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Employee Goals

Effective Employee Goals: 8 Tips You Need to Know

Every successful manager or leader knows that goal-setting for your employees is an important component of success. Setting employee targets and goals not only increases productivity, but also helps to motivate your team and boosts their confidence and happiness when these goals are achieved.

But there’s the catch: you need to set the right employee targets.

If your employee targets are off the mark, you risk motivation, happiness and productivity plummeting as your team struggles to either comprehend your vision or measure up to your expectations.

Fortunately, below we’ve laid out everything you need to know about how to set effective employee goals…

How to set (and manage) your employee’s targets

Share the goal-setting process

While you as a manager or leader will almost certainly already have specifics in mind of what you’d like to see from each member of your team, it’s important to take into account what your team hope for their positions as well. Involving an employee in the goal-setting process gives them more autonomy over their future and their role, which in turn builds a greater desire to hit their targets—and even exceed them.

Align team targets with company goals

Your company will have an overarching strategy and vision, and your employee’s goals should be intrinsically and clearly linked to it. It will be much easier for your team to feel as though they are valued if they can see precisely where their targets tie into the bigger picture. In addition, every time you reiterate the company mission, you’ll be simultaneously giving each member of your team a reminder of their responsibility. 


You’ll doubtless have heard of this acronym before, and it’s well-known for a reason: it works. On the off chance you’ve not come across it yet, SMART stands for:

Specific – Make sure your goals are not too vague or broad.

Measurable – Make your goals quantifiable and objective, rather than them being subjective and based on opinion.

Achievable – Only set goals that can realistically be achieved.

Relevant – Make sure the link between the personal target and the bigger picture is evident.

Time-based – Give a sensible window of time for the target to be achieved.

Be consistent

If you have five people doing the same job at the same level, be consistent when setting their employee targets. Things can get uncomfortable fast if you set vastly different expectations for different employees, and this can easily lead to a soured atmosphere. There’s no need to try and play your team members off against one another by setting them goals that place them in competition with one another. Instead, nurture an atmosphere of positivity and mutual support. 

Ensure your goals are doable

Yes, it’s listed above as part of the SMART method, but it’s worth revisiting in more detail. As an employee, your targets can either be a great motivator or a rain cloud hanging over you, and it largely depends on the perceived attainability of said targets. You may want to push your team, but pushing too hard can have the opposite of the desired effect: they switch off.

Instead of lumping enormous targets on your team, break them up into reasonable chunks. ‘Write a novel’ sounds difficult; ‘write a one paragraph a day for three months’ does not. If the target is too huge at the outset, you risk causing feelings of ‘Why bother? It’s impossible’ among your team.

Give rewards when goals are met

If an employee has worked hard for months on end and has finally smashed their target—reward them! This could be in the form of verbal praise, company-wide recognition, a gift, or a bonus in their wage packet. It does more than motivate the employee in question too—you’ll also be demonstrating how much you value good performance and work ethic as an employer, indicating to the rest of your team the sort of treatment they can expect if they achieve similar things.

The flipside to this, of course, is that if you don’t give any sort of reward or acknowledgement for when goals are met, your team may soon find themselves feeling downbeat and demoralised. Ever a pat on the back and a little acknowledgement is better than nothing. Praise goes a very long way indeed!

Set different types of goal

Beyond simple ‘increase your sales’ type goals, you may encourage employees to focus on their negotiation skills, their emotional intelligence and empathy, their creativity, their planning and preparation, their punctuality and more. Of course, some of these will be difficult to quantify, and may seem more subjective. Monitoring the progress of these therefore requires a little more diligence on your part in observing your team throughout their efforts.

Help employees who are struggling

Your team is only human, and sometimes members will fall short of a target. Sometimes it might even be by quite a large amount. If you find yourself, on the day of the deadline you’d set, sitting opposite your employee as they explain that they haven’t quite managed it, it’s important to listen, try to understand where things went wrong, and offer a helping hand.

Don’t be afraid to adjust your team’s targets if they’re falling short. It can be difficult to tell whether your targets are too high or your team are simply not functioning as well as they could be, however the benefit of lowering your next target slightly is that, assuming they achieve their goals next time around, your employees will be newly motivated and filled with confidence. This confidence, of course, will go a huge way to ensuring they hit higher targets in future.

Employee targets: the bigger picture

The key to setting effective employee goals is to understand that they’re not merely something put in place to increase productivity or profits, but to help your team be the best they can be in their roles. By using the above advice and creating an intelligent, thoughtful set of employee targets, you can help your staff continue on an upward trajectory through their careers. It’s great for them, it’s great for you and it’s great for your business!