objectives. As you provide ongoing developmental opportunities and regularly evaluate progress toward goals, you’ll enhance achievement across your organization.
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