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8 Tips for Effective Employee Goal Setting as a Manager

The beginning of every year is a natural time to evaluate the past and set intentions for the future. Many people do this personally in the form of New Year’s resolutions. But it is equally important that each team member is setting goals and KPIs (key performance indicators) at work.

Why Set Goals at Work?

Since the 1960s, researchers have proven that goal setting helps us achieve great things. It requires looking at the long-term vision of the project or company while providing short-term motivation to reach the goal. Goals help us modify and create new behaviours. Goals provide focus, direction, purpose, and clarity. In other words, goals are critical for employee and company growth.

As a manager, you have the ability and responsibility to shape these employee goals and help workers see them through.

8 Tips for Effective Employee Goal Setting

Involve the Employee

Setting goals and developing plans within management, and handing that list of goals to your employees is not the way to create a goal-minded worker. Instead, each employee should be involved from the beginning and have a hand in setting their own goals. Employees are more likely to pursue these goals because of their ownership over them.

Set Goals Together

While you’re giving employees the freedom to make their own goals, don’t leave them all on their own to do it. Take the time to meet with each team member individually. They may need help in understanding examples of employee goals and objectives, learning how to set realistic goals, or know of how to achieve the goals they set for themselves. Assisting in goal setting builds rapport and inspires a sense of commitment from that worker.

Link Individual Goals to Company Objectives

No matter what goals you’ve helped each employee set, every goal should somehow connect back to the broader company purpose. Gallup research shows that if managers can increase employees’ connection to the company mission by just 10%, it can result in an 8.1% decrease in turnover and a 4.4% increase in profits. By connecting goals to purpose, you are providing a reminder of and a boost to employee internal motivation and engagement.

Adjust Goals Dynamically

The world is changing rapidly. From natural disasters to supply chain issues to labour shortages, unforeseen circumstances are popping up all the time to disrupt businesses. As the company must shift to changing times, so too should employee goals shift. As a manager, stay flexible when circumstances deem a change in plan or direction.

Develop SMART Goals

Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-based. We’ve all heard it, but few know how to create goals that meet these criteria. Smart goals for work are easy to set when you use these tips:

  • Specific: Try narrowing the scope of the goal to just one aspect of an employee’s job

  • Measurable: Be sure there’s a concrete way to collect data for this goal

  • Achievable: Set realistic goals in relation to each person’s abilities and other criteria such as timeframe

  • Relevant: Think of what activities move the needle for your company and focus goals around those activities

  • Time-Based: Decide when you’ll check in on these goals and what the final date for achieving the goal is

Define Clear Rewards and Consequences

Goals themselves are not enough to create actual change. Many people need the additional aspects of reward and punishment to push them to succeed. As a manager, you can establish and relate rewards and consequences for reaching or not reaching the performance review goals you set with each employee. Public rewards ensure employees know your company values hard work. But remember, severe punishments or threats will not inspire people to work harder.

Set Different Goals for Groups

When it comes to team members working together, it’s essential that each person have a “group-centric” goal, one that is aimed at contributing to the larger picture, rather than an “egocentric” goal which can have a negative effect on team achievement. Apply the same tips for individual goal setting to group goal setting.

Check-In Regularly

Employee check-ins can be informal, but the best way to track goals is with regular accountability and feedback. Employees should have clear work performance goals that would be reflected on a performance review.

How Goal Management Improves Employee Accountability

Whether for personal or professional goal setting, accountability is proven to help people achieve their goals. In 2010, The Association for Talent Development (formerly The American Society of Training and Development) studied accountability and found that meeting with a designated accountability partner made study participants 95% more likely to reach their goal.

As a manager, you are this accountability partner to your employees. Goal setting for employees is vital, but it means nothing without the added factor of accountability.

Accountability instils a mild sense of social pressure. Employees know someone will be evaluating their progress, and therefore they work harder to achieve results.

In one study, 60% of participants said not being held accountable to their training was the most significant barrier to that training being effective. Managers can encourage and build good behaviours in their employees by holding them accountable to their training and goals.

Examples of Measurable Goals for Employees

There are many types of goals (process, performance, and outcome goals), but each one needs to be measurable in some way to know if your employees are hitting their targets. Here are some examples of ways to measure goals.

  • Number of days someone successfully did or did not do something

  • Increase or decrease in percentages, time, revenue, or other metrics

  • Changes in scores for performance evaluations

Goal setting and performance management are important in helping the organization reach its overall goal. Whether teaching people how to write goals for work or holding them accountable to those goals, your role as a manager is vital to keeping everything on track.

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