Keys to Effective Employee Goal Setting

Keys to Effective Employee

There are several keys to effective employee goal setting. The following elements will help ensure you have a successful goal setting program:

Encourage Participation and Collaboration

  1. Align Employee Goals With Organizational Goals
  2. Set SMART Goals
  3. Ensure Availability of Resources
  4. Provide Motivation
  5. Create a Plan and Monitor Progress
  6. Recognize and Reward


About the Keys to Effective Employee Goal Setting

Encourage Participation and Collaboration

The first step to effective goals setting is to get the employee involved. Employees respond much better to goal setting if they have participated in the process. Therefore, make it a collaborative effort between the employee and his or her direct supervisor or manager.

Having employees actively involved in identifying and creating his or her own goals increases “buy-in” and ownership of their objectives along with an increased chance of successful achievement.

There is a big difference between imposing goals on employees and encouraging them to create their own goals. People naturally do not like to be told what to do. They would rather have a choice and be able to make that choice. Therefore, if you involve them in the decision making process, they will feel they are choosing the goal, and not being told what to do.

Additionally, active participation in the goals setting process allows them to better understand how their individual goals fit with the objectives of the organization. Explaining the organizations goals and asking how they think they can contribute to the accomplishment of those goals helps them understand what their role is in the bigger picture. It also makes them feel good about contributing to something bigger than themselves.



Align employee goals with organizational goals

Connecting the strategic goals of an organization to each of the employee’s performance goals is critical to the success of an organization.

In an effectively aligned organization, everyone is working towards the same goal. Each individual knows exactly how their job tasks contribute to the success of the overall organization. With everyone working together toward the same objectives, the company can efficiently execute their strategy.

To achieve goal alignment in an organization, the strategic goals and objectives must first be clearly communicated across the entire company. Everyone needs to understand how their personal goals fit with the objectives of the organization. This allows everyone to understand what is important and what needs to be done.

The strategic goals of an organization are tied to the organization’s mission and vision statements. These goals determine the desired results of an organization and how those results will be achieved. After the organizational goals and objectives are set, goals are then broken down across the organizational hierarchy eventually reaching individual employees.

Each employee’s goals should be tied to the company’s overall growth strategy in order to be effective. When employees understand how their individual role and responsibilities contribute to organizational growth, they are often more focused and motivated to achieve goals that result in success for both the business and themselves. On the other hand, employees who do not understand the role they play in company success are more likely to become disengaged. Consistently communicating strategic business goals can help to keep employees engaged.



Set SMART Goals

Effective performance goals helps employee understand what the measurable successful achievement is for their goal and how it will play into the organization as a whole. Creating SMART is a best practice for many organizations.

SMART is an acronym used to effectively set goals. It is a simple tool to help create an actionable plan that gets results. A SMART goal should be;

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Achievable

R – Relevant

T – Time-bound


Specific – The goal should be detailed and state the exact level of performance expected.

Measurable – The goal should contain a measurable indicator to assess the amount of progress and to definitely determine if the goal has been achieved.

Achievable – The goal should challenge and stretch a person’s abilities, but realistically be able to be attained.

Relevant – The goal should be important and tied to the success of the organization.

Time-bound – The goal should specify when the result(s) will be achieved.


Goal can sometimes seem too ambitious, irrelevant, or merely unattainable. Having an irrelevant or unattainable goal can lead to frustration and result in a lack of motivation. However, if a SMART goal is created, it will help lead to its successful achievement by ensuring it is relevant and attainable.



Ensure Availability of Resources

Another area of frustration for employees trying to accomplish a goal is a lack of resources. If people do not have the necessary resources to achieve their goal, they become frustrated and demotivated. To avoid this an assessment of necessary resources should be done early on in the process.

Resources include tools, money, people, knowledge, and skills. The acquisition of any of these necessary resources should be include as part of the plan for achieving the goal. Often these resources are required early on in the process, and the lack of them could stall the goal before it even gets momentum. Even more problematic is when the resources are needed at the end of the process. Having spent time and energy completing a significant portion only to learn the goal cannot be accomplish is even more frustrating.



Provide Motivation

Highly-motivated individuals have a willingness to get the job done efficiently and effectively. This willingness results in benefits for the company including higher productivity, increased revenue, and cost savings.

An employee motivation can be increased by setting well-defined, challenging, but achievable goals. By successfully achieving specific goals and objectives, employees develop a sense of accomplishment and pride. This feeling encourages them to keep looking forward to new accomplishments, and thus in turn increasing their performance levels.

However, it is important to keep in mind, well written goals alone do not increase motivation. An organization must have a positive environment. The organization’s culture and working atmosphere must be positive in order to raise motivation and performance levels.



Track and Monitor Progress

Once a goal is set, a plan must be created that outlines how it will be meet. Since the goals are SMART, they are measurable and time-bound. This will allow you to easily create a plan to track and monitor the progress to achieving the goals.

The first step would be to identify key milestones and break the goal down into tasks. After which, a timeline should be created noting the key milestones.

It is important to track the progress on the goals throughout the year. This ensures that people are on target to achieve their goals. Therefore, a monitoring system should be put in place to ensure the goals are on track to be accomplished in the time required. This allows for measurements at various intervals so that issues can be dealt with before they threaten goal achievement.



Recognize and Reward Performance

Everyone likes to be recognized and rewarded for a job they have done well. Hence, in order for a goal system to be effective, a recognition and reward system must be in place.

People appreciate when others recognize when they have done something well.

When you recognize a person’s good work, you not only make them feel good, you reinforce the behaviors you most want to see repeated. Your recognition also reinforces that person’s understanding of how you would like to see him or her perform in the workplace. However, you can only get by with praise and recognition for a limited time. At some point, some kind of reward has to be given.

Goal achievement should be tied to a reward such as increased compensation. Thus, when an employee achieves his or her SMART goal at the end of the year, they should receive a raise computable to the level of achievement. Essentially, the reward gives incentives to achieve the goal and often times to “go the extra mile.”



These are the Keys to Effective Employee Goal Setting. Therefore, review your goal setting process and goal management system to ensure these elements are part of your program.


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