In order to reach your business goals, your employees must meet their potential. That’s why performance management and employee development are crucial.
Effective performance goals provide employees with direction by giving them defined achievement targets. As a business leader, setting goals and tracking progress toward meeting them helps you evaluate your staff’s output against your company’s objectives.
If you want your business to grow, your employees need to grow. In this article, we’ll explain why goal setting is so important, show how to create performance review goals that challenge your employees and help your company succeed, and provide examples of effective goals to help you develop your own.
Why are performance review goals important?
Without clarity, there’s no way to ensure everyone in your company works toward the same objectives. Clearly defining goals for your employees and your business makes it much more likely you’ll reach them.
Performance review goals are important because they:
- Improve morale and productivity. They give your employees purpose and something to focus their efforts toward, leading to higher job satisfaction.
- Motivate and engage employees. Employees who know what’s expected of them may feel more empowered to prioritize important tasks and motivated to work hard.
- Identify areas for improvement. Employees may need to develop new skills (or improve existing ones), or they might need additional support and training from management to achieve specific objectives.
- Help employees advance. Performance review goals can also show employees what abilities they need to acquire and what they need to accomplish to get promoted or reach the next level in their careers.
- Support broader organizational goals. Effective goals make sure employees stay focused on the tasks that contribute the most to your company’s growth and success.
How to develop performance review goals
Now that you know why performance review goals matter, how can you create practical goals for your employees? Using the acronym SMART is a good starting point. SMART goals are designed to be easily understood and have the biggest possible impact on a business’s success.
SMART stands for:
- Specific. Goals need to be defined clearly and precisely.
- Measurable. There should be a clear way to measure an employee’s progress toward the goal.
- Attainable. Achievable goals keep employees motivated. Seemingly out-of-reach goals can have the opposite effect.
- Relevant. Goals need to pertain to an employee’s role. Individual and team goals also need to be supportive of a business’s overall objectives.
- Time-bound. Giving a deadline for a goal’s completion gives employees a sense of urgency and drives them to make progress.
Employee performance goal examples
What do SMART performance review goals look like? Throughout the rest of this article, we’ll provide examples of effective goals for various areas of performance to help you design your own employee goals.
Employee performance goals:
- Productivity goals
- Professional development goals
- Leadership goals
- Time management goals
- Problem-solving goals
- Technical skills goals
- Communication goals
- Customer service goals
- Project management goals
- Process improvement goals
- Teamwork goals
1. Productivity goals
To maximize your business’s productivity, you need your workforce to operate efficiently and produce quality work. Productivity goals aim to help increase, improve, or speed up your employees’ output.
Some SMART productivity goals might include:
- Grow sales by 15% over the next quarter by launching a new online ad campaign.
- Complete and launch the new company website design in six months.
- Achieve 95% OTIFNE (on-time, in full, no errors) customer order delivery.
- Publish three blog posts each month on our company site for the next year.
- Generate at least five new leads a week from email marketing over the next quarter.
- Design and publish 10 new Instagram ads over the next six months.
- Meet a 2% defect rate against customer-driven product specifications.
- Release three new products over the next year.
2. Professional development goals
No one wants to stagnate in a career without the chance for upward mobility. Professional development goals help your employees pick up the abilities, knowledge, and experience they need to advance in their careers and realize their potential.
Consider some of these SMART career development goals:
- Shadow the company’s Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) once a quarter for one year.
- Improve speaking skills by delivering at least three presentations this quarter.
- Grow Human Resources (HR) knowledge by attending two conferences this year.
- Gain experience with Tableau by using it to create data visualizations for one report each month for six months.
- Attend three networking events this quarter.
3. Leadership goals
The purpose of leadership goals is to help employees improve their ability to manage, motivate, and guide other employees. Great leadership goals also help make sure your company has a succession plan for when your current managers or executives inevitably leave.
Let’s look at some SMART leadership goals:
- Go to four leadership conferences this year.
- Effectively delegate three important tasks to your direct reports each week for three months.
- Lead a weekly group meeting for the IT department for one year.
- This week, give constructive feedback to at least three junior employees.
- Provide a one-hour mentorship meeting to a junior developer each week over the next year.
4. Time management goals
Thriving businesses need employees who can manage their time effectively. Time management goals give your staff a plan of action for staying focused on assignments, meeting deadlines, and prioritizing important tasks.
Here are some SMART time management goals to consider:
- Complete a time audit of your workday this week to evaluate how well you manage your time.
- Use scheduling software or a calendar tool to block time for completing this month’s important tasks.
- This quarter, limit distractions by scheduling one hour to answer emails at the beginning or end of each workday.
- Once a week for the next year, list all your assignments in order of importance so that you know what to prioritize.
- Each week this year, make an action plan for how you’ll allocate your time to meet deadlines.
5. Problem-solving goals
Problem-solving goals help employees develop the skills to identify, analyze, and resolve all sorts of workplace issues. Employees might need to develop solutions for technical problems, customer-based problems, or even interpersonal problems among workers.
We provide some SMART problem-solving goals:
- Hold brainstorming sessions to develop solutions for at least five problems this year.
- Attend two company training sessions on problem-solving techniques in the next six months.
- Participate in one problem-solving team activity each quarter for the next year.
- Complete a conflict resolution course in the next six months.
- This week, analyze our sales funnel to see why sales are down 15% from last year and develop creative solutions to recover.
6. Technical skills goals
While some roles call for more technical expertise than others, every role requires at least some level of technical know-how. Technical skills goals are aimed at enhancing an employee’s understanding of and ability to use the technical systems and tools (software or otherwise) needed to be successful in their position.
Some SMART technical skills goals include:
- Complete an Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud computing certification within six months.
- Attend weekly training for one month to learn how to use the company’s customer relationship management (CRM) software.
- Complete 15 hours of IT continuing education this year.
- This month, finish an online course on advanced Microsoft Excel techniques.
- Learn the basics of graphic design and create designs for three landing pages this quarter.
- Complete an online university course in basic accounting this year.
7. Communication goals
Effective communication is a vital component of a successful business. Employees need to be able to share accurate information, contribute ideas, and listen to (and respect) their co-workers’ opinions and views. Communication goals are designed to improve an employee’s verbal and written communication abilities.
We provide some SMART communication goals:
- This week, use Grammarly to reduce grammatical errors and improve email communication.
- This quarter, respond to all emails within one day of receiving them.
- Attend two diversity and inclusion training events this year to sharpen your cross-cultural communication abilities.
- Share at least one idea at every company meeting this quarter.
- Complete an online course on active listening this month.
8. Customer service goals
Where would your business be without customers? Nowhere. Customer service is a huge priority for any company looking to get new customers and keep the ones it already has. Customer service goals help employees learn to handle customer issues faster and more effectively to increase customer satisfaction and reduce complaints.
Here are some SMART customer service goals:
- Improve customer satisfaction metrics by 15% over the next year by identifying the most common customer issues and developing solutions for them.
- Lower the average email customer response time to under four hours this quarter.
- Call new customers for feedback to help improve our products and increase five-star reviews by 15% this quarter.
- Integrate chatbots and FAQ to decrease customer tickets with common problems by at least 20% over the next six months.
- Revamp our customer service training program to raise our first contact resolution rate by 20% this year.
9. Project management goals
Completing quality projects on time and within budget takes planning and effort. Project management goals improve employees’ ability to do things like set development timelines, define project deliverables, and mitigate risks.
Consider these SMART project management goals:
- This week, organize a project timeline for developing our business app.
- Make a budget plan for the marketing campaign of our new software product this week.
- This month, list potential project risks for our software launch and brainstorm solutions.
- Over the next two days, list project deliverables your team will need to create throughout your project timeline.
- In the next two weeks, create a communication plan for how your project team will address external stakeholders.
- Hold one weekly training session for one month to show team members how to use our project management software tools effectively.
- Earn project management certification this year.
10. Process improvement goals
Successful companies need efficient workflow management. Process improvement goals help develop your employees’ ability to see and correct workflow inefficiencies and bottlenecks and find ways to lower production mistakes while increasing quality.
Here are some SMART process improvement goals to consider:
- This quarter, analyze and improve project testing procedures to decrease defects by at least 10%.
- Provide data entry training to our administrative department to decrease database mistakes by 30% in six months.
- Use Hootsuite to automate postings on social media and save marketing 15 hours this quarter.
- Create better IT training programs in the next six months for customer support specialists to eliminate support bottlenecks.
- Decrease software production time by 10% this year by integrating new API development tools.
11. Teamwork goals
Not all employees are naturally good at working with others, but a good business needs employees who can work together to meet company goals. The purpose of teamwork goals is to foster collaboration among team members to create better work results.
Let’s look at some SMART teamwork goals:
- Attend two team-building activities this quarter.
- Set up weekly team meetings this year to discuss project updates.
- Over the next six months, set aside 15 minutes every two weeks for employees to share feedback with their teams.
- This month, make sure every team member has a clear grasp of their role by having them participate in an assessment.
- This week, set up a meeting to celebrate the team’s achievement of “best ever” performance.
Get help from performance appraisal specialists
When it comes to performance evaluations, everyone needs a target to shoot for. Without measurable objectives to work toward, employees may feel they’re just staying busy—spinning their wheels without really getting anywhere. Working with your employees during performance appraisals to develop SMART personal goals can give them purpose and drive and make them feel valued. Developing and pursuing SMART work goals is not only good for your organization, but also provides reinforcement for teamwork.
If you’re a business leader, chances are there’s already a lot on your plate. Setting up and scheduling performance appraisals is something you want done right, but it takes significant time and effort.
See how Upwork can help you find experienced performance appraisal experts worldwide who can help you build a performance review process that increases employee engagement and improves your company culture.
Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this article. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation.
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