What Makes for a Good Employee Goal?


How cool would it be if every time an employee goal was met, an enormous cry of “GOOOAAALLL!” erupted through the office? Unfortunately, our offices aren’t stadiums, and not all goals are winners. Goals can be useless to employees—not because they’re poor workers, but because the goals themselves are poorly designed.

Bersin by Deloitte’s “Predictions for 2015” recommends companies implement goal management software that is “low-touch, agile, [and] easy-to-use” (22). But the work doesn’t end at the software: The way an employee creates and then handles goals must be spot-on. Bersin offers a slew of tips on putting together great employee objectives. We weigh-in—as do a few others—on how to craft a breakaway goal that Pelé himself would approve of.


1. It’s transparent (aka, the whole office is in on it).

Bersin mentions the ultimate tool for accountability: the goal is “public for all to see” (21). If an entire company knows what an employee is reaching for, it’s easier for him or her to feel the weight of responsibility (and the tiny prod of pitchforks should he or she fall short).

The question is how to let the company know. The easiest way is to implement a self-serve online solution, one where employees can edit their goals and the whole company can check them out. But social media is also a great tool for alerting everyone. Maybe a bi-weekly goal check in with your team? Try out #TBG—Throw-Back Goalsday.


2. It’s revisited. Often.

A bi-weekly check-in with peers may not be enough for an employee to hit targets. Bersin says that when it comes to goals at high-performing companies, “they revisit them often (even weekly).”

Take the approach down to the worker level. Have your employee self-report their progress. Would a runner beat a best marathon time without ever checking a watch? Well, maybe, like if Rainman starred in Chariots of Fire… this is getting weird. Just have employees revisit those goals a ton.


3. It’s specific.

Heidi Grant Halvorson of Harvard Business Review says “try to be as specific as possible” when making a goal. This can be difficult when just beginning a position or venturing into a new skillset. But precision can breed simplicity. “Decreasing time to hire by 20%” has a more productive spin than “improve hiring practices.” Simple, direct, specific—employees should focus their goals like laserbeams.


4. It’s a dash out of the comfort zone.

We’ve all heard it before: Goals have to be challenging. Tricky thing is, no one can aim for that sweet balance of attainability and challenge but the employee.

Elizabeth Rider, the Board Certified Health Counselor (AADP) and writer, distills the idea when she writes, “You'll never achieve greatness if you stay in a space of setting goals that you are guaranteed to meet.”

Employees should be a bit worried about their goals. Maybe they’re a little scared. Maybe they lose a teeny bit of sleep. That means they’re in the right place—where they’re careening downfield and not sure if their feet can keep up. That’s when it’s your job to run right beside them and make sure they keep up all that fancy footwork.

Is it time for a performance review checkup? This guide will help you optimize your performance management strategy.

Topics: Talent, Performance Management

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