Running Your Business

4 Tips on Setting Performance Goals in the Workplace

  • It's important to set goals for your company in order to push your organization forward
  • Take time to identify goals based on the areas of your business that could use improvement
  • Stay on track by reevaluating often, looking at goals differently when needed and rewarding yourself along the way


Posted by July 31, 2018

What do some of the most successful businesses have in common? They all set performance goals.

You can’t know where your company is heading if you don’t have benchmarks in place to get there. Having clear, well-defined goals is the best way to achieve your company’s objectives, grow your business and improve teamwork and collaboration. What’s more, when you reflect and review what’s happening in your organization today, what happened yesterday and where you want to be tomorrow, performance goal setting is the only way to get there.

Before you throw up your hands and decide goal setting is too difficult or concede that you’ll never follow through, examine this four-part plan that can help you learn why you should set goals, how to build them and what to do if you get off track.

1. Choosing Your Performance Goals

Goal setting should be a part of every business plan. After all, what better way is there to assess what’s going on and focus on the future than by identifying (and reaching) benchmarks? You should write down your goals, revisit them quarterly and post them for colleagues who should be working on them, too.

How do you know which goals to set? First, identify your business’ strengths and weaknesses. What’s going well, and what’s lacking? This can provide insight into what needs to be addressed. You may also need to look at your competition and understand what they’re doing and how it relates to you.

Consider the industry standards when it comes to income, charges, clients and expenses—and where your business falls within those averages. If there are improvements to make, you’ve just discovered a goal.

Next, identify any client needs or trends that you’d like to address. What does the market research tell you is happening in your industry, and where does your company fit within those trends? Are you meeting client’s needs and expectations, or is there work to do?

2. How to Build Your Goals

Once you’ve decided what a few of those performance goals should be, choose a few of the most important ones to tackle. Goals should be realistic (not so mind-boggling that they’d never be met), measurable, not esoteric (like “the staff should be friendlier”) and relevant to the types of changes your business needs to make.

Creating a set amount of achievable and timely goals—again, not so many that it’s overwhelming but enough that you have to strive to meet them—is key to creating the most achievable plan.

Goals should be specific. Examples might include:

  • Grow the business by 10 percent
  • Hire two new employees this year
  • Increase the client-base by 5 percent
  • Offer clients a new service or product that is trending in the industry
  • Meet a client need that is not being met
  • Increase revenue by 6 percent

3. How to Work Toward Achieving Your Goals

When concrete, written, realistic goals are in place, your company must then work to achieve them. Set a timeline for success, describing the action that you’ll take and who will be responsible for each goal—or assign a dedicated team (or an intern) to each goal’s completion.

Allocate the needed resources, such as time, money, research or innovation, and include a timeline for when each step might be revisited to assess progress. These measurements help your company work toward the goals you’ve set and allow you to check in regularly to see the progress.

Don’t forget to reward yourself or employees along the way. Immediate payoffs make goal tasks seem less like work.

4. How to Stay on Top of Your Goals, so You Don’t Fall Behind

It’s human nature to occasionally let things fall off the radar, like performance goals, when times are busy and work is hectic. You’ll want to stay on track by keeping yourself (and your employees) accountable with monthly check-ins, goal assessments or team meetings. If you do fall off track, keep a few things in mind:

  • Consider performance goals like a diet. Remember that time you fell off your diet when you binged on ice cream? It wasn’t the end of the world. Come Monday, get right back on schedule by assessing where you are in your goal and recommitting.
  • Back off the goals that are a stretch to achieve. Having a “reach” goal may inspire you, but if it’s too overwhelming, you may have to let it slide. Back off your reach goals slightly if they’re too intense.
  • Finally, change up your approach. Sometimes you might not achieve goals—or let them slip out of reach—because you approached them incorrectly, needed a different angle, a different person leading the way or even a different way of thinking about the goal. If this might be the case, reevaluate how you’re trying to achieve that goal and if it still makes sense. If not, readjust.

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