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May 25th, 2021 · 5 min read

The quick and easy guide to effective employee goal setting

Written by: Izabelle Hundrev

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What is employee goal setting?

Benefits of setting goals for employees

  • Boosted employee engagement: Giving your employees something to work towards can increase day-to-day work engagement and improve motivation and job performance. Skill-building gives them the means to achieve those goals. 
  • A competitive advantage: 96 percent of business leaders surveyed by InStride believe that investing in employee skill-building gives the company a competitive edge. When skill-building and employee goals align with business goals, it can ultimately drive growth within an organization.
  • Improved retention rates: 94 percent of employees exiting a workplace say they would stay if their company made a greater investment in workforce education. It’s clear that encouraging skill-building and continuous learning as part of a goal setting strategy can actually help reduce turnover.

Challenges of setting employee goals

  • Unclear objectives
  • No alignment between goals and overall company strategy
  • Unrealistic or unattainable expectations
  • No method for tracking progress


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How to define goals for employees

  • Employee goals start from the top: Put simply, individual goals should align with overall team, department and company objectives.
  • Goal setting is a collaborative process: Employees should be encouraged to take part in developing their own goals. People managers are there to support and initiate the process, but team members should have the freedom to weigh in on the initiatives they want to be a part of.  
  • Make sure goals are measurable and attainable: Goals are only effective if they're realistic. Every goal should be within reason of reaching within the measured time period. 
  • Focus on individual growth: Goal setting is an opportunity to further employee learning and development. When discussing goals, include individual career development goals as part of the conversation. 

Types of employee goal setting frameworks

OKR goal setting

Example of an OKR goal

  • Key result 1: Get lunch with a different colleague every week
  • Key result 2: Organize a happy hour
  • Key result 3: Collaborate cross-functionally on a project

MBO goal setting

example of MBO goals

SMART goal setting

Example of a SMART goal

Employee goal setting examples

  • Role-specific goals are those that employees set for the positions they hold within the company or positions they want to hold within the company. This type of goal can center around job performance, advancement or personal productivity. For example, an employee working as a Junior Marketing Associate can set an objective to advance to Marketing Specialist and may include steps such as training, upskilling and increased responsibilities to help them get there. 
  • Team-specific goals are those that individuals and groups working together can set for both themselves and each other. This helps to organize and strategize your team, as well as clearly outline the roles and responsibilities of the people making up your team. For example, the marketing team is aiming to release a new social media campaign in the upcoming quarter. To ensure that everyone is prepared for the launch, the team sets a goal to complete a short-form certificate on Instagram marketing.
  • Individual growth goals are those set by the employee which may or may not specifically relate to work, but can still improve job performance and engagement. For example, an employee wants to make more time for family and will set the objective to complete remote tasks no later than 5:00 pm so they can be fully present at home.

Start setting goals for employees today

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