A simple employee goal setting structure for managers

Written by: Nora St-Aubin | Edited by: Jasmine Papillon-Smith | Illustrated by: Chloé Allard
Published on December 16, 2020 | Reading time: 8m

As a manager, you know that setting goals with your team members is a key part of driving employee engagement and boosting team performance. What may not be as clear, however, is how to establish these goals and monitor your employees’ progress during 1-on-1 conversations. We’ve outlined a simple framework to develop clear goals collaboratively with employees—plus, loads of tips on how to make goals more relevant and set employees up for success in achieving them.

Why is employee goal setting important?

Setting appropriate goals for each person on your team helps leverage everyone’s individual strengths towards your common objectives, increases engagement, and boosts employee retention. The importance of employee goal setting this is twofold…

1. Goal setting improves team alignment

Managers can work with employees to set individual performance goals that feed into the team’s goals, and ultimately the goals of the organization. Creating employee alignment with business objectives is what drives the overall performance of your team, and gets everyone working towards a shared vision.

2. Goal setting improves employee engagement

Employees who feel that their managers are invested in their growth are more engaged at work, and apply themselves in their role. Connecting people’s professional development ambitions with the company’s bottom line makes them feel valued for their individual skills and strengths.

Eve Zaidan, who uses Officevibe to stay connected with her manager at Wise-Sync, shares how it helps her see the bigger picture of her role:

“Officevibe motivates you not just to think about yourself as an employee, but to think about your future from a macro perspective. It asks you these questions that place you outside of your company and make you think about your career and where you’re heading. If you feel confident that you’re on the right career path, you will give your company 120% because you feel like you’re secure and progressing.”

manager standing in front of an 1:1 dashboard

Prep one-on-ones in record time!

1-on-1 software that makes planning quick
 and conversations meaningful.

Top tips for effective goal setting

These quick tips will help you improve your approach to employee goal setting, so you can build a stronger and higher-performing team.

  • Take a collaborative approach to give employees a sense of agency in their own development, driving employee accountability.
  • Incorporate individual strengths so that every team member is contributing to team goals based on their own unique skill set.
  • Balance challenge and attainability so people see the results of their hard work as they apply themselves, maintaining employee motivation.
  • Equip employees with resources like training, technology, research, or other things that will support them in achieving their goals.
  • Ongoing coaching and feedback are essential to employee success, so make this a priority in one-on-one conversations.
  • Track, evaluate, and adjust goals on a regular basis to keep them relevant to both the team and each employee’s context.

A goal-setting sidekick for managers
Officevibe’s 1-on-1 software helps you tackle goal-setting together with employees and drive team alignment. Build Team Goals & Individual Goals that tie into each 1-on-1 agenda, then set and track one-off Action Items towards achieving them. Try it free!

Making goals relevant for employees and the business

Setting individual goals with employees should help them not only understand how they’ll contribute to company objectives, but also see how they can develop their skills and grow in their role. The best way to ensure this is to actively involve employees in the process of goal setting. People want a say in their development trajectory, yet according to Officevibe’s Pulse Survey data,

34% of employees do not feel appropriately involved in decisions that affect their work.

While you might have a clear idea of the business needs as a manager, your employees know their individual strengths, and together you can find the best ways each can contribute to the team’s success.

How to connect employee aspirations with business objectives

  • Be curious and keep an open mind when you discuss employees’ development paths and opportunities for growth. Avoid making assumptions about how people want to evolve in their role.
  • Ask your employee to share how they see their work impacting the company’s bottom line. They might give visibility on something you weren’t aware of, or offer a new perspective you hadn’t considered.
  • Seek an outside perspective whether that means asking another manager how they coach employees or asking someone more senior in the same area of expertise as your employee about their career path.

Connect employees with a mentor 🤝
Mentorship is key to employee development, so setting employees up with someone senior in their area of expertise can help them have a clearer vision of how they see themselves growing in their role.

Simple employee goal setting structure

To set meaningful goals with each member of your team, schedule a one-on-one meeting and follow this simple structure.

1. Get to know employee strengths

First, have a conversation with your employee about their role within the team, their skill set (hard skills and soft skills), and the areas that they’re most eager to develop. Ask them to prepare for your goal setting meeting by doing a self-reflection on their strengths.

Employee self-reflection:

  1. What motivates you the most at work?
  2. How have you contributed to reaching the team’s objectives?
  3. What is one skill that is harder for you that you could work on?
  4. How would you like to use your strengths in the future?
  5. Who do you want to be in 5 years?

Take the time to talk through your employee’s reflection and gain a deeper understanding of how they view their work and their contributions to the team.

2. Set SMART, strengths-based employee goals collaboratively

With a common understanding of your employees’ strengths, you’re ready to set some goals together. Aim for no more than three goals, and find a balance between goals that are directly related to team objectives (performance goals) and those geared more toward developing their expertise (development goals).

💡 The SMART goal acronym is helpful to keep in mind: are goals Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timebound?

Examples of good individual employee goals:

  • Obtain a lead quality score of 3% above average from the next business development project.
  • Within the next month, have a coffee date with [potential mentor] to discuss setting up regular coaching sessions with them.
  • Create a pitch to implement [tool/software/platform] and present it to the stakeholders ahead of next quarter’s budget planning.
  • Complete 10 hours of online [area of expertise] training in the next 3 months.
  • Plan, lead, and document a team brainstorm for the ideation of [upcoming project], and present it at the next cross-team alignment meeting.

Once you’ve established goals with your employee, discuss what they’ll need to achieve them, such as tools, resources, or support from their colleagues or a coach. Create an action plan and delegate tasks to set them up for success. You can establish individual goals that align with team goals, then set action items and track progress in one-on-ones using Officevibe or your current goal-tracking system.

manager standing in front of an 1:1 dashboard

Prep one-on-ones in record time!

1-on-1 software that makes planning quick
 and conversations meaningful.

Coach employees to achieve their goals

Just as your team members’ personal involvement and commitment to achieving their goals is essential to their success, so is your ongoing support along the way. According to Officevibe’s Pulse Survey data,

1 in 3 employees report that they do not have someone at work who helps them grow and develop.

By asking the right questions in one-on-ones you can coach employees towards achieving their goals, discuss their progress, and troubleshoot any blockers that may arise. Remember that goals can shift along with the team priorities and company strategy, so it’s important to re-evaluate them on a regular basis.

Questions to monitor employee goal progress:

  • As things stand, do you think you will be able to achieve your goal? Why?
  • Do you need my help identifying which actions could help you achieve your goals?
  • Do you need to have a clearer picture of how your individual goals allow us to attain our goals as a team or a company?
  • Do you sometimes feel bored or unchallenged at work? If so, would you like your goals to be revised so that they’re more challenging?
  • Do you think that we should work together to revise your goal?

Looking for more one-on-one questions?
Officevibe’s Conversation Engine helps you make every one-on-one impactful with a bank of curated, relevant talking points like the questions above. Monitor employee goal progress using Officevibe’s complete one-on-one software.

What to do when goals aren’t met

Despite having clear goals and being personally motivated, there are times when employees fall short of their objectives. It’s understandable to feel some disappointment as a manager when this happens, but your employee is probably disappointed as well, and reprimanding them is unlikely to have any positive effect. Instead, plan your next 1-on-1 to get to the root of what went wrong, so they can learn from the experience and find a new path forward.

Questions to ask when goals aren’t met:

  • Was there a problem with the goal itself (timeframe, specificity, etc.)?
  • Was there something you were missing to achieve your goal (resource, tool, support)?
  • If you can pinpoint what the problem was, is there anything you could have done differently to troubleshoot or work around it?
  • Is there anything that I could have helped with or that I should know?
  • Is the goal still relevant and attainable if we alter the scope/timeline?
  • How do you see us proceeding forward from here?

Asking open-ended questions such as these helps create a safe space for employees to share context or roadblocks that you might not have had visibility on. Once you’ve discussed what was blocking their achievement, work together to establish solutions and set action items for how you’ll proceed.

Goal setting can be intimidating—but with the right mindset, a solid framework, and the collaboration of your team members, you’re bound to set goals that will amplify teamwork and drive employee performance.