The best employee goal setting framework for managers

Written by: Deanna deBara | Edited by: Nora St-Aubin | Illustrated by: Chloé Allard
Published on June 18, 2021 |  Reading time: 8m

Helping your team members set goals is a key part of driving employee engagement, boosting team performance, and helping your employees reach their full potential. But how to do that can feel like a question mark. What’s the most efficient process for employee goal setting? What’s the best employee goal setting framework? How do you monitor their progress, and ensure they hit their targets?

This simple, straightforward employee goal setting template will set you and your employees up for success during the goal setting process.

Why is employee goal setting important?

Employee goal setting is a must for a number of reasons, including:

  • It improves team alignment. When you work with your employees to set individual goals that feed into your team’s goals, it gets everyone moving in the same direction.
  • It creates a vision for the future. A clear vision of where they’re headed and the autonomy to figure out how to get there boosts employees’ sense of purpose.
  • It improves employee engagement. Having a career goal to work towards that feels meaningful keeps employees engaged and productive in accomplishing their work.
  • It improves employee retention. When you’re invested in their professional growth, employees have the opportunities and support that keeps them around.

A goal-setting sidekick for managers

Officevibe helps you set, track, and centralize goals with each member of your team. The goal-setting agenda template helps you establish employee goals together in a one-on-one. Then, connect Individual Goals with Team Goals, and access everything in one place to create alignment, and stay organized.

Officevibe motivates you not just to think about yourself as an employee, but to think about your future from a macro perspective…

Eve Zaidan, who uses Officevibe to grow in her career at Wise-Sync

“It asks you these questions that place you outside of your company and make you think about your career and where you’re heading,” Eve continues, “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.”

The best employee goal setting framework

Clearly, employee goal setting is important — but it’s also a process. And if you’re a manager who’s pressed for time, starting that process from scratch with every single employee can feel overwhelming.

This employee goal setting framework saves you time and keeps your goal-setting strategy consistent with every team member.

1. Get clear on your team goals and organizational goals

You can’t tie individual employee goals to the bigger picture if you don’t know what that bigger picture is. That’s why, before you meet with your employee and jump into the individual goal setting process, it’s important to get clear on your bigger picture goals. That means understanding your team goals and the company objective they feed into.

Goal setting questions for managers:

  • What are the goals my team is working towards?
  • What business goal is our organization as a whole working towards?
  • How does this individual team member’s role and responsibilities fit into those team and organizational goals?

Being clear on where your team is headed from the get-go helps you set employee goals that both help them get to where they want to go, and help your team reach their desired destination.

2. Get to know your employee’s strengths

For goal setting to be effective, the goals you set with your employees need to play to each individual employee’s strengths. So, part of the goal setting process is sitting down with your employee and getting to know who they are and where they excel.

Schedule a one-on-one meeting and have a conversation with your employee about their role within the team, their skill set (both hard and soft skills), and the areas they’re excited to explore and develop.

To make the most out of your sit down, ask your team members to prepare for your goal setting meeting by doing a self-reflection on their strengths. Set this as a talking point in your one-on-one meeting agenda.

Employee goal setting questions:

  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?

Talking through your employee’s self-reflection exercise can help you gain a deeper understanding of how they view their work and their contributions to the team. And this will be a major help during the goal setting process.

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.

3. Collaborate with your employees to set SMART goals

Once you’ve wrapped your head around your employees’ strengths, it’s time to jump into setting goals. Keep the number of goals you set manageable, and aim for no more than three goals. You also want to find a balance between goals that are directly related to team objectives (performance goals) and those geared more toward developing their expertise (development goals).

Make sure that each of your goals holds up to the SMART goal acronym: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. Check out our best employee goal setting examples if you’re looking for inspiration.

Once you and your employee have settled on the right goals to pursue, have a conversation around what they’ll need to achieve those goals. This could mean specific tools, resources, or support from their co-workers or leadership team. Create an action plan and delegate tasks to get them started and set them up for success.

4. Coach your employee along the way

Now your employee has goals they’re working towards. And as a manager, your goal should be to help your employee achieve their goal. That means you’ll need to provide support and coaching along the way. How you coach and support your employee in reaching their set goal or KPI will depend on the employee and the goal, but it’s important to make sure they feel supported.

For example: if your employee’s goal is to close a big client, offer to sit in on their next product demo or practice pitch and give them notes on how they can improve and close more sales. If their goal is to land a big promotion, schedule a meeting to give them more insights on the role and what they need to do to get there.

The more you coach and support your employee as they work towards their goal, the more likely it is they’ll hit that key result. And that’s when the employee goal setting process becomes a success — both for them and for your team.

5. Schedule regular one-on-one meetings to track goals progress

You want to stay on top of how your employee is doing, how they’re progressing towards their goals, and whether those goals need to be tweaked, changed, or adjusted. Schedule regular one-on-one meetings to help set smaller action items towards employee goals and track their progress.

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?

With goal setting and tracking capabilities, a shared agenda, centralized notes, and automated follow-ups, Officevibe one on one software makes it easy to make the most out of your 1-on-1s — and make sure each one-on-one is helping your employee make meaningful progress towards their goals.

What to do if goals aren’t met

Even when employees have clear goals and are motivated to hit them, they may encounter challenges that prevent them from hitting the mark. This can be a disappointing experience — both for them as an employee and for you as a manager.

The best thing to do in this situation is to get to the root of what went wrong. That way, you can both learn from the experience, and figure out the best way to move 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 one-on-one questions like this will create a safe, non-judgemental space for employees to share what prevented them from hitting their goal — and things you as a manager may have missed. Once you’ve had a conversation around what didn’t work, you can work together to figure out what might work better, and create a plan for how to move forward. 

Use goal setting to empower your employees

When employees are working towards the right goals, it drives engagement and performance. And there’s no need to stress over how you’ll set goals with a clear, easy-to-follow framework.

We also put together an actionable list of the best employee goal setting tips to help managers get started.