Every week, I scan the news for must-know stories about the employee-centric, happier, distributed, and AI-driven future of work.
Did you know that, according to 2023 Gallup data, a staggering 70% of employees are disengaged, costing companies in the U.S. up to $550 billion annually in lost productivity?
This startling figure underscores a critical yet often overlooked aspect of management—effective goal-setting.
Especially for people-centric remote leaders like yourself, setting and tracking well-aligned goals is not just a strategic move to accomplish company goals.
It also helps your team be more meaningfully productive – making working with you a positive experience.
Drawing from my experience working this way and insights from researchers and thought leaders, I will answer frequently asked questions.
I’ll also share five frameworks for writing employee performance goals, including over twenty examples tailored to managing hybrid and remote teams.
Whether you're crafting goals for the first time or looking to improve your skills, I'm here to help.
What are Employee Performance Goals?
According to SHRM, employee performance goals “establish objectives to be achieved over a period of time and create the performance criteria an employee will be evaluated against.”
The HR association delineates four types of goals:
- Job description goals are based on a pre-established set of job duties and are expected to be accomplished continuously until the job description changes.
- Project goals are set for a particular project objective and may change as projects are completed.
- Behavioral goals are based on specific behaviors and are expected to be accomplished continuously. These goals are focused on how things need to be accomplished.
- Stretch goals are especially challenging goals that are set to expand the knowledge, skills, and abilities of high-potential employees.
Remember, no matter which type, all employee performance goals are milestones to gauge and inspire progress in your team's journey toward personal growth and business success.
Benefits of Great Employee Performance Goals
While they may take some time to write, we can get a lot out of writing great goals as managers.
A 2023 Gallup research study shows that people feel increasingly disconnected from their workplaces’ mission and purpose.
This number is even lower in exclusively remote workers compared to other working models.
The lack of alignment to the company's mission amongst remote employees can challenge your people's sense of purpose, make them less engaged, and lower performance.
Often, improving engagement is simply a matter of making the work itself more meaningful.
Assuming that someone chose your company and team because the mission and vision are compelling, great performance goals can easily improve engagement.
Principles for Winning Employee Performance Goals
Great employee performance goals have a few things in common:
- They link short-term and longer-term
- They highlight the impact someone will make when achieving them
- They connect to someone’s intrinsic motivations
Linking short-term and long-term goals
A study by "The Change Doctor" Michelle Rozen, a psychology doctorate holder and keynote speaker, shows that only 6% of people achieve New Year's goals.
Michelle found that most people stopped trying to achieve their goals in February, and most resolutions had disappeared by June.
But, some do achieve their goals.
As suggested by the paper, it’s all about strategically balancing high, long-term objectives and specific, short-term targets, focusing on immediate tasks to fuel progress toward overarching ambitions.
Highlighting people’s impact
A second study by organizational psychologist Adam Grant additionally speaks to the importance of making an impact.
In "Emphasizing Impactful Work,” Adam explains that understanding the social value of one's work can significantly boost performance.
When employees are aware of their roles’ tangible impact —such as lifeguards reminded of their critical role in saving lives—there is a notable increase in commitment and hours worked, exceeding 40% in some cases.
This underscores the importance of aligning employee tasks with clear, impactful goals to enhance dedication and job performance.
Connecting to intrinsic motivations
Another way to make performance goals a motivating proposition is by going beyond what the company wants and looking at team members’ intrinsic long-term motivations.
As Dr. Jolene Church, a business strategist and executive coach, emphasized in her Forbes article, employee goals that link to one's dreams can set the stage for employee engagement, loyalty, and driving performance within your organization.
This will keep people going, even when times get tough.
Frameworks for Winning Employee Performance Goals
We love a good framework, don’t we?
Well, we’re spoiled for choice with five major frameworks for winning employee performance goals.
These frameworks allow you to set goals in the most practical way.
For example, SMART goals help people focus their efforts with a clear “guide” to achieve goals.
But sometimes, you might want to set HARD goals for your high-performing talents.
These are the five frameworks, all with different approaches to setting performance goals:
The SMART framework helps you create clear and achievable goals. Hence, you can be more motivated to achieve.
The framework dates back to 1981, when George Doran, a consultant and former Director of Corporate Planning for Washington Water Power Company, popularized it in the article “There's a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management goals and objectives."
“SMART” stands for:
- Specific: Is the goal as detailed as possible?
- Measurable: What are the metrics to quantify progress?
- Achievable: Considering the available resources and constraints, is the goal realistic and attainable?
- Relevant: Does the goal align with your or the company’s long-term objectives?
- Timebound: Is there a specific timeframe within which you have to achieve the goal?
An example of a SMART goal:
If you need to increase your website traffic, write your goal statement as follows:
“Increase website traffic to 10,000 visitors by the end of November by producing three SEO-optimized articles weekly and building seven external backlinks.”
This goal is specific, measurable (10,000 visitors), achievable (it highlights how to get there), relevant, and timebound (by the end of November.)
When you want to assign tasks with clarity, SMART goals allow you to pinpoint who is responsible for what by when.
It’s a go-to method for setting straightforward, easily understood goals aligned with daily tasks and responsibilities.
Why choose SMART?
SMART goals are particularly effective for projects requiring clear, well-defined targets and tasks that benefit from specific deadlines and criteria.
They are ideal for setting short-term objectives or when you need to establish straightforward milestones that are easy to track and measure.
The OKR (Objectives and Key Results) framework is a great way to set and communicate clear goals that align with individual achievements and the company’s vision.
It involves setting broad objectives. Then, they are broken down into specific, measurable key results.
Originated by Andy Grove, the co-founder and CEO of Intel, and popularized by companies like Intel and Google, OKRs are about setting ambitious goals that push the boundaries of what’s considered achievable, encouraging innovation and growth.
In his book “High Output Management," from almost three decades ago, Grove discussed the necessity to link important results to objectives, which give OKRs their significant influence today.
- Objective (qualitative goals) aims at pushing the company forward.
Answering questions like, “What do you want to achieve?” and “Why do you want to achieve them?” makes your goals significant and action-inspiring.
- Key Results (quantifiable measures) are to track the achievement of these goals.
They should be specific and time-bound when it comes to execution. Ask yourself, “How will you know when you have achieved the goal?”
An example of an OKR goal:
To implement OKRs, start by defining broad objectives for your team that align with the company’s mission.
For example, if you need to secure investor funding for 2024, an objective might be to increase sales revenue by 15% by the end of the third quarter.
Then, determine key results that measure progress toward this objective, such as a 5% increase in sales and five new key prospects for each sales executive every month from now.
In his HBR article, Jeff Gothelf, an award-winning author and consultant, suggested that OKR would best be applied at the team level.
Meaningful goals are not merely the output of individual work but the outcome of how those works interact.
Why choose OKRs?
OKRs encourage a bottom-up approach, allowing team members to define their goals in alignment with the broader objectives.
This empowerment leads to more engaged employees and realistic goals. So that you can instill a sense of ownership among the team while evoking growth and innovation toward the company’s missions.
The “objectives” factor in the OKR framework allows you to aim for the moon. As Rick Klau, the co-founder and CEO at Onsemble and former Partner at Google Ventures, said at the Google Ventures Startup Lab Workshop: “The “sweet spot” for an OKR grade is .6 — .7; if someone consistently gets 1.0, their OKRs aren’t ambitious enough.”
“The “sweet spot” for an OKR grade is .6 — .7; if someone consistently gets 1.0, their OKRs aren’t ambitious enough.” - Rick Klau, former Partner at Google Ventures
Locke and Latham's Goal-Setting Theory
We need a little push in order not to become stagnant. As the saying goes, "Get comfortable with feeling challenged. It means you're growing."
Locke and Latham’s Goal-Setting Theory is rooted in the premise that challenges lead to growth. And the most effective goals are both specific and challenging.
This theory taps into the human psychological side—what goals get you pumped and determined to perform well?
Edwin A. Locke and Gary P. Latham are the best-known academic researchers on goal-setting. In their 2002 report “Building a Practically Useful Theory of Goal Setting and Task Motivation,” which summarized their 35 years of research, Locke and Latham explained that goals are not just about what is to be achieved but also about the motivational factors that drive the achievement process.
According to Locke and Latham’s theory, if you know what you need to do, and it’s a bit of a challenge, you’ll likely do a better job.
The theory outlines five key moderating factors of a goal that play a role in enhancing performance:
- Clarity - As every framework will tell you, goals should be crystal clear so there's no confusion about what's expected. Apply the SMART elements to write clear goals. But also ensure your team understands and agrees with these goals.
- Challenge - Set goals that make your team stretch their skills. They should be tough enough to nudge people out of their comfort zones and get the gears turning.
- Complexity - Challenging tasks require higher-level skills and strategies. Your team member might need time to expand their knowledge and discover appropriate approaches for complex tasks. As a manager, you can lend support by providing the necessary resources and breaking down those difficult goals into smaller, doable steps.
- Commitment - As said, ensure your team is aligned with the goals to enhance their commitment. Sharing your care for their career aspirations and explaining the work's impact will significantly help.
- Feedback - Don't forget to loop back regularly. It's a chance for prompt reflection and adjustment. You can do it in your weekly team check-ins or one-on-one meetings.
This theory isn’t just a framework; it’s a dynamic cycle of setting, pursuing, learning, and achieving that deeply engages and develops your people.
An example of a goal following Locke and Latham’s Theory:
Instead of just aiming for "better customer service," a goal following Locke and Latham's theory might be to "Achieve an average customer satisfaction score of 90% in November by implementing a new feedback system and responding to customer inquiries within 24 hours."
This goal is clear and challenging as it sets a high benchmark for work quality.
They might need to break down the goal into smaller tasks, such as developing the feedback system, training others on new protocols, and setting a schedule to ensure timely responses.
Then, have weekly check-ins to ensure the goal is on track.
This could involve reviewing the customer satisfaction scores by weeks, discussing challenges in responding to inquiries within the stipulated time and adjusting strategies as necessary.
Why choose Locke and Latham’s Goal-Setting Theory?
Locke and Latham’s approach is beneficial when you want to foster a culture of continuous improvement and engagement. As they said, “Goals have an energizing function. High goals lead to greater effort.”
“Goals have an energizing function. High goals lead to greater effort.” - Locke & Latham
It’s not merely a goal-setting formula but is designed to engage employees deeply in their personal and professional development.
Applying this theory, you can expect good goal statements and mechanisms that motivate the team to strive for committed targets.
30-60-90 Day Framework
When training for a marathon, you don’t start by running 26 miles on the first day, right? You build up to it. You build technique and endurance for longer distances each time.
That’s also the beauty of the 30-60-90 Day Plan:
- In the first 30 days, you learn the ropes—getting to know your team, the company culture, and the tools that'll make you shine.
- The following 30 days are for making moves, setting off those little fireworks that get everyone nodding, “Yeah, he/she got this.”
- Then, the last 30 days are when you hit your stride. You pitch new ideas, lead initiatives, and set new benchmarks for what “good” looks like.
The 30-60-90 Day Plan is an effective framework for setting and achieving performance goals over a set timeframe.
It’s designed to provide a structured approach for new hires, role changes, or project kickoffs, focusing on gradual progression and building momentum.
- New hires need to understand everything deeply before meaningfully contributing values to the team.
- Team members undergoing role changes must realign their skills and integrate into new responsibilities to ensure a smooth transition.
- Project kickoffs require teams to align on objectives, establish clear roles rapidly, and set the pace for successful collaboration and timely completion of milestones.
An example of Goals in the 30-60-90 framework:
Imagine a sales analyst just joined your team. You can design performance goals tailoring to their role as follows:
In the first 30 days, the main focus is fully understanding the client database.
After that, the focus will shift towards reaching clients and building good relationships.
By day 90, they should be able to analyze client data to propose new engagement strategies.
This way, you give the new hires the time they need to get up to speed and incremental milestones to showcase their growing competence and contributions.
Check out our detailed guide on the 30-60-90 Day Plan (Free Template, Examples, & Plan Generator)
Why choose 30-60-90?
Setting employee performance goals within the 30-60-90 Day framework gives you a clear runway for what you must accomplish and when.
Also, it allows you to see early wins come in. Nothing beats that rush of crossing a finish line. It boosts morale and keeps the momentum going, which is super important when you’re not in an office together daily.
Statistics show that employees with a structured start experience 62% greater productivity.
They're happier and more productive, and obviously, they make the team stronger.
The framework goes beyond getting the job done. It’s about giving your team a clear path to run on, with signposts along the way to ensure they're not just moving but moving up!
According to Locke and Latham, goals must stretch our abilities to improve performance.
In 2010, Mark Murphy, the founder of LeadershipIQ and McGraw-Hill international bestsellers, published his HARD goal-setting methodology in his book “Hard Goals: The Secret to Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be.”
The HARD framework is like the personal trainer for your team's goals—tough, but totally worth it!
“HARD” stands for:
- Heartfelt - Emotionally invest in your goal. When goals matter on a personal level, work feels more than just a to-do list.
- Animated - Imagine yourself achieving the goal, becoming what you dream of. Tell your people what success looks like, or better yet, try the “Us in the Future” workshop to let them envision where you could be together three or five years from now.
- Required - Note down specific reasons to achieve your goal. When everything's coming up roses—clients are thrilled, projects nail it, recommendations are flying in—you love your job. What about times when things go wrong? Frequently, we stare at the loads of tasks or negative feedback and wonder, "Why am I doing this?" That's when the "Why" behind what we're doing keeps us trying harder for the urgent steps towards bigger goals.
- Difficult - Create challenges people are eager to overcome (not the impossible!)
An example of a HARD goal:
Suppose a team member is passionate about environmental conservation and aims to make the company more eco-friendly.
In that case, they can have a performance goal to reduce the office's paper usage by 50% in the next year by implementing digital reporting and communication systems.
This goal aligns with both their values and the company's commitment to sustainability, which can enhance its brand image.
Visualizing the office with fewer printers and filing cabinets, a real-time dashboard showing the amount of paper saved, and a digital archive of reports accessible to all team members can keep them motivated and focused on the project.
Why choose HARD?
The HARD framework can motivate one to reach long-term, ambitious goals.
You might need it when you're not just looking for progress but the transformation.
This could be during significant changes, like pivoting strategies, or when the market is shifting and you need to innovate quickly.
As Mark Murphy said: “HARD goals make people stronger, more courageous, and more confident to go after bigger and better things.”
“HARD goals make people stronger, more courageous, and more confident to go after bigger and better things.” - Mark Murphy
Best Employee Performance Goals Examples
Your employee performance goals do not come from thin air.
The process looks like this:
- Identify the big-picture objectives of your company and team
- Distill them into individual goals that resonate with, challenge, and grow each team member
- Tailor these goals to fit within the framework that best suits the situation
Let’s examine examples of employee performance goals, grouped into three key categories: productivity and competency, workplace engagement, and personal development goals.
Productivity and Competency Goals
First and foremost, productivity and competency are the most concrete and crucial factors in evaluating employee performance. It directly reflects the impact of your work.
1. Improve your KPIs
Objective: Exceed monthly social media KPI.
Goal statement: At the end of this month, I will decrease the Cost per Million Impressions by 8% and decrease the Cost per engagement by 5%. For each month, I will set my KPI increase by 10%.
- Evaluate 3-month content quality.
- Shortlist winning campaign.
- Create a more engaging tagline.
- Conduct A/B testing.
- Distribute more budget for winning campaigns.
2. Product development
Objective: Expand the company’s portfolio.
Goal statement: Launch a new product prototype by January 2024.
- Conduct market research and pitch to managers.
- Clarify the brief and expectations.
- Conduct consumer interviews.
- Build a digital prototype and get feedback from your team.
3. Project management
Objective: Every project in 2023 needs to be the winning one.
Goal statement: Lead 2 projects to achieve at least 120% KPI in the last quarter of 2023.
- Understand your team dynamics to manage effectively.
- Manage the expectations of different stakeholders.
- Actively apply your problem-solving skills.
Want to break it down into smaller steps? Head to our AI-power Action Plan Generator, type in your goals, and receive the complete list of actionable tasks.
4. Consumers’ satisfaction
Objective: Understand users' thoughts about our services.
Goal statement: Increase 5-star reviews on Google by 20% in the first quarter of 2024.
- Curate the consumers’ database.
- Conduct a customer survey.
- Launch a big campaign at the beginning of the year.
5. Planning skills
Objective: Create an impactful strategic plan.
Goal statement: Develop a market trend forecast and strategic planning for 2024 with 70% accuracy.
- Analyze the market report in your industry in the last 5-10 years.
- Document all the new activities that are happening in the market.
- Take into consideration your company’s long-term goals, competitors, and resources.
Workplace Engagement Goals
As a company, performance should be measured by business task completion and the engagement level of its people.
“Connect the dots between individual roles and the goals of the organization. When people see that connection, they get a lot of energy out of work. They feel the importance, dignity, and meaning in their job.” - Ken Blanchard and Scott Blanchard, “Do People Really Know What You Expect from Them?,” Fast Company
6. Company branding
Objective: Increase the visibility and credibility of the company.
Goal statement: Attend five conferences as a key speaker. Send press releases to 20 publishing houses and get featured on at least three.
- Pitch yourself or other experts in your company to speak at critical events in your industry.
- Expand your network.
- Focus on brand exposure on social media and official news outlets.
7. Understand the system
Objective: Understand and align with the company’s vision.
Goal statement: Read every press release, interview, and most remarkable company projects in the last 3-5 years.
- Create a database to store the company’s resources.
- Take note of notable quotes and statements.
- Evaluate how your work can fit into the company’s strategy.
8. Increase collaboration
Objective: Create more collaboration with different departments in the company.
Goal statement: Initiate at least two big projects collaborating with other teams in the next six months.
- Learn about the company’s one-year plan to find suitable projects. Initiate new ideas if appropriate.
- Proactively reach out to relevant departments to see how you can help.
9. Practice leadership
Objective: Be a good manager.
Goal statement: I can help my intern become an official executive in 6 months and a senior executive in 1 year.
- Craft a 30-60-90 Day plan for your intern.
- Schedule themed training sessions.
- Provide career orientation sessions.
Personal Growth Goals
Each member has to grow for a company and a team to grow.
Integrating your team members’ personal growth into the performance goals is more meaningful and effective.
10. Improve negotiation skills
Objective: Sharpen negotiation skills.
Goal statement: I want to be responsible for at least one company’s pitch next month and ensure the Return On Investment (ROI) is 200%.
- Watch a TED talk every day before bed.
- Breakdown on how the ROI can be achieved. Prepare at least three options.
- Prepare the presentation script.
- Rehearse with the team and get feedback.
11. Time management
Objective: Manage time more effectively.
Goal statement: I want to complete my tasks one day before deadlines, in order of urgency. Saturday is for my family and me-time.
- Create Eisenhower matrix to prioritize your tasks into: (1) Do first, (2) Schedule, (3) Delegate, (4) Don’t do.
- Update and review your calendar with detailed deadlines for the week. Set one-day prior reminders.
- Use timesheet templates to keep track of what you have done.
- Turn off work application notifications (Slack, email, Whatsapp, etc.) on Friday and re-activate them when the work week begins.
Objective: Build relationships with key figures in the industry.
Goal statement: I will attend four conferences/networking events monthly and get at least five new contacts each.
- Map out key events and conferences in your industry in the next three months.
- Register and log in to the events you want to attend in your calendar.
- Prepare your elevator pitch.
13. Increase visibility
Objective: Be on the radar of higher-level managers.
Goal statement: By the year-end party, the country director should remember my name, and we can discuss what I have accomplished.
- Track your notable works and achievements.
- Note down initiatives you have for the company’s growth.
- Conduct a skip-level meeting with the Country Director.
- Attend every Happy Friday.
14. Boost employability
Objective: Learn different technical tools.
Goal statement: Be efficient in Figma design and Google Analytics by the end of 2023.
- Find relevant courses to enroll.
- Apply what you are learning to your daily tasks.
- Ask an expert in your team. Observe how they work with the tools and offer to help.
15. Sharpen communication skills
Objective: Improve communication skills at work.
Goal statement: Minimize misunderstandings while working on projects. In the following three projects, my emails should be clear to everyone.
- Gather feedback from your team on how you can do better in writing emails or delivering task guidelines.
- Take note of what works and does not work whenever you receive an email from clients or higher management.
16. Public speaking
Objective: Be a charismatic public speaker.
Goal statement: Be the MC for the Year-end Party.
- Take note attentively whenever you attend a public presentation.
- Practice the posture.
- Start with being a meeting facilitator in your team.
Objective: Be more sensitive and quicker in problem-solving.
Goal statement: Directly working with clients on at least one project every two months.
- Attend high-level meetings and note how your managers respond to crises.
- Initially, consult with a senior or manager before sending your solutions to the clients.
- Ask “What if,” and consider possible scenarios and recommended responses.
18. Showcase creativity
Objective: Do new things and be creative.
Goal statement: Give at least three different approaches for every pitch for every project in 2023.
- Start every brainstorming session with no concrete limits on budgets or authority. Narrow down from there.
- Always ask, “How about.”
- Research the market trends and the existing solutions in the industry.
19. Emotional Intelligence
Objective: Be professional in my work and never let my emotions get out of hand.
Goal statement: Be an emotionally stable manager who can keep calm in every situation and not take work matters personally.
- 15-minute team emotional check-ins every morning.
- 10-minute breathing exercise every night.
- Practice putting yourself in others’ shoes.
- Do not personal attack under any circumstances.
20. Well-being and psychological safety
Objective: Take care of my own and my team's well-being.
Goal statement: I want to create a work environment where every team member feels comfortable voicing their opinions and has enough time for their personal life.
- Do a workload check-in by one-on-one meetings or biweekly timesheets.
- Share resources on where and how your team members can seek professional mental support.
- Establish a non-tolerance policy for discrimination at work.
While everyone knows the importance of goal-setting, only a minority can make it work.
To achieve holistic growth, employee performance goals should focus on business objectives and the team's engagement and personal development.
Pick a framework that fits your situation and needs – SMART or HARD goals? Shall it be in the 30-60-90-day framework? Or to be reinforced with Locke and Latham’s theory?
Let’s have good employee performance goals that drive you and the team to better performance.
Every week, I scan the news for must-know stories about the employee-centric, happier, distributed, and AI-driven future of work.