Sample Employee Goals: How to Setup and Measure Success

Sample Employee Goals: How to Setup and Measure Success

At every level of an organization, goal setting is important, playing a big part in aligning teams and improving performance. By setting professional development goals and broader organizational goals, employers give their staff clear objectives to work toward.

One important component of the process is setting goals that team members can realistically achieve within a certain time frame. When people are able to see success by completing smaller tasks, they’ll be more motivated to work toward the ultimate goal.

What goals should you focus on with your team? How do you go about tracking progress? This helpful article covers:

Common employee performance goals

Performance goals are objectives that you want your team members to achieve within a specified time frame. These goals relate directly to their position, helping them grow as professionals so they can perform better in their roles. Individual goals also generally relate to the goals of the department and the company overall, helping staff better align themselves with organizational needs.

Full-time employees may have both short-term and long-term goals, with achievement of the more immediate goals helping to motivate and reinforce progress toward larger goals in the future. An employer may work with team members to develop specific goals.

Productivity and efficiency

One big goal is often to help team members learn how to work effectively while also increasing their efficiency. This improvement in impact helps businesses better meet their goals and accomplish more tasks without having to bring more staff onboard.

Sample performance goals related to productivity and efficiency include:

  • Increase the number of sales calls made per week by 5%.
  • Reduce the number of service calls that take more than 10 minutes to solve by 10% over the next three months.

Education and training

You also want to make sure team members have the skills they need to thrive in their roles. Technology and consumer expectations never remain static, so it’s important that staff keep up with their training.

An example of a performance goal related to education and training might be: “Complete five assigned cybersecurity training modules by the end of the month.”

Soft skill development

Soft skills involving communication, leadership, time management, and conflict resolution can play just as important a role in business success as hard skills. For example, if team members are struggling to submit deliverables when they’re due, the overall timeline of a project may be affected. Goals focused on improving soft skills not only help professionals work toward their career goals, but also help businesses develop stronger teams, more capable of delivering desired business outcomes.

A goal in this category might look like: “Demonstrate improved communication skills by making two team presentations on project progress over the next quarter.”

Positive behavior

You might also see goals related to cultivating certain types of positive behavior. This can take on various forms, ranging from providing encouragement for team members to showing initiative or problem-solving skills. For example, a goal related to positive behavior might be, “Provide positive feedback to team members a minimum of three times per project for the next three months.”

SMART employee goal examples


To make the goals you set even more effective, focus on setting SMART goals. The acronym SMART stands for:

  • Specific. The goal specifies what needs to be accomplished, who’s in charge of completing it.
  • Measurable. The goal should be quantifiable—in other words, it needs to be easy to track and confirm achievement. For example, “increase sales calls” doesn’t have a specific quantifiable target, but “increase sales calls by 5%” does.
  • Attainable. Goals must also be reasonable. While you want the goals to encourage staff members to push themselves, you don’t want to make them unattainable, as that tends to increase frustration and reduce motivation. When gaps are large or endpoints are in the distant future, you might have team members achieve overall success by working toward subgoals in smaller increments.
  • Relevant. The goal should also be relevant. That relevance should apply to both the professional’s personal development goals and the overarching department and company goals. Let your team see how the goal brings their contributions in line with what the company wants to achieve.
  • Time-bound. Finally, the goal should have a reasonable time frame. You want a time frame short enough that professionals don’t lose sight of the goal and can see their progress. If you have a goal that will take a year to achieve, for example, break the target down into about 12 components and guide the worker to achieve each monthly chunk.

As part of the goal-setting process, make sure that your action plan and the goal you have in mind meet these SMART criteria.

You can see how these different components apply to employee goal setting in the following example.

I will take the lead in a client presentation before the end of the quarter.

  • Specific. There is a specific task in mind—leading a client presentation.
  • Measurable. A quantity is given—one team meeting. The professional will either meet this goal or will not.
  • Achievable. In our hypothetical, we can imagine that the team member has received instruction in leading client presentations, has provided support during them, and will have ample opportunities over the course of the quarter to lead a meeting. So this goal is achievable.
  • Relevant. The professional knows these leadership opportunities will reflect positively on them. They also know that they’ll help the business bring in more clients.
  • Time-based. A time frame is stated clearly—the end of the quarter.

How to track and measure goals

As mentioned as part of the SMART goal-setting process, each goal should be measurable; that way determining whether the objective was met or not is clear. Depending on the types of targets established, you can use manual methods or project management apps like Asana and ClickUp to track and measure progress and achievements.

Management by results or management by objectives

With this style of measuring goals, you and the professional set goals together. You also determine the metric criteria used to measure the goal.

For example, if the goal relates to social media engagement, you’ll define what engagement means and how you’ll calculate engagement. Then, at the end of the predetermined time period, you can check in and use those metrics to evaluate whether the goal was met.


With self-evaluation, you ask the professional to provide an honest assessment about whether they believe they’ve met their stated goals. This type of evaluation can be used to help determine whether workers feel as though they’ve improved in different soft skills or if they’ve built confidence in technical skills, for example. Ideally they’ll be able to back up their claims with demonstrated actions.

You can also use these evaluations alongside more concrete KPIs to gather a more complete picture of worker performance.

Graph or rating scale

With a graph or rating scale, you can evaluate an worker’s performance and process outputs across a variety of areas. By noting the areas where they appear to perform the weakest, you’ll be able to use this information to identify improvement targets and set goals.

After the next performance period has passed, the evaluation can be run again to see if the graph indicates the worker has made any improvement. This type of evaluation can also be done with methods like 360-degree feedback, which takes into account opinions of those the team member works with regularly when determining strengths and weaknesses.

You can then discuss what the graph shows about the worker’s ability to meet their professional development goals during the next performance review.

5 ways to reward employees for meeting their goals

When individuals and teams make progress and successfully achieve their goals, let them know that their effort is recognized. This improves employee engagement and encourages them to get involved directly with performance management.

Be sure to give verbal recognition when workers are making progress toward their goals. Consider these ideas when rewarding workers for meeting their subgoals and goals.

  • Financial compensation: You can offer a reward in the form of financial compensation to professionals who meet certain benchmarks. For example, you might give them a $100 gift card to their favorite restaurant.
  • Vacation days or time off: You can also reward a team member’s hard work with more time out of the office. For example, you might let them leave earlier on Friday afternoons or before holiday weekends as a reward for meeting their goals.
  • Companywide attention and recognition: Internal rewards and recognition, such as putting together profiles of high achievers to highlight them at the office, having the heads of the company take them out for lunch, or otherwise making it clear to the rest of the department what this professional has accomplished can also serve as a reward.
  • Reward programs: You might offer team members rewards for hitting certain benchmarks. If you structure your goals with milestones that work toward larger goals at the end of the year, you might also have the rewards get progressively larger as each benchmark is hit, culminating in team-building rewards, such as an office party or time off work for a special paid lunch.
  • Employee choice: You also can offer a few different reward options and give team members the chance to select. For example, some people may not appreciate companywide recognition, but they would love getting an extra day off. Others might appreciate the chance to network with organizational leaders.

Try to structure goals so that you don’t have just one winner, which can make others feel like losers. That doesn’t mean lowering the bar so mere participation is a win. Instead, help all workers achieve challenging but attainable goals, meaning more individuals earn rewards and the business has even greater wins.

The difference between personal and performance goals for employees

Generally leaders set two primary types of goals for team members. These goals encourage the maturation and professional development of team members and help the organization.

The first type of goal is a personal goal or a personal development goal. These goals focus on helping the team member grow as a professional and as an individual. This might include providing opportunities for the professional to improve their public speaking skills or encouraging them to finish their college degree. Personal goals help the staff member individually, but they also benefit the company because the worker will bring these enhanced skills and abilities back to the organization.

The second type of goal is a performance goal. These goals tie directly to the professional’s responsibilities and should be aligned with organizational KPIs. For example, goals related to increasing sales calls are considered performance goals; an increase in sales calls should help the company’s KPIs for revenue or earnings.

Final thoughts

Setting goals can help you motivate team members to do their best and improve their performance. With goal setting, you have concrete ways to measure professionals’ improvement and note their successes. Goals also help with alignment, so everyone understands the company’s core objectives. This common focus can help staff overcome their individual potential weaknesses to thrive at your organization.

As you take your business to the next level with realistic goals, it’s also important to have the right people who can focus on specific areas and help you reach key results. See how Upwork can connect you to the best freelance professionals in widely varying areas of skills and experience. They have the expertise to meet goals and get each job done.


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Sample Employee Goals: How to Setup and Measure Success
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