Tips For Effective Employee Goal Setting

Jasmine Brennan-Rincon

Jasmine Brennan-Rincon

Human Resources Professional

A key factor in driving employee engagement and overall sustainability of the organization is performance management. The manner in which your company sets goals, rates contributions, and rewards employees will directly impact day to day productivity. It has been proven that highly effective companies manage employees through structured, goal oriented and well explained performance management systems that not only ensure adherence to job requirements but also give the employee the opportunity to pursue additional goals tied to professional development. Goal setting is the ideal mechanism for driving performance; there are a few key factors to include in the process to ensure effectiveness.

Set Goals that Align with Business Objectives

First and foremost, goals should directly align with overarching business objectives. Within any sustainable organization, it is the responsibility of all employees to support strategic initiatives within their scope of influence. While individual impact may vary based on role or position, each goal should have a direct correlation with the growth of the company. During phase one of the goal setting process, managers and direct reports should work collaboratively to identify and set goals; in other words, goals should not be imposed on any employee. The manager should be very straightforward in establishing the expectation that goals are intended to help the organization and the employee become more progressive. The goal setting process should be an exciting one, in which the employee is able to envision future contributions and understand his or her impact on the organization at large.

Set SMART Goals

It is not uncommon for individuals to aspire to do or accomplish something, with no clear action plan. Within a professional context, it is essential to develop structure around each goal to ensure that they are achieved. The definition of goal setting is the process of identifying a desired accomplishment and establishing measurable goals and timeframes. The SMART model provides substance around each goal that not only helps the employee stay on track, but also makes the assessment process easier.

Specific Goal statements should explicitly state what the employee would like to accomplish. Key information should be included regarding who is involved, what resources are necessary, when major milestones will be completed, where the work will take place, and why pursuing the goal is important.

Measurable The goal should also contain concrete criteria to be utilized in the assessment of the employee's progress toward achievement. Concisely indicating how the goal will be evaluated will allow the employee to make an action plan that ensures that objectives are met.

Actionable - Make sure that goals are attainable and within the employee's reach; while the goal setting phase is certainly an opportunity to set the bar for performance, establishing objectives that are out of the employee's reach is counterproductive. Ensure that goals are within the scope of the employee's abilities and bandwidth from a workload perspective.

Relevant - As previously stated, all employee goals should be directly tied to business objectives. It's important to note that general professional development, such as taking a business communication course, typically aligns with organizational goals of high productivity. Managers should encourage their direct reports to seek out opportunities to progress on an individual basis to enhance business acumen, subject matter expertise, and any other areas relevant to their jobs.

Time bound - Goal setting should be done on an annual basis, and while some goals may take more than one year to accomplish timing around milestones should be clearly noted. Each and every goal should have feasible, realistic start and completion dates.

Based on the SMART Goal Setting Model, a sample goal statement is 'Increase client satisfaction scores by 25 percent within the next six months by conducting biweekly check-ins with key accounts.' In this case, the goal directly impacts business objectives associated with customer service, there are references to completion date and frequency, the parties involved with the goal are defined, and the action is within the employee's scope of responsibility.

Regularly Gauge Progress

Employees and managers should regularly discuss goals throughout the year; with shifting priorities and the evolutionary nature of most organizations it may prove difficult to adhere to all of the dates and goals that were originally agreed upon. For this reason, conversations about progress toward goal attainment should be held regularly. While the objective is to achieve goals in accordance with the action plan, the most important thing is to actually drive employee performance and success. Therefore, monitoring employee progress throughout the year will enable modifications of goals to accommodate unexpected occurrences.

Reward Employees for Goal Attainment

While the statement 'What gets measured gets done' is certainly true, it is also evident that rewards inspire action. Typically monetary incentives and promotions are directly related to high performance and goal attainment. Be sure to develop a structured reward system that is objective and eliminates any potential biases when measuring performance. If employees are setting goals that contain detailed information, a rubric can be created to provide an overall performance score. Most organizations use this score to qualify employees for promotions, merit increases, and bonuses.

About The Author

Jasmine Brennan-Rincon

Jasmine Brennan-Rincon

Jasmine Brennan- Rincon is a Human Resources Professional with a diverse realm of expertise. Throughout her career, she has led people and projects in support of strategic organizational initiatives. Her areas of focus include talent acquisition, employee relations, employment branding, diversity & inclusion, employee engagement and performance management. Jasmine helps clients navigate career paths, build retention strategies and overcome performance management challenges. She offers a wide range of programs and services including resume writing, career development, personal branding, coaching and employee engagement initiatives.


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