Employee performance goals can take many forms. They might answer what or how things need to be done, but most important, be sure they answer why.

When your employees understand why, they make the connection between their goals and the company’s mission; it becomes win-win.

  • Managers are more likely to achieve company objectives, and
  • Employees feel good about themselves because they contributed to the cause.

Be sure everyone understands the big picture.  When setting employee performance goals, do these three things:

  1. Be Inclusive
  2. Apply WHY-SMART
  3. Go for Quick Wins

1. Make the Goal Setting Process Inclusive

Show an interest in people and include your employees in the goal setting process! Everyone wants to be treated with dignity and respect. When you make the process inclusive, you build trust and increase commitment. By demonstrating your willingness to work together, you’ll gain buy-in. At their best, these goals will be employee development goals as well.

2. Apply WHY-SMART when Setting Employee Performance Goals

Setting performance goals requires that you define expectations and clearly communicate with one another.

There should be no surprises. During the rating period, provide timely feedback, conduct interim reviews, and make the formal evaluation predictable.  No surprises when you deliver the performance evaluation.

Adhere to WHY-SMART and make your goals are:

  • Written – science tells us that if you write down your goals, you are more likely to commit
  • Harmonious – align your personal goals with and professional goals are aligned
  • Yours – in order for you to truly commit, OWN these goals!
  • Specific – both parties are clear on the intended outcome
  • Measurable – one way to do this, list the goal, along with associated conditions and standard(s) for achieving success
  • Attainable – don’t set the bar too high
  • Realistically High – don’t set the bar too low
  • Time Bound – set a target date for completion

NOTE: When your employee performance goals must be subjective, let there be no surprises…

“ … describe as clearly as possible what you like and dislike, what you will observe, and how you are likely to react to these observations.”

– Patricia King

3. Achieving Short Term Goals

You want your employees to succeed. You want them to develop and grow, and you want to inspire them to improve their performance.

Break goals into smaller, achievable goals to ensure quick wins. When anyone has a taste of success, they gain confidence. Give them the boost they need to pursue goals independently.


At their best, these goals will be employee development goals as well.

Take an interest in your employees’ career. Help them align their personal and professional goals. Show and interest in their growth and development, and you’ll be achieving company objectives better than ever.

Developing Leadership Skills

Create an environment of engaged employees by communicating your values, and read more about teamwork, team building skills, team building exercises, and being a team leader.

Tom Crea

Tom Crea is an author, leadership speaker, and leadership development coach who travels from Pittsburgh, PA.  Tom's passion is sharing lessons learned in how learning to delegate made his life easier.