How to set goals for your employees

Goal setting is a simple yet very important task. Goals are probably exactly what you are thinking they are. Things you want your employees to achieve.

Settings goals for both yourself and your team are essential for proper success.

Goals need to be set at the outset in order to eliminate issues down the road. If you don't tell your employees what you expect, then how will they know what to do?

In order to prevent rework, failures, or unexpected behaviors, it is imperative to set clear and attainable goals.

You will need to be open and clear about the goals and your expectations. This will help the employees discern their contributions to the company and feel like their actions matter.

Setting specific and attainable goals will allow your employees to work on the items you deem to be the highest priority, which will help manage expectations and increase productivity and employee engagement.

Follow these guidelines to aid you in setting realistic and effective goals.

Pro Tips

  • Ensure all goals meet the "SMART" guidelines.
  • Review, revise and follow up on goals
  • Set goals with an understanding of the employees perspective. They need to buy in, so the goal has to have a positive impact for them. "What's in this for me?", "Why should I care about this goal?"
  • Link the goals to an understandable and relatable positive benefit for the company and team

Planning Phase


  • Know what the end is. What marks success? What does the end result look like?
  • Figure out what key points you can bring to the conversation to help get the employees buy in
  • Schedule a meeting room or place where you can discuss the goals
  • Be sure to schedule adequate time. You need enough time to convey the goals and have a discussion about them

Development Goals

  • Each employee should have a few development goals given to them.
  • Ask employees and coworkers what skills, abilities, knowledge, etc. would be helpful for the employee to develop
    • Needs to get certified with Windows 10
    • Take the continuing education requirements for their real estate license
    • Finish learning about the latest changes to GAAP reporting
  • What is the next major step or milestone for the employee?

Performance Goals

  • Make sure the goals are relevant to the employee and the organization
  • Give the employee about 3 goals. Too many and it's hard to achieve and focus.
  • Goals should be challenging but attainable. You want success.

The discussion

Step 1: Explain why the goals matter

  • Help the employees understand why the goals are important and relevant. How do they help support the company's overarching strategy and help your team?

Step 2: Explain your goals

  • Let the team know what your goals are so they can support yours.

Step 3: Be open and inquisitive

  • "What can I do to help you succeed?"
  • "What road blocks can I clear to help your achieve your goal?"
  • "Is there anything you need?"
  • "Are there any skills you need to learn or upgrade to acheive your goal?"

Step 4: Be clear about your expectations

  • Explain your expectations of what success looks like so the employee can better understand what they need to achieve to satisfy or exceed their goal.

Step 5: Be sure they understand the goals and are invested in achieving them

Set the goals and Approve the goals

Use the "SMART" guideline

The November 1981 issue of Management Review contained a paper by George T. Doran called There's a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management's goals and objectives. It discussed the importance of objectives and the difficulty of setting them. We have modified these to help you better understand them and meet align with our performance management concepts. Ideally speaking, each corporate, department, and section objective should be:
  • Specific – target a specific area for improvement. Describe what needs to be done. Make sure you are not vague and that both the employee and the managers understand the goal.
  • Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress. Metrics should be clear and objective.
  • Assignable – specify who will do it. Who is responsible for achieving this goal. The person, the team?
  • Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
  • Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved. Due dates, milestones, and important dates clearly presented.


Doran, G. T. (1981). "There's a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management's goals and objectives". Management Review (AMA FORUM) 70 (11): 35–36.