Setting Performance Goals for Employees (and Getting Them to Buy In)


High employee performance is mutually beneficial. When an employee performs well, they enjoy continued employment, and maybe even advancement. Meanwhile, the company benefits from the employee’s good performance as well, seeing results in team progress or in the bottom line. As something that has such a profound impact on so many levels, it makes sense that managers would want to work with employees to set performance goals.


When done correctly, performance goals can result in meaningful, measurable improvement in an employee’s performance. But you have to (a) know how to set the right goals, and (b) get the employee to buy in. 


Setting the right performance goals takes some thought, but the effort is worth it. Many of the principles that will help you set effective performance goals will also help you get the buy-in you need. Keep these things in mind:


  • Align goals with company standards and objectives. Employee performance should always be in line with company standards and objectives, which means that the goals you set for them should be, too.
  • Ask for input. How does the employee think they could improve? What personal or professional goals do they have for themselves? Getting input from the employee will help them set a goal that matters to them, increasing both buy-in and the chance for success.
  • Set SMART goals. SMART goals are: Specific, Measurable (allows you to track progress), Achievable, Relevant (something that matters to the employee), and Time-based (with a set deadline). Setting goals that fit in this framework will make sure the goals you set are appropriate and realistic, and that the employee will be held accountable for the results.
  • Make a plan. Help the employee develop a plan to achieve their goal. Small milestones, for example, can help make a big goal seem easier to manage. Plus, helping the employee make a plan will help them feel supported in their efforts.
  • Establish a process for tracking/checking in. If the employee is tracking their progress on the goal, they’re more likely to achieve it. Find a simple way to help track the employee’s progress, and set up regular “check-in” points that allow you to see how things are going.
  • Set a reward (and follow through). Meeting a performance goal is a big deal, and should be treated as such. Set a specific reward for reaching the goal, and make sure to follow through once the goal is met. This is also very important to getting employee buy-in, as a reward can help motivate them.
  • Set goals regularly. It’s important to make performance goal-setting a regular part of your company culture. It fosters an environment of deliberate growth and progress, while increasing employee engagement and loyalty. Work with your employees to set performance goals a few times a year. 

Related: How to Conduct Employee Evaluations
When you set performance goals for your employees, and get them to buy in, those goals can foster growth not just on an individual level, but on a company-wide level as well. Take the time to set the right goals, and you’re headed in the right direction. 

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