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HRDQ will be closed on Friday (5/24) and Monday (5/27) for Memorial Day
Goal Setting for Employees: The Ultimate Guide - HRDQ

Goal Setting for Employees: The Ultimate Guide

Goal setting is an effective management strategy that encourages employees to be more productive and efficient. By establishing realistic, measurable employee goals, you can improve your workplace’s performance and inch closer towards achieving your company’s long-term goals.

But to achieve these benefits, it’s important to know how to set goals that effectively motivate employees and accommodate their individual skill sets. Without the right goals, workplace performance and productivity are likely to suffer. To help you improve employee engagement and boost your business’s efficiency, here’s everything you need to know about effective employee goal setting.

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What Are Employee Goals & Why Are They Important?

Employee goals are short-term or long-term objectives that managers set for individual employees. Employee goals should be measurable and attainable, and they should be created with input from your employees to maximize their effectiveness. By establishing goals, managers are able to more easily measure employee performance, reward high-performing employees, and increase employee engagement.

There are several key benefits that can be achieved through effective employee goal setting:

  • Companies are able to align their employees’ individual goals with the business’s long-term objectives.
  • Managers are able to provide employees with clear guidance, which can help improve their time management and productivity.
  • Attainable goals motivate employees as they are able to better understand how their individual work contributes to the company’s success.
  • Goals help managers effectively evaluate employee performance.
  • Goals help businesses evaluate their own success by comparing practical results with their desired results.
  • Employee goal setting provides clear guidelines for performance reviews and employee bonus programs.

Thoughtful goal setting provides direction and motivation, making it easier for companies to achieve better results and maximize productivity.

How to Set Effective Employee Goals

Setting the wrong goals inhibits performance rather than bolstering it, making it important for managers to learn how to set effective goals that foster employee and business success. Consider the following tips to set effective employee goals that encourage better employee performance and productivity:

Collaborate with Employees

To set effective goals, it can be very helpful to communicate with employees and ask for their input when creating job-specific goals. Ask employees to suggest attainable goals. Then, after determining whether or not they align with your company’s objectives, work with them to establish a plan of action to help them achieve these goals.

By asking for employee input and making them partially responsible for setting their own goals, they are more likely to hold themselves accountable and be more invested in their own performance.

Consider Your Company’s Objectives

You should always consider your company’s objectives when creating employee goals. These goals should tie directly into your business’s long-term growth strategy. Not only does this help foster business growth, but it also helps motivate employees by helping them understand how their individual performance impacts the success of your company.

The SMART Method

The SMART method is a commonly used framework for employee goal setting, helping companies create goals that align with their priorities. The SMART acronym stands for:

  • Specific: Goals should be specific to ensure employees have a clear target to work towards.
  • Measurable: To evaluate employee performance, it’s important for goals to be easily measurable.
  • Attainable: Goals should be realistically attainable. Setting unrealistic goals discourages employees as they are more likely to fail to meet their individual performance goals.
  • Relevant: Goals should accommodate your company’s objectives and be specific to each employee’s individual skill set.
  • Time-bound: Goals should have realistic deadlines to encourage maximum productivity. Be careful, though, not to set restrictive deadlines as you don’t want to rush employees into doing a poor job.

The HEART Method

Alternatively, managers may choose to utilize the HEART method to set goals for employees. This method is similar to the SMART framework with a few key changes. HEART stands for:

  • Habit-forming
  • Emotional
  • Actionable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

While this method still emphasizes the importance of setting realistic, deadline-based goals, it also prioritizes setting goals that align with employees’ personal interests. The HEART method stipulates that goals should encourage positive habits that improve overall productivity. 

The Objectives and Key Results (OKR) method challenges managers and employees to identify important objectives and assign key results to these objectives to measure performance. Objectives should be time-bound and actionable, while the key results should be measurable outcomes that are tied to your objectives.

Change Goals as Needed

As time goes on and your business achieves milestones and establishes new objectives, you might find that your employee goals no longer align with those of the company. As such, managers should always be ready and willing to adapt employee goals as needed.

Be sure to regularly communicate with your team to not only measure their progress but also to determine whether or not their goals are still relevant. By changing goals on an ongoing basis, you can ensure employee goals consistently reflect your company’s priorities.

Learn More About Performance Management with HRDQ

Employee goal setting is a key aspect of performance management. By learning how to set effective employee goals, managers can improve workplace productivity and ensure their employees are always working toward their company’s long-term objectives.

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About our author

Bradford R. Glaser

Brad is President and CEO of HRDQ, a publisher of soft-skills learning solutions, and HRDQ-U, an online community for learning professionals hosting webinars, workshops, and podcasts. His 35+ years of experience in adult learning and development have fostered his passion for improving the performance of organizations, teams, and individuals.