Employee performance goals & examples: The ultimate guide
Research shows that employees with clear performance goals are over three times more likely to be committed to their company and over six times more likely to recommend their company as a great place to work than those without measurable goals. The best work performance goal examples align with larger organizational objectives, making this effect even stronger. Employees who understand how their goals contribute to the bigger picture are an impressive ten times more inspired and motivated to take action at work than those who don’t. (1)
However, according to recent Leapsome data, a third of employees are unhappy with the current performance goal-setting and measurement process at their companies. (2)
Defining ambitious, aligned, and achievable employee performance goals is no simple task. If you focus too much on organizational or team-level objectives, you’ll end up focusing on performance metrics that aren’t really under your employees’ control. Going too far in the other direction will leave you with work performance goals that don’t move the needle on the company’s strategic aims.
The most effective way to empower your team members for success is by working together to establish goals that are both impactful and realistic.
This article will show you how to do just that. We’ll discuss what makes a great employee performance goal and share our top eight examples of performance goals for employees. Let’s get started.
1. BI Worldwide, 2021
2. Leapsome Workforce Trends Report, 2023
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Definition of performance goals
Performance goals are strategic objectives that guide employees towards fulfilling the requirements of their role and contributing to team and company success. Individual performance goals are tailored to each employee, serving as a roadmap for what they’re expected to accomplish within a specific timeframe.
It’s generally best to define performance goals in collaboration with the relevant employees. By involving them in the process, you can co-create effective, realistic objectives that they’re invested in. Setting good business goals for employees builds a culture of accountability and excellence, where every team member understands their role in the bigger picture and strives to perform at their best.
There are slightly different definitions of performance goals according to different models.
The OKR framework breaks goals into objectives (clear, inspiring statements of what the employee should aim to accomplish) and key results (measurable outcomes that show progress toward the objective).
Let’s look at two individual performance objectives examples with relevant key results:
- Develop my leadership skills over the next 6 months
Example key results:
- Mentor two colleagues and get positive feedback on my mentorship skills from them in my next 360 review.
- Lead two company-wide presentations by the end of Q3
- Deliver an exceptional customer experience in 2024
Example key results:
- Proactively engage five customers per month on new offerings and solutions by end of Q2
- Get a customer satisfaction score of 5 out of 5 for 80% of my customers by end of Q3
John Doerr, author of Measure What Matters, highlights the importance of clear, numbers-driven key results:
“Key results benchmark and monitor how we get to the objective. Effective KRs are specific and time-bound, aggressive yet realistic. Most of all, they are measurable and verifiable. As prize pupil Marissa Mayer would say, ‘It’s not a key result unless it has a number.’”
SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound objectives.
A SMART performance goal example:
Onboard 35 new paying clients (specific) as measured in the CRM tracking system (measurable) based on current sales capacity increasing 10% quarterly (achievable) to contribute towards the company’s client acquisition goals (relevant) by the end of Q4 2024 (time-bound).
Below, we’ll go more in-depth on how to use SMART goals to map out exactly how, when, and why you’ll achieve your objectives.
How to set performance objectives
Great performance goals help employees feel connected with their company’s mission, boost engagement rates, prioritize employee development and communicate expectations effectively. They are also essential for defining fair performance improvement plans (PIPs).
Use the steps below to set strong goals for work performance.
1. Collaborate with employees
Setting up effective, realistic goals is no easy task, but collaborating with employees will make the process a lot easier — and your results, more powerful.
Whether you’re dealing with a departmental or individual conversation, an employee’s contribution to goal setting is invaluable. Collaboration lets employees discover how their actions contribute to their company’s long-term growth, increasing autonomy and ownership.
But collaboration on performance goal setting shouldn’t be limited to delegation. When employees have been actively engaged in establishing objectives, both team and individual goals have higher chances of being met. If you need help, our guide on setting team goals will walk you through the process.
2. Align your objectives with your company mission
It would be pretty ironic if you owned a startup that wanted to revolutionize the world of data but didn’t give employees a work environment suitable for creativity, innovation, and change.
If your company wants to promote open communication and a flat hierarchy, your top goals should be things like:
- For management roles — Become a people-centric leader
- For teams — Take on regular collaboration initiatives
- For individuals — Level up communication skills
Ideally, each employee’s personal goals should focus on their own development, while team goals should be tied to the company’s overarching mission. For example, Leapsome’s mission is to make work more fulfilling for everyone. That determines what our company stands for and how we run it.
Employees also feel more motivated when they understand how they fit into the big picture. Leapsome’s Goals & OKRs module can help you align your company mission with individual performance objectives, promoting transparency and accountability throughout the organization.
3. Focus on growth
Some of your best talent is sitting there just waiting to excel. And if you don’t support their growth, they’ll move on and excel somewhere else.
Performance objectives don’t only benefit the business: they should help employees grow within their organizations — enriching the company itself.
Growth should be the primary focus of any performance objective, especially when job searchers rank career growth opportunities as one of their top criteria when looking for a new position. That statistic shows that you risk losing your best talent to competitors if you don’t focus on employee development.
But you must equip your people with the right skill sets to help them grow. And a career progression framework is perfect for that. It allows you to map out the skills and qualities your employees need to progress in their roles, which you can regularly check in on during performance evaluations.
4. Make your performance objectives SMART
Remember that SMART means specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based.
Here’s an example of how to make a goal SMART.
Take a general goal:
❌ Increase productivity
[vague & not measurable]
Then, add a timeline and a clear metric for success:
🚀 Improve productivity by increasing the average number of high-priority tasks completed each week by 10% by the end of February [specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, time-based]
You can then get even more granular by defining related success metrics (e.g., reduced project time, error rates, efficiency goals) and how exactly your employee should work to achieve the goal (e.g., completing a particular training or implementing a new project management system).
📆 Pro tip: Make sure you’re setting realistic timelines, keeping in mind that larger, transformational goals often require multiple milestones to reach completion. Break annual performance goals into quarterly and monthly targets to keep your larger objectives on track.
For example, yearly goals for employees like “Increase personal sales rate 20% by December 2023” could be subdivided into quarterly targets (“Generate five qualified sales opportunities from leads contacted in Q1”) and monthly targets (“Schedule two demo meetings each week”).
5. Build cascading goals
Let’s consider another goal-oriented example. A C-level team is pushing to increase revenue by 10% over the upcoming quarter. But what does that mean for each team and individual at the company? Would simply increasing everyone’s output (and workload) by 10% (e.g., HR hiring 10% more people) help achieve that? Probably not.
This imaginary C-level team needs to work on cascading goals to get where they want to be.
Developing cascading goals is the process of structuring goals and promoting alignment at all levels in the organization. With cascading goals, plans at the leadership level trickle down and shape the objectives of all other company employees. When that happens, you get measurable and attainable individual goals that align with the company’s mission.
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Overview: 8 examples of performance goals
Goal setting isn’t a create-and-forget exercise. Performance objectives are designed to motivate employees to do better and help managers and companies invest in their growth. Setting and measuring employee performance goals is a key tactic to increase team efficiency, help companies grow, and encourage employees to prosper in their careers.
Here are our top eight employee objectives and goals examples:
- Collaboration — Employees offering their support to colleagues to help increase efficiency
- Professional development — Employees upskilling and furthering their careers within the company
- Self-management — Follows the “manager of me” concept in which employees are their own primary managers
- Soft skills — Determine how employees communicate and collaborate with other colleagues
- People management — Teaches employees how to motivate others, make themselves heard, and be better team players
- Problem-solving — Encourages employees to resolve issues that come up both individually and with their team
- Creativity & innovation — Prompts employees to be creative in their solutions and encourages participation
- Communication — Enables employees to effectively communicate tasks, procedures, and deadlines
👉 Customize the eight key goal areas above according to your company’s requirements and the skills you’d like individual employees to develop.
Examples of measurable employee goals & objectives
Use our examples of goal setting for employees to inspire you and your team members. If you’re asking team members to set their own goals, it’s especially important to give them sample performance goals so they’re clear on the approach and level of detail expected.
We’ll talk you through why each example is important, and give you actionable tips and employee goal ideas you can implement right away in your organization.
1. Employee goals examples for collaboration
Collaboration is essential for all teams and departments and directly impacts employee motivation, productivity, and job satisfaction. With collaboration and teamwork, employees also become more innovative and better problem solvers.
But since collaboration isn’t an easily measurable performance objective, we suggest assigning employees collaborative tasks and measuring success based on communication, legibility, and effective collaboration.
💡 Example of a collaboration objective
If the collaboration between your sales and marketing teams is limited and inefficient, suggest specific ways they could work together, like:
• Exchanging weekly reports
• Marketing and sales managers sitting in on at least three cross-departmental meetings each month
• Collaborating on a specific upcoming project or internal initiative
2. Employee goals examples for professional development
A striking 87% of millennials (the largest generation in the workforce) rate learning and development opportunities as important to them at work. As an employer, that’s great news; after all, your people want to do their jobs well and grow — all they need from you is a helping hand.
Incorporating development goals into performance reviews in a meaningful, growth-oriented way can help. In general, setting up professional development goals and ensuring employees follow through on them ensures they know you’re invested in their future. This ups engagement, retention, and productivity, which is a true win-win situation.
💡 Example of a professional development objective
Imagine your new social media marketing hire mentioned they’d like to learn more about performance marketing.
A great professional development goal would be encouraging your new hire to choose a course they’re interested in — or perhaps you already have a learning path available that caters to that development need.
3. Employee goals examples for self-management
Self-management can include anything from employees taking ownership of a project to adapting to changes at work and managing deadlines without getting sidetracked by distractions. By practicing self-management skills, employees consistently show up ready to give their best effort and take on the day.
Self-management can help boost productivity, improve performance, and achieve professional and personal goals. For managers, it also means not micromanaging — and instead, letting employees flourish. Self-management means developing self-awareness and helping employees feel successful in their roles.
💡 Example of a self-management objective
Employees who struggle with deadlines but generally work efficiently may have issues with time management.
A great self-management goal could be learning how to prioritize.
4. Employee goals examples for soft skills
Generally speaking, no one wants to work with an unempathetic person who doesn’t communicate with team members. Fortunately, soft skills can often be learned.
Goal setting for soft skills should ensure that employees invest time and effort to optimize how they relate to and communicate with their colleagues.
💡 Example of a soft skills objective
Consider asking your employees to put together individualized, three-month action plans that can help them become better communicators.
As an example, you may manage an employee that excels at working autonomously but struggles to work just as effectively in a team. By keeping track of their own learning progress throughout their journey, they can learn to identify their shortcomings and work on them.
5. Employee goals examples for people management
Gone are the days when people management was a skill necessary only for leadership. Now, it goes beyond managerial tasks and also encompasses fruitful collaboration, the ability to motivate peers, and communication across teams.
Setting goals for better people management means encouraging all employees to be open to receiving and giving constructive feedback and giving credit when it’s due.
💡 Example of a people management objective
Encourage your employee to head one or more projects each quarter.
6. Employee goals examples for problem-solving
Problem-solving is a skill that’s as useful when a crisis strikes as it is in day-to-day life. A good problem solver is an analytical thinker and creative doer who will save their company time and money in the long run.
💡 Example of a problem-solving objective
Ask each member of the finance team to come up with three problems they face in their day-to-day work and how to overcome them in a detailed plan. Their specific goal could be to develop an actionable plan in Q3 and implement it by the end of Q4.
7. Employee goals examples for creativity & innovation
By nurturing innovation and creativity in-house, companies empower their employees to contribute improvements, tackle challenges, and maintain a competitive edge.
Creativity shouldn’t be restricted to jobs conventionally associated with design and ideation — it’s important in every role. Creativity can be a marketing team figuring out new ways to A/B test emails or a product manager effectively helping different teams communicate. Innovation at work can be as simple as adopting a more efficient way to run meetings. Giving employees those kinds of opportunities in the workplace helps them feel valued and appreciated.
💡 Example of a creativity and innovation objective
If your website isn’t performing as well as you’d like, you could ask the marketing team to propose different versions of the homepage’s copy. By challenging your employees to come up with multiple solutions instead of the one best solution, you’re encouraging them to think outside the box and develop creative thinking skills.
Pro tip: When setting creativity and innovation goals for new hires, begin with learning-focused objectives. As they gain experience, transition towards measurable outcomes and contributions.
New employee goals could include:
First 30 days — Collaborate with a senior colleague on at least two brainstorming sessions, contributing a minimum of three innovative ideas during each session.
First 90 days — Propose, develop, and execute one small creative improvement to an existing product or process, and set a clear KPI (e.g. achieving a 10% increase in efficiency).
First 6 months — Lead an innovation project aimed at overhauling a work process, developing a new feature, or launching a new marketing initiative, and define a clear goal for the project (e.g. increase customer satisfaction scores by two points).
8. Employee goals examples for communication
Actively working towards better communication improves productivity and relationships at work. The 7 Cs of communication is a great framework for setting clear goals and improving communication skills for teams and individuals.
Effective communication at work looks like:
- Clear communication without ambiguity
- Good relationships between individuals, teams, and departments
- Clear deadlines
- Effectively communicated tasks
- Positive changes with reinforcement
- Knowledge shared across teams
💡 Example of a communication objective
Encouraging employees to take initiative in team meetings and prompt colleagues to speak up is a great communication performance objective.
To take things a step further, Leapsome’s surveys are an excellent tool for employees to share their opinions anonymously and communicate easily.
Better performance goal setting for a stronger team
Setting goals for work performance requires a strategic, collaborative approach and a commitment to tracking progress and following through is crucial. With the right tools, continuous goals and performance management can be both effortless and effective.
With customizable, expert-backed templates, and AI-powered features, Leapsome’s Goals module simplifies the process of setting employee performance goals and OKRs. Goal trees show every team member how their individual targets contribute to team objectives and company goals. Leapsome’s goal analytics visualize and track performance goals so employees can own their progress and managers get a clear sense of how the team is performing and where support may be needed. You can also link professional development goals with our Competency Framework feature to promote a growth-oriented company culture.
Leapsome’s tools for setting and achieving performance goals unite your teams around a shared vision of success.
🧐 Take the guesswork out of assigning performance objectives
Leapsome’s frameworks and tools help employers create and track high-impact performance objectives that boost productivity and align with your company’s mission.
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