Learn how setting the right performance targets can boost employee productivity
How do you build a team that brings your organization forward? Some companies are still following this scenario — finding some talent with the skills suitable for a role, handing them over tools for work, and hoping everything will work out. Do they succeed in the end?
Firstly, when having no clear goals stated and getting no support in achieving them, people find it difficult to make any measurable progress.
Secondly, over time, people get disappointed and bored because they don’t see where they are heading and don’t find their work meaningful.
In the meantime, you see nothing that moves the needle when it comes to your company's growth.
Here is the thing — growing a high-performing team is not easy, and no one does it within just a few weeks. However, setting the right performance targets and clearly defining goals can help speed up this process and boost employee productivity.
So let’s explore how performance goals can help you achieve more with the people you have hired and, at the same time, motivate them to reach their full potential at work.
What are performance goals?
Performance goals are the objectives that employees have to achieve during a specific period of time. They help motivate talent, drive their progress, and contribute to the growth of an organization.
Performance goals are often defined in line with the current needs and aspirations of an organization — you aim at improving productivity, financial results, or cutting expenses.
For employees, achieving performance goals also contributes to their professional and personal growth and increases their value on the job market.
There is a clear win-win for both sides — the employer and the employee. When designed the right way, performance goals introduce an aspect of gamification — your staff feels incentivized for aspiring to reach them.
It’s like climbing Mount Everest — you have different tiers (milestones) that divide you from reaching the peak of the mountain.
Source: National Post
For each goal accomplished, an employee receives a reward, and a company is able to achieve its next milestone. Apart from the personal aspect of performance goals, teamwork is also an important element.
But remember, performance goals are about employees finding ways to get more and better work done, not necessarily increasing their personal labor. For example, if you have a person or team responsible for improving customer engagement, and part of that solution is increasing consumer communication, a reasonable performance goal would include identifying and bringing on board a tool to help with automated email and SMS marketing. This is a case where the incentive can simply be lifting a huge daily weight off the shoulders of an individual or team, reviving their spirits by allowing them to achieve more while perspiring less.
Also, instead of incentivizing only individual achievement, an organization can benefit more and see a more positive outcome when the whole team is achieving team goals together. Team and individual goals differ and aim at improving different areas of performance.
Here is just one example of how both goals can be framed.
Source: Paymo Twitter
With so many approaches to performance goals and their definitions, it’s easy to get lost in an excess of information. So let’s first define what performance goals should mean for your company.
What do performance goals mean?
Let’s have a closer look at how performance goals can help companies achieve goals faster and keep employees motivated.
Imagine you are preparing to run a marathon. What strategy would work best — occasionally running for 20-40 minutes every day or setting more specific goals such as improving base mileage, the long run, and speed work? You already know the answer!
Similar to sports, at work, performance goals center around developing specific skills and objectives that help keep people on track, measure progress, and see the results grow faster.
This is particularly important if your company has long-term goals. You would break this comprehensive goal into steps and turn them into performance goals with measurements to see if each step has been soundly established. For example, if your goal is to establish a company podcast, you might begin with research, learning how successful podcasts work. Then you might move to choosing a great name, selecting a host, planning topics and guests, staging promotional efforts, etc.
How can you get started with setting up performance goals in your company and experience the benefits of this new strategy?
You have to start by aligning the goals with your company objectives. At the same time, collect employee performance feedback through an employee satisfaction survey — account for it when outlining areas for improvement. Match these with objective, measurable data from reports that source Google Analytics and similar credible information-gathering tools and dashboards.
Then, you’d proceed with choosing the exact areas to work on, discussing them with your team, and preparing a plan to achieve the desired goal. In short — there is quite a lot of work to do.
So let’s see what performance goals you can choose and how to set them together with your team.
Examples of performance goals
Involving your employees in defining goals on their own is a primary step for success. Let’s be honest — they won’t be motivated to achieve imposed objectives.
In the process of defining goals, your team will also need your active participation to navigate this process better.
You have to set the scene for this new strategy, introduce your team to how they can set their next performance goals, and be open to answering intricate questions.
So, where should you start to prepare yourself for this process? What growth areas could become your and your team’s focus for the next quarter?
Whatever your performance goals are – in whichever of the six categories we describe below – it’s critical that you have reliable, transparent ways to measure performance. This is especially important now that so much of the workforce is remote. If you want your employees to reach their goals, regularly showing them how much progress they’ve made is an essential ingredient.
Let’s take a look at the most popular goal areas that companies prioritize.
#1. Professional development
Investing in employees’ professional development helps boost retention. Just think about it — would you rather stay in a company where you have all the conditions to grow from a junior position into a manager within a few years — or get stuck in your current role forever?
People want to stick around companies where they can increase their market value as professionals and have a sense of direction and progress. But wait — what’s in it for you?
By getting your team to develop professionally, you help them achieve their full potential, become more productive in their roles, and get the right skills to drive company growth. (In line with that, you might want to suggest some goals for yourself, such as courses or conferences, to help you become a better manager of remote teams.)
Now, let’s see what specific professional development goals your employees can set to achieve.
- Passing a B2-level test in Mandarin by the end of Q4 2022.
- Finishing advanced Google Ads Certification by the end of Q2 2022.
- Learning a new programming framework by the end of the year.
#2. Collaboration goals
Silos in departments have already become a corporate buzzword and a problem many companies are trying to overcome. A lack of communication and idea exchange among departments is one of the core reasons this problem to appears.
Through nurturing effective team collaboration among employees, you can reduce the risk of silos and encourage knowledge sharing in the workplace.
You’ll need tools to help you make your goals work, such as the best webinar software, project management schedulers, CRM, and internal messaging systems.
To start, review these examples of collaboration goals:
- Training a junior performance marketing specialist in setting up Performance Max Campaigns by Q3.
- Preparing a sales presentation with the marketing team to be used for Asian clients by the end of Q3.
- Creating specifications for a text logo for your new service to be created by an outside design firm by the end of Q1. Selecting the final design as a team by mid-April.
- Establishing a customer loyalty program or store loyalty app launch by the end of Q3.
#3. Self-management goals
The skill to build a solid plan of action is indispensable for achieving goals, both professionally and personally.
Picture this: you get a six-month paid break from work. You can write a solid to-do list that includes things that will improve your life, or you simply let time fly by as if you were on vacation with no plan. No doubt — with the first option, you won’t experience a moment of boredom and you’ll finish tasks that make you feel good.
The same applies at work — people who can come up with a plan on their own usually achieve much more than those who perform daily tasks with no overall plan in mind.
Some people on your team might still do the latter and don’t really know where they are heading. Don’t worry — no one gets born proficient with Asana or Trello, so training and practice can help them improve.
Self-management is a skill that can be learned and is worth developing if you want your people to become more productive. So here are some examples that your team can set this year.
- Becoming consistent with project management software through achieving at least 80% of weekly goals.
- Working out a CRM adoption plan and ensuring everyone on the team is using it by the end of the year.
#4. Developing soft skills
Being great at your job when working on your own may feel good, but in today’s workplace, that’s not enough. If you want to be valued as a top employee, you must also learn how to become great at teamwork. Companies place a high value on those who can do both.
Imagine a sales manager who is excellent at what he is doing — hitting sales quotas — but at the same time, he is the person sparking conflict on your team. The sales manager brings the most monetary value to the company but introduces a toxic atmosphere to the workplace.
No one will stand the toxic atmosphere at work for very long. Eventually, those affected by this negative environment leave their jobs and look for alternative employment in a friendlier atmosphere with supportive colleagues.
So, getting people to learn empathy, managing conflicts better, and putting teamwork in place is no less important than other work achievements.
Let’s check out these examples of goals to help build soft skills:
- Putting yourself in the shoes of your colleagues at least twice each week to see problems from their perspective.
- Finding at least one way that collaborating with other team members can boost your overall performance.
- Improving communication skills by initiating at least 10 conversations during industry conferences with potential business partners in the first quarter of 2022.
- Enhancing communications with potential new hires to bring the most talented people on the job market onto your team.
#5. Problem-solving skills
Problems happen to everyone — both managers and junior employees. Without training in how to solve problems independently, junior employees head over to their manager whenever they face a petty problem.
Here is what happens next — when ten other junior specialists come to a manager with the same problem, a manager is swamped with low-priority tasks.
Problem-solving is a crucial skill that will help free up time for managers to work on more complex problems and for employees to become more independent in their decisions.
So how can you nurture problem-solving skills among employees to increase their independence and help them solve problems better? By getting them to set goals similar to the following:
- Finding X solutions to everyday problems.
- Practicing active listening at least once each week and making notes of people’s opinions and solutions.
- Applying the “5 whys” framework whenever they face a problem.
#6. People management skills
Developing people management skills shouldn’t be reserved only for managers. Regular employees can benefit as well — they can get promoted faster, organize and manage their own team, and become more confident in communication.
You can nurture people-management skills by setting goals similar to these:
- Organizing weekly gratitude calls using webinar software in which everyone shares something they are grateful for to one or more colleagues.
- Spotting team members who are not involved during the call and asking for their opinion on a matter at least once each week.
Let’s wrap it up
Setting up performance goals as a new procedure in your organization can help you reach growth targets faster and help your team acquire new hard and soft skills. It’s crucial to involve everyone in the process of setting company goals — this way, people will feel more motivated to achieve them.
When it comes to defining goals, there is no uniform list — they are unique to each organization. Hopefully, the examples we’ve shared will help make this process much easier for you as you move forward.
About the Author
Nina Petrov is a content marketing specialist. She is passionate about graphic design and the new generation of green and social businesses. She starts the day scrolling her digest on new digital trends while sipping a cup of coffee with milk and sugar. Her white little bunny tends to reply to your emails when she is on vacation.