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Review Ready: Setting and Achieving Performance Goals to Unlock Career Success

Achieving Goals, Career Enrichment
09/11/23 - Ama La Vida
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Whether you’re aiming for employee performance goals that align with organizational objectives, or you’re intrigued by the idea of setting SMART goals for yourself, this post is your roadmap. Let’s dig into the secrets behind effective goal setting, the importance of measurable goals, and the transformative power of aligning your performance goals with your values and ambitions.

What exactly are performance goals?

Picture of a desk with "Do More." written on the computer screen saver.

Performance goals, often referred to as objectives, targets or key performance indicators (KPIs), are specific, measurable, and time-bound aims that individuals or organizations set to achieve a desired outcome or level of performance. It’s about making sure you have clear goals, for yourself, your team members, and your organization.

They play a crucial role in various aspects of personal and professional development, including career growth, employee motivation, and organizational success.

There’s an old saying, “What gets measured, gets managed,” which is why having clear annual goals with your manager is the foundation for your professional development and career advancement.

Why are performance goals so important in personal and professional growth?

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Performance goals aren’t just checkboxes on your to-do list; they’re like a GPS for your journey of self-improvement and career success.

When you incorporate targets or metrics into your goal-setting process, you can more specifically define your growth and your impact on company objectives.

Whether you’re looking to up your game in self-management skills, achieve your personal employee goals, or simply enhance your workplace performance, these goals define what exactly you’re going to be doing and how you know if you’re successful.

This detail is the key to staying motivated, engaged, and ready to tackle your next performance review with confidence (and metrics).

What do performance goals have to do with my annual performance reviews?

Annual performance reviews aren’t just about reflecting on past achievements; they’re your moment to shine by showcasing your alignment with the company’s organizational goals so you can continue to reach your own personal development goals.

When your personal development goals match the company goals, you both win. But especially you.

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When your accomplishments directly contribute to achieving business objectives, you’re not just proving your worth; you’re building a compelling case for future advancement.

By connecting the dots between your goals and the company goals, you’re not only growing personally but also creating a business case for why the company should invest back in you.

Your consistent pursuit of professional development goals, coupled with your achievements in employee performance, positions you as a driving force behind the company’s success.

These metrics will then put you in a stronger negotiating position when the time comes to discuss promotions, salary increases, and new opportunities within the organization.

So how do you actually set impactful employee performance goals? Let’s dig in.

Crafting Effective Employee Performance Goals

Crafting effective performance goals is about setting clear, doable targets that keep you motivated.

There are several approaches you can take to goal setting, and also a few things you should keep in mind.

The SMART Goals framework

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Traditionally, performance goals use the SMART goals framework as a way to measure success. SMART is an acronym for:

Specific

SMART goals are well-defined and leave no room for ambiguity. They answer the question of “what” needs to be achieved.

Measurable

Goals should include quantifiable criteria that allow progress to be tracked and success to be objectively assessed.

Achievable

While SMART employee goals should be challenging, they also need to be realistic and attainable within a given time frame. They stretch individuals or teams without setting them up for failure.

Relevant

A key element to consider as you write SMART goals is they should align with the broader objectives of an individual, team, or organization. They should be directly related to the desired outcome or performance improvement.

Time-bound

SMART performance goals have a clear deadline or time frame for achievement. This adds a sense of urgency and focus to the goal-setting process.

By writing SMART goals, you can transform your aspirations into actionable steps, ensuring that your path is crystal clear and your achievements are tangible. This goal-setting process turns your dreams into concrete realities with precision and purpose.

When you create a SMART goal, you’re not just aiming for success—you’re strategically navigating your way there.

The EPIC framework

Woman working on computer while she is holding her black glasses in her hand

At Ama La Vida, we go beyond SMART goal setting to a process we like to call EPIC goals. The EPIC approach ensures your employee performance goals are not just action items for your job responsibilities, but also align with your personal passions and the larger business goals. It’s a framework for meaningful goals.

Elevating

Do these goals genuinely inspire you? Think about whether they’re not just tasks but instead they genuinely motivate you and map to your own professional development goals.

Practical

Can you realistically achieve success? Similar to SMART goals, it’s crucial to set challenges that are both attainable and exciting within a reasonable time frame.

Impactful

Will reaching these goals make a difference? Your time and effort are precious, so pursuing impactful goals is essential for making meaningful progress in your career and personal development.

Clear

How will you measure success? As with the SMART goal approach, establishing clear success metrics enables you to track your progress and stay on track.

EPIC goal setting to improve employee retention

Incorporating the EPIC layer into your goals isn’t just about objectives; it’s about working toward aligned employee performance goals that map to your own goals personally.

By taking the time to align your personal motivations, or those of your direct reports, with the broader organizational goals as part of your goal-setting process, you reach that sweet spot where employee performance goals not only drive business success, but also job satisfaction, employee engagement and retention.

So, once you have a clear definition of your employee performance goals, you’ll next need to take the extra step to align them with your organizational goals.

Aligning your own professional development goals with organizational business objectives

open floor layout with 50+ team members working at their desks and looking at their computers

Aligning your professional development goals with the key results you’re responsible for driving is the central idea when you’re thinking about career advancement. One way to make this connection stronger is by weaving the company’s KPIs into your personal development goals.

This isn’t just a strategic move; it’s a statement of your commitment to the organization’s mission. It’s a partnership where your employee performance contributes directly to the company’s success.

Integrating KPIs into your goals provides a clear path to measuring your impact on the organization’s success. When it comes time to consider who will get a raise, a promotion, or put on a new project, these performance objectives are the numbers the company leadership team takes into account.

Teamwork makes the dreamwork: Aligning your team goals with individual employees’ performance goals

5 team members working at a desk together while individually each on their computers doing work

Whether you’re working as a team member or leading a team, it’s beneficial to work collaboratively to align each individual’s employee performance goals with any team goals that have been set for you.

Not only can you align performance expectations with key results, but you’ll also ensure all team members are working in the same direction.

Here are a few things to consider as you set your employee goals with other team members:

  • Make a Plan for Team Project Milestones: Ensure that all team members are aware of and committed to specific project milestones by sharing a project timeline with clear deadlines.
  • Improve Team Collaboration and Communication: Create a plan and process for open discussions and brainstorming across team members to enhance collaboration and idea sharing.
  • Manage Team Workload Effectively: Implement a practice of workload check-ins to ensure equitable distribution across performance objectives and to avoid burnout within the team.
  • Cultivate Team Engagement and Motivation: Promote a culture of appreciation by recognizing individual contributions during team meetings and encouraging team members to share their accomplishments.

When you’re working on a team, all team members need to work together to drive business success.

Yes, these are a lot of things to consider, but taking all these pieces into your goal-setting process will help you set meaningful, achievable goals and set you up for success in your performance review process.

Not sure where to start? Here are few performance goal examples.

Employee performance goal examples

Meeting your key results

A great starting place for performance goal setting is to look at the key results you and your team members are responsible for and make a plan for how you will get there. Here are some thought starters:

  • Improve Customer Service: Decrease the number of customer complaints by 20% within the next quarter through improved product quality, streamlined customer support processes, and proactive communication with customers to address their concerns and enhance overall customer satisfaction.
  • Increase Employee Productivity: Grow individual and team productivity by implementing time management and task prioritization techniques, resulting in a 15% improvement in project completion rates within the next six months.

Developing soft skills

person on a conference call with someone on zoom

Forgetting about soft skills is a common mistake people make when planning their professional development, but often these are the skills that can make the difference in your employee performance review at the end of the year.

Simple things like communication skills are easy to forget but can make or break your professional development.

If you have aspirations of getting a promotion, a raise, or even requesting more resources, these soft skills are what will help you get there. Here are some performance goal examples for soft skills:

Emotional Intelligence Goals:

  • Improve communication skills: Participate in a public speaking course or workshop, dedicating at least two hours a week to practice and preparation.
  • Enhance Emotional Regulation: Identify a specific trigger that often leads to negative emotional responses (e.g., frustration during traffic). Create a plan to manage this trigger, such as practicing patience and mindfulness techniques, over the next two months.

Virtual Communication Goals:

  • Enhance virtual networking skills: Actively engaging in industry-specific online forums and attending virtual networking events, aiming to establish at least five new professional connections within the next three months.
  • Enhance my virtual team collaboration skills: Regularly initiating and facilitating virtual team meetings, ensuring effective communication and collaboration among team members on all projects and tasks over the next four months.

Self Management Goals:

  • Improve Time Management Skills: Create a daily schedule that prioritizes tasks and allocates dedicated time for focused work, meetings, and breaks.
  • Stress Management Goal: Develop a daily mindfulness or meditation practice to reduce stress and increase overall well-being. Dedicate 15 minutes each morning and evening to practice mindfulness exercises.
  • Prioritization Goal: Enhance prioritization skills by using a task management tool or a personal journal to create daily to-do lists with clear priorities, ensuring that important tasks are consistently addressed first.

Creative Thinking Goals:

  • Divergent Thinking Goal: Cultivate creativity by setting aside 20 minutes each day to engage in creative brainstorming sessions, exploring unconventional ideas and solutions to everyday problems.
  • Cross-Disciplinary Learning Goal: Foster creative thinking by dedicating time each week to learn about a new subject or field of interest, encouraging the integration of diverse knowledge into problem-solving.

Once you’ve set employee performance goals for the year, the most important part of your annual review preparation is actually taking the time to track the key results you’ve set for yourself!

Measuring Progress and Success

Computer screen with business metrics written on the computer screen

After setting your goals, it’s crucial to schedule regular check-ins to ensure you and other team members are on the right track toward achieving your performance objectives.

This consistent monitoring allows you to track progress, align your efforts with company goals, and make any necessary adjustments to stay on course.

Setting goal-tracking systems

Because you took the time when you were setting performance goals to write SMART goals or EPIC goals, tracking them should become easy.

Consider not only addressing performance objectives in your one-on-one meetings, but using a project management system that’s regularly maintained like a shared spreadsheet, monthly report-out, or other tool your team uses.

By allowing autonomy in tracking measurable goals, your team members can also foster self-management skills and feel empowered in their work.

Don’t just evaluate performance, evaluate the goals.

Measuring progress and success goes beyond the initial goal setting. As you review the performance objectives, take the time to check back on the impact of the goals themselves.

Are they influencing the larger business goals the way you’d hoped they would?

If not, give yourself and your team members the space to adjust. There is no use in rushing toward a goal if it isn’t having the impact you’d hoped.

Provide feedback focused on improving employee performance.

two colleagues looking at a computer screen and one of them is pointing to the monitor

As a manager or team leader, one of your most important responsibilities is guiding each team member toward achieving their individual specific goals and continuously improving their skills, and the most powerful way to do that is through feedback.

Here are some tips for giving effective feedback:

Acknowledge Individual Progress:

Start by recognizing the efforts and progress your team members have made. For example, if an employee has been working on enhancing their soft skills, highlight specific instances where they demonstrated improved communication or teamwork.

Constructive Feedback Delivery:

When delivering feedback, focus on specific behaviors or actions rather than making it personal. For instance, if an employee is in a unique and influential position within the team, acknowledge their positive impact while gently addressing areas where they can further enhance their performance.

Encourage Two-Way Communication:

Feedback should be a two-way street. Encourage your team members to share their perspectives on their performance and development goals. Create a safe and open environment where they feel comfortable discussing their challenges and aspirations.

Support Employee Development:

It’s essential to connect constructive feedback with opportunities for growth and employee development. If a team member is working on improving specific soft skills, offer resources or training that can assist them in achieving these goals.

Celebrate Achievements:

Celebrate milestones and achievements along the way. Recognizing when employees achieve their goals, even small ones, reinforces positive behaviors and motivates them to keep striving for excellence.

Providing effective feedback is a crucial responsibility for managers and team leaders to guide their team members towards achieving their specific goals and improving their skills. Acknowledging progress, focusing on specific behaviors, encouraging two-way communication, supporting employee development, and celebrating achievements are key components of effective feedback. By fostering a culture of continuous improvement and celebrating successes, employees are more engaged, motivated, and committed to achieving their individual goals.

Wrapping up

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Setting and achieving performance goals is important for personal and professional growth, and can also have a significant impact on performance reviews.

By aligning your goals with the company’s objectives, you can help the company succeed while achieving your own development goals. Whether you choose the SMART or EPIC framework, either will be useful for setting goals and allow you to measure your progress and track key results—both of which are the foundation for a strong performance review process.

If you’re a manager or leader, it’s not just about how you set employee goals for your team. You can help your team members improve their performance and celebrate achievements to create a culture of continuous improvement, which can ultimately lead to employee progress toward their own goals, as well as employee engagement, job satisfaction, and employee retention.

Ultimately, the process of setting performance goals for employees and yourself unlocks career growth.

Want to take your goals to the next level? Ama La Vida’s certified career coaches and leadership coaches can help!

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