Trakstar’s Definitive Guide to Performance Goals in the Workplace (2024 Update)

Posted by Dave • August 5, 2020 (Last modified August 15, 2023) • 11 min read

Setting performance goals is essential in growing and developing talent within any organization. When we decide to improve at something or overcome a challenge, setting goals helps us see how we’ll make it happen. High-achieving employees set goals at a much higher rate than those who underperform, and sometimes the difference is just that: one bothered to set a goal in the first place.

Any organization with growth ambitions needs to make and reflect on goals regularly. Every employee has to focus on work that moves the needle. But to do so, they need to know—without a doubt—what they’re striving to achieve.

That’s where performance goals come into play.

What Are Performance Goals?

When we set performance goals, SHRM says we need to think about the bigger picture: “The results […] achieved by employees should be tied to the organization’s strategy and goals. The employee’s development needs should also be taken into account in the goal-setting process. Development goals can be targeted either to improving current job performance or preparing for career advancement.” 

But to do that, we need to start smaller.

Using performance goals, organizations set clear objectives for employees. The performance goals align with their skills and experiences and are achievable based on the tasks and responsibilities outlined in their job descriptions.

An employee’s performance goals should also be an extension of a larger group of objectives their team is focused on achieving. The collective contributions of each team member result in departmental goals being met, which in turn, positively impacts organizational goals. 

Once performance goals are set, managers monitor their direct reports’ progress. They should use appropriate metrics to measure performance and meet with their team members regularly to discuss priorities and challenges. Managers should also document the performance milestones of the employees they oversee, so they have a record to consult when it is time to complete formal evaluations.

Organizations do this in many different ways. Sometimes they will set goals at the start of new quarters, for an activity during an all-hands meeting, or they’ll use goal-setting software during performance reviews.

Why Are Performance Goals Important?

Setting performance goals for every employee is crucial to creating a comprehensive organizational strategy. Goals define each employee’s role in the organization’s success, increasing the likelihood that revenue and other growth targets are met. Let’s review the specific advantages performance-focused objectives offer to employers:

  • Employees deliver impactful work – Everything they do is aimed at accomplishing their goals. 
  • Job success is objective – You can applaud your top performers and help underperformers get back on track.
  • Managers effectively lead their teams – They can assign relevant tasks and deliver specific feedback based on performance.
  • Workforce planning is simplified – Leaders identify gaps in their teams and hire based on need. 

Performance goals mean every employee has a purpose. They understand what they need to focus on and get motivated to hit their targets. Let’s explore the specific advantages performance goals bring to individual employees:

  • Their expectations are clear – Employees are never unsure what they’re supposed to work on or if they’re succeeding in their role. 
  • They see their work pay off – Team members can look back and see how accomplishing their goals contributed to meeting larger objectives. 
  • They feel a sense of accomplishment – Meeting a goal results in personal fulfillment and a desire to reach even greater objectives. 
  • They receive relevant feedback – Managers provide feedback that resonates with employees because it aligns with their goals. 
  • They can work autonomously – Great organizations allow employees to work toward their goals as they set fit. 
  • They have a career development path – Employees who constantly meet their performance goals show they can take on more responsibility in a higher-level role. 

Setting employee performance goals is a no-brainer for any organization with long-term growth plans. Employees come to work laser-focused on tasks and projects that incrementally propel their team forward.

How to Set Performance Goals

The most basic way to set performance goals is to think about where you currently are in your role, your department, or as an organization, and then think about where you want to be in a year.

How will you get there?

Most companies will opt to set SMART performance goals because they are proven to work.

The SMART Goal-Setting System

If you want to bring the benefits of performance goals to your organization, you must take the right approach. Performance goals can do more harm than good when incorrectly defined and implemented. Employees get confused and frustrated when they need clarification on what they’re being asked to deliver. Some may even have a different interpretation of their goals than their manager, which can end up hurting their performance and job satisfaction. 

The SMART goal method was designed to remove the pitfalls typically associated with goal setting. Let’s review each letter that makes up the acronym so you learn how to set employee goals that are understood by every stakeholder:

  • Specific – Goals must always have defined outcomes. The employee needs to understand exactly what they’re being asked to accomplish. 
  • Measurable – Goals must be quantifiable, so success is indisputable. We also recommend tying KPIs to goals, so an employee’s progress is measurable.
  • Achievable – Goals have to be realistic, so employees are willing to buy-in. That said, setting slightly ambitious goals stimulates motivation
  • Relevant – Goals must be appropriate for the employee’s role. They should be able to envision how they’ll accomplish their performance objectives using their skills, knowledge, and experience.
  • Timely – And finally, goals need to come with deadlines. Like the achievable component, deadlines should be tight but not unreasonable. 

If your performance goals check those five boxes, you’ll likely find that every member of your workforce has a crystal-clear understanding of what they’re being asked to achieve.   

For a more in-depth explanation of how to write SMART goals, click here.

For more information about writing SMART employee goals in Trakstar Perform, click here.

Goal Setting Planner

Performance Goals Examples for 2024

Here are five performance review goals examples you can use to set goals for yourself or the people you manage. These performance goals examples follow the SMART methodology whenever possible, though some may deviate slightly from that format.

Performance Review Revenue Goals

Revenue performance review goals comprise most of the performance review goals within the business’s marketing, sales, and revenue. Some example goals include:

  • “My goal is to increase Q2 revenue by 15% by closing ten new accounts and upselling twice.”
  • “My goal is to close $750,000 worth of sales by the end of the fiscal year.”
  • “My goal is to upsell leads 50% of the time by suggesting other products or features in follow-up emails.”

Marketing Performance Goals Examples for 2024

Performance goals for marketing are vast and can include any area within the organization. Some of these goals are easier to track than others, as some are directly dependent on the marketing department, whereas others depend on a group of people.

Some performance goal examples for marketing include:

  • “I want to increase organic website traffic by 50% by December 2024.”
  • “I want to have 25 new keywords rank on Google by the end of Q2.”
  • “We want to increase average conversion rates by 9% by the end of the year.”
  • “We want to increase email click-through rates by 8% by October 2024.”
  • “We want to grow our following on LinkedIn by 10% by the end of the year and increase engagement by 2.5% every month.”

Product Performance Goals Examples for 2024

Product-specific goals will vary by industry and type of product. It really depends on what you’re selling and how you sell it. It’s harder to create broad goals, but here are some examples:

  • “We want to decrease workplace accidents by 15%.”
  • “We aim to increase monthly active users by 40% by improving the user experience through new design.”
  • “We want to have fewer than 5% of our meals sent back to the kitchen this month.”
  • “We want to launch 3 new features in our product by the end of 2024.”
  • “We aim to increase the number of 5-star reviews on Google by 40% by the end of the year.”

Most of these organizational and departmental goals will focus on revenue and reputation needs. However, managers and leaders shouldn’t forget about things like organizational culture, talent development, and employee engagement. We’ll reflect on some sample goals in the next section that touch on those topics.

Self Performance Review Goals Examples

For someone writing a self-evaluation, what are some goals they can set? Certainly, they can use any goals in the previous section as examples. However, self evaluation goals examples should also include goals surrounding development and personal growth. 

Some self performance review goals examples include:

  • “I want to complete 100 hours of training this year to improve my chances of getting a promotion.”
  • “I want to participate in one employee bonding experience per quarter.”
  • “My goal is to show up on time for work 95% of the time.”
  • “I want to grow my own skills so that I can become a part of the mentorship program.”

You can set goals surrounding anything! Even if you have personal goals about drinking water, getting a good night of sleep, or standing more during your job, consider telling your manager! They may be able to help you achieve them or at least create some accountability.

Cascading Goals Template: How To Set Larger Goals

Cascading goals are a method used to structure your organizational goals. These goals are initially set by CEOs and other executives, and then those goals cascade down through the rest of the organization. It requires employees to take their own strengths and weaknesses into account and focus on the human side of the organization while thinking about the big bets for the year.

The goal is to create organizational alignment and ensure that everyone is held accountable for company success. 

To learn more about cascading goals, you can read our blog which includes a cascading goals template.

Setting Goals During Performance Reviews

When you are setting performance review goals, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Following the SMART goal method is an effective way to define performance objectives clearly. However, you don’t just want employees to understand their goals. You want them to be enthusiastic about what they’re being asked to accomplish. We’ll conclude with a few tips for setting performance goals every employee can commit to.

Encourage managers to consult their employees

It always helps to make goal-setting a collaborative exercise between managers and employees. While managers must assign particular objectives, they should still be receptive to the employee’s questions and feedback. They might find that an individual’s goals can be adjusted to align with the team’s strategy. These discussions also provide the opportunity to define the KPIs that measure the employee’s progress.

Once the baseline performance goals are agreed on, employees should be encouraged to set their own goals. The manager can present the team’s objectives, and the employee can share how their talents can be used to drive progress. Involving team members in strategic planning helps them see the big picture and get excited to deliver outstanding results. 

Adjust goals as necessary

Performance goals should never be set in stone. As the employee gets to work on their long-term objectives, new challenges will emerge, and priorities will shift. You want employees to take changes in stride, so be willing to push back deadlines or redefine goals.

You’ll also find some employees are on pace to accomplish their performance goals with time to spare. In these cases, acknowledge their stellar performance and revise their goals. Ensure their targets are always ambitious, so they stay motivated and productive. 

Use performance goals as the foundation for employee reviews

Employees’ long-term objectives should be used as the basis for their performance reviews. Instead of asking managers to rate direct reports on a series of vague competencies, evaluate the outcomes of their goals. Managers should also consult the performance-related notes they’ve been documenting, so an employee’s evaluation accounts for all their wins during the review period. 

Performance evaluation meetings provide the opportunity to review all the employee’s goals and the approach they took to accomplish them. Managers can go through the goals that weren’t met and share what they believe the employee could have done differently. They should also acknowledge the great effort the employee made to achieve the goals that were met. 

Create a goal-oriented culture

Accomplishing goals doesn’t just stimulate meaningful productivity. It has a positive impact on employee engagement. Employees feel good when they continuously hit their targets and grow to derive satisfaction from doing their job. 

So why stop with just performance goals? Encourage employees to use SMART goals for everything they do. Ask them to go through the process of defining quantifiable, time-bound objectives at the start of a new project. Every team member should always have a clear idea of what they want their work to result in. 

You can also align performance goals with an employee’s career development goals. They can meet with their manager and share the skills they would like to develop and the challenges they hope to take on. Both parties can then create a professional development plan the employee can carry out through the experiences they have in the workplace.  

Experience the benefits of performance goals

Is your organization ready to implement employee performance goals? Trakstar is an online performance management solution that helps employers set and track goals across the organization. Cascade organizational and departmental goals down to individual employees and tailor performance objectives to their roles on the team. To learn more, request a live demo today!

Don't Miss Out on More Great HR Articles!

Subscribe to get the latest, greatest HR and Talent Development content straight to your inbox.