One of the simplest yet most effective ways to help your employees to reach their full potential is to give them performance objectives to aim for. This doesn’t just help them, it also works out in your favour — workers who have relevant, meaningful goals are more than three times more likely to be committed to their organisation and over fourteen times more likely to be inspired at work, according to research by BI WORLDWIDE.
Employee performance objectives are specific targets that employees are tasked with achieving within a certain time frame. These objectives should be related to various aspects of an employee's job, whether it’s personal sales targets, customer service goals, or project deadlines.
Why set employee performance objectives?
Performance objectives are important because they ensure employees know what is expected of them and standards that need to be met to be in their role. They enable employees to focus their efforts on the areas that are the highest priority. Additionally, setting performance objectives gives employers a way to measure an employee's progress and development over time.
There are several reasons employers should set performance objectives for their employees, including the following:
- Performance objectives provide clarity: Setting specific targets can help reduce misunderstandings or confusion about what is expected of an employee in their day-to-day work. Not only that, the very act of setting a goal goes a long way towards achieving success. In one study on goal-setting involving 270 people, researchers found that you’re 42% more likely to achieve your goals by simply writing them down.
- Achieve organisational alignment: Individual performance management objectives should be aligned with the organisation’s overarching goals and objectives. This ensures that all departments and teams are contributing towards organisational alignment and adding real, measurable value to the company.
- Measure employee progress and development: Setting performance objectives enables managers to share feedback with employees and identify any areas where additional training or support may be needed. Tracking employee performance can indicate which employees may be ready for a promotion or other development opportunities.
How to set employee performance objectives
Although there are different ways to approach the task of preparing solid performance objectives with employees, you generally won’t go wrong with the SMART framework for goal-setting.
The SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) system provides a clear and structured approach to setting objectives and goals that are reasonable, employee-driven and likely to be achieved.
- Specific: Performance objectives should be well-defined and establish a clear target outcome. Consider your organisation’s goals and how employees can help you achieve them. If the company goal is to increase annual revenue, ask yourself how team members can contribute.
- Measurable: Any performance objective should be measurable, whether through some kind of performance metric or key performance indicator. For example, If the overarching goal is to increase annual revenues by 20%, your performance goal can focus on closing X number of sales per month.
- Achievable: Performance objectives should be reasonable — there’s no point in setting goals your people have no chance of achieving with your resources, time and constraints. The key is to strike a balance between setting an ambitious performance target and ensuring your employee doesn’t feel that they’ve been set up to fail. To do this, you’ll need to have honest conversations with your people to gather their input and feedback.
- Relevant: A relevant performance objective aligns with your organisation’s overall strategy and objectives (more on this later).
- Time-bound: Your employees’ performance objectives should have a specific time frame for completion. This allows team members to hold themselves accountable and focus on achieving desired outcomes.
Additionally, organisational leaders can consider three elements when devising their goal-setting strategy.
- Align objectives with the company's overall goals and objectives: Any performance-related objective should be geared towards contributing to the organisation’s goals and strategy. This isn’t just beneficial to the organisation but also employees themselves. In fact, businesses that link employee goals to business priorities are 84% more likely to have performance-management approaches that workers consider fair. The reason is simple — people want to know what they are doing matters and that it makes a difference..
- Input from employees: Team members should have input into the setting of their own performance objectives and agree with their line manager before finalising any targets. Once these performance objectives have been set, managers should provide regular feedback and support to help the employee stay on the right track. This will also help them make any adjustments along the way, if circumstances have changed and the objective needs to be amended accordingly. Feedback is so important that 66% of Gen Z workers say they want feedback from their line manager every few weeks to stay committed to their jobs.
- Review and revise objectives as necessary: Performance objectives should be reviewed regularly and revised if necessary, to ensure they remain relevant and achievable. This will help the employee stay focused and motivated, while ensuring their performance is aligned with the organisation's goals.
Make goal-setting a success for everyone
The type of performance objectives you set with employees ultimately depends on the nature of their role, responsibilities and job level. Whatever the case, setting clear performance goals enables employees to focus their efforts on achieving specific outcomes and reaching their full potential.
Learn how Appraisd can support goal-setting in your organisation by reading our success stories and seeing our platform in action.