How Leaders Can Help Set Performance Goals for Employees
A person holding a trophy overhead, representing performance goals for employees.
How To Help Employees Set Performance Goals (And 3 Examples) 
A person holding a trophy overhead, representing performance goals for employees.

How To Help Employees Set Performance Goals (And 3 Examples) 

Setting quality performance goals for employees is one of the best tools for managers that need engagement and alignment from their team. Whether you have a team of five or 20, performance goals allow you to keep track of everyone’s development and ensure that each individual team member is contributing in a meaningful and effective way. 

Luckily, there’s a simple formula to setting effective performance goals. Plus, we’ll share some tips for monitoring and adjusting goals so you don’t just forget about them the moment they’re set, a common management pitfall. 

How to set SMART employee performance goals 

If you haven’t been using the SMART goal framework to set performance objectives, you should give it a go. It’s an excellent blueprint for creating effective, measurable goals.

There are five elements to remember when building SMART goals:

  1. Specific: Be specific about numbers and deadlines when setting performance goals for your employees so everyone knows exactly what they’re working towards. Clarity is king. 
  2. Measurable: Set clear key metrics (or KPIs) and ensure you have the right tools in place to track these goals. 
  3. Attainable: Ensure the goal is challenging but attainable. Think about what do your employees need in terms of support, training, etc., to attain the goal. 
  4. Relevant: Make sure the goals are relevant to both the business objectives and your employee’s professional development path.
  5. Time-based: Put deadlines in place so there are clear milestones to reach. 

We highly recommend working on these goals collaboratively with your employees rather than just handing a finished version over to them. In fact, you can even ask your employees to create their own SMART goals and then work on refining them together. The more involved they are in the process, the more accountability they will feel towards them.

One last tip about creating SMART goals. It might seem like a no-brainer, but be sure the goals are written in an accessible shared space where you can both revisit them whenever clarity is needed. Ok, let’s get into some examples. 

3 employee performance goal examples 

Let’s put the SMART goals into action with 3 sample performance goals for employees.

SMART performance goal for employees #1

I will increase traffic to our website.

  • Specific: Specifically increase traffic to product pages
  • Measurable: We will see a 20% lift in new and returning visitors to our product pages, tracked in Google Analytics.
  • Attainable: Looking at the industry benchmark as well as our current traffic, this goal is realistic. To attain this goal, I will need bi-weekly support from web developers, graphic designers, and content writers. 
  • Relevant: This will have an impact on the team’s sales goal and the company’s overall revenue goal.
  • Time-based: The goal should be complete by the end of March, 2023. 

SMART performance goal for employees #2

I will improve my data analytics skills 

  • Specific: Provide a monthly report on the blog’s performance
  • Measurable: The report is created using analytics from Data Studio and Hubspot, and will track time on page, new users, returning visitors, and bounce rate. 
  • Attainable: With the support of our data team to train me on our analytics tools, this goal is realistic. 
  • Relevant: This goal is directly related to my development path toward becoming a team leader.
  • Time-based: I will send my first monthly report by April 2023. 

SMART performance goal for employees #3

I will implement a strategy to improve our user research practices 

  • Specific: Deliver an actionable strategy to improve our user research results and best practices.
  • Measurable: A strategy and action plan are presented to the team by the end of the fiscal year.
  • Attainable: To ensure the goal is realistic, I will need to carve out weekly focus time in my calendar.
  • Relevant: This performance goal impacts our overall business strategy which is largely informed by the user insights we collect. 
  • Time-based: The first draft of the strategy is due May 1, 2023. After a feedback round, the second iteration will be due June 15, 2023. 

How to track performance goals for employees

Now that you know how to create SMART goals, let’s cover how to make sure all that hard work doesn’t fall flat. Follow these three steps to track goals properly, setting your team up to achieve what they set out to do. 

1. Have them present their goals to the team

Once you and your employees have established SMART goals together, have the whole team present their goals to one another. This creates a sort of “contract”, and shared sense of accountability. It might even inspire your team members to help keep each other accountable, or even lend their expertise to their colleagues. 

2. Follow up in your weekly or bi-weekly 1-1s 

Assuming you hold one on ones with your employees, we suggest you touch base on their goals during these meetings. It doesn’t need to be a deep dive; just check in to make sure they’re on the right track and have what they need to achieve the goal. To avoid micromanaging, which can express a lack of trust in your employee’s capabilities, here are some question prompts for you to check in on goal progress.

  • Is there anything you need from me to help achieve X goal by the due date? 
  • Have any roadblocks come up for you while working on X goal? I’d love to hear how you’ve approached them. 
  • Are there any parts of achieving this goal that are easier than you first thought?

3. Adjust where needed

In the spirit of agility, be flexible with performance goals as your employee begins to work on them. Sometimes, new things come up and the employee might have to shift focus, or it might become clear that the “attainable” element of the SMART goal wasn’t as realistic as you first thought. Maybe the original goal is taking a different shape and needs refining, or it’s even possible that the employee no longer connects with the goal and would like to take a different direction entirely. 

Keep lines of communication around goals open and continuous so you can grasp where you need to adjust together. The objective is to keep employees engaged, inspired and proud of their accomplishments, so be sure the goals speak to them. 

Set the right performance goals for your employees

One of your main duties as a manager is helping your team grow in the right direction. By keeping your goals SMART, checking in with employees every so often, and working together, you can help your employees hit new highs and avoid potential lows.