Goals and OKRs

Create More Effective Performance Goals With These Examples

May 14, 2024
May 15, 2024
  —  
By 
Emma Stenhouse
Lattice Team

No matter how long you’ve been in the workforce, writing performance reviews can be tricky. Sometimes the words just don’t flow, or it’s tempting to recycle the same old ideas rather than encourage a more tailored, collaborative version of the goal-setting process. 

Perhaps that’s why only 30% of employees feel they’re involved in setting their own workplace goals. But when they are, they’re 3.6 times more likely to be engaged than other employees. And with higher levels of employee engagement also boosting performance, creating effective and aligned goals is crucial. 

In this guide, we’ve included everything you need to know to craft strong performance goals. From specific examples to how to create cascading goals and the most popular types of goal-setting methodologies — it’s all here. 

10 Examples of Performance Review Goals

Know what you want to say, but not how to say it? Here are ten of the most common performance review goals, why they’re important, and some suggestions on how to word them. 

1. Develop effective communication skills.

Friction within teams can sometimes be caused by different communication styles. An assertive team member might be viewed as pushy, while passive communicators might be viewed as pushovers. Improving communication skills can smooth over tension and help everyone get their point across more effectively. 

“Attend a workshop on different communication styles, and identify my own style.” 

“Work on developing my active listening skills during weekly team meetings. Update my manager on my progress over the next quarter.”

2. Develop leadership skills.

Offering employees the chance to advance their career goals can boost retention by showing you’re committed to their professional development. Setting attainable goals around an employee’s career path can help ensure they’re ready for that promotion when the time comes. 

“Work with a leadership coach to identify three new skills to develop by the end of the year.”

“Complete a leadership training program designed to develop managerial skills.”

3. Enhance problem-solving skills.

Seeing problems as opportunities, not roadblocks, can help employees think on their feet and come up with innovative solutions. But this process isn’t always intuitive. Developing a range of problem-solving strategies can help employees become more confident and flexible thinkers. 

“Attend a workshop on problem-solving strategies and identify my preferred options.”

“Request to observe a managerial meeting that includes discussion around identifying solutions to specific problems.”

4. Increase productivity and efficiency.

Productivity naturally ebbs and flows throughout the day. Setting goals around streamlining processes, identifying times of natural focus, and using productivity tools can help employees learn how to work better, not harder. 

“Create a workflow for two of my most common tasks by identifying what needs to be completed at each stage, and roughly how long this takes. Use this workflow when completing these tasks over the next quarter.” 

“Use a time-tracking system to identify times of lower productivity, and plan to use these for less challenging tasks.” 

5. Develop time management skills.

When employees don’t know which tasks to prioritize, they may miss deadlines, feel stressed, and feel unsure about how to manage competing demands. Knowing how to manage time effectively can improve productivity and focus while simultaneously reducing procrastination. 

“Use time-blocking techniques to manage workload, improve focus, and prioritize tasks effectively.” 

“Use the Pomodoro® Technique to break tasks into manageable chunks, interspersed with time to rest and refocus.” 

6. Improve work-life balance.

Sometimes, the line between work and personal life gets blurred, especially for remote employees. Setting specific goals to help employees improve their work-life balance can help establish boundaries, improve wellbeing, and reduce the risk of burnout

“Remove work-related apps from my personal phone.” 

“Create an email footer that clearly outlines my working hours and typical response times.”

7. Improve a specific hard skill.

Training, certification, and continuous professional development goals are all ways for employees to learn or improve their essential knowledge. Encouraging employee development also helps boost retention because it shows an organization is committed to its employees’ progress. 

“Sign up for and complete a certification course that will develop my skills in [a specific area of expertise].”

“Identify two technical skills required to progress my career, and attend training sessions on each.”

8. Improve a specific soft skill.

Soft skills like empathy, emotional intelligence, and adaptability are often considered part of our inherent character — something that can’t be changed. It’s true that they’re not as easy to learn as hard skills, but they can be developed through intentional practice.

“Ask for constructive feedback from my coworkers, and work on improving any areas they identify as needing development.”

“Attend training sessions designed to help me improve [a specific soft skill, like critical thinking, conflict resolution, teamwork, or adaptability].”

9. Enhance negotiation abilities.

Developing negotiation skills can help employees in many different areas, from securing a raise to closing a challenging sale. While this skill might feel intuitive to some people, it can also be learned. 

“Attend a negotiation training workshop that includes elements of roleplay designed to help refine my techniques.” 

“Prepare to lead the negotiations in five sales meetings this quarter, aiming for a 75% success rate.” 

10. Improve collaboration skills.

Knowing how to work with other team members makes achieving shared goals that much easier. But with remote and hybrid work becoming more common, employees sometimes need guidance on how to collaborate more effectively. 

“Improve my collaboration skills by volunteering for, and participating in, a cross-functional project with another team.” 

“Become confident using Slack [or any other collaboration tool], plus observe how my team uses it to collaborate during projects.” 

How to Write Goals in a Performance Review

So, you’ve identified a suitable goal — the next challenge is how to communicate it clearly and effectively. This step-by-step list is designed to help create goals that drive results.

1. Always do your homework.

Employee performance goals shouldn’t be pulled from thin air. Before a review, make sure to look over any goals set last time, review achievements, and identify some potential areas for discussion or improvement. If company objectives or goals have changed since the last review cycle, go over these as well. 

2. Stop, collaborate, and listen.

“In its simplest form, goal-setting is a conversation about what an organization sees as important,” said Denise Triba, chief HR officer at Ingenovis Health. As a collaborative conversation, managers are responsible for helping employees understand organizational priorities and also for ensuring that their goals align individual actions with what an organization needs to achieve. 

Why is this alignment so critical? “When a manager and employee are aligned, it helps the manager keep the employee focused on what is important and helps the employee manage their workload,” explained Triba. 

Abigail Ireland, peak performance strategist and founder of leadership and training consultancy Understanding Performance, noted that it’s important for leaders to hold time and space for open, honest conversations with their teams. “Good two-way listening and dialogue is key to ensure that both parties are clear on what’s expected, why it’s important, how it should be achieved and by when.” She added that this “takes patience and genuine engagement from the leader, as well as confidence to challenge and ask questions as a team member.” 

She also recommended that leaders check for understanding when goals are set and, if required, make course corrections along the way. 

3. Be specific.

Vague goals can demotivate employees because there’s no clear pathway to achieving them. “It’s really important to make goals tangible, practical, and actionable,” said Ireland. 

“There needs to be room for flex and the ability for employees to truly feel like they own their goals (and that they’re not just being pushed down from above). If goals are too prescriptive and rigid, employees can feel demotivated and disempowered. This is also a danger if circumstances change and there is no appetite to adjust goals or adapt,” she added. 

4. Be consistent.

Creating effective, measurable goals for each team member can feel like a lot. But with a tool like Lattice AI, you can ensure everyone gets your best effort. Get personalized suggestions for what to include in each employee’s performance evaluation, based on their previous goals, growth areas, feedback, and more. 

Why Performance and Goals Should Be Integrated

Cascading goals — that connect every employee’s individual goals to company goals — are a powerful way to create a shared sense of purpose. In turn, this can boost performance on an individual and collective level. 

Triba mentioned that when managers create cascading goals, the conversation with an employee becomes about how their work ties to the department, and then the organization. “Suddenly, there is a connection between the front line and the organization’s purpose.” She added that this connection is important to employees who want to be part of something meaningful and feel like their day-to-day actions are making a difference. 

Ireland uses cascading goals to create a company-wide, common purpose that encourages every individual to ultimately move in the same direction. “This promotes shared accountability for outcomes, and is key in high-performing teams,” she said. “If done right, every single person will be able to clearly see how their contribution fits into the bigger picture — how their input makes a real difference.”

And if there’s a lack of connection between individual and company-wide goals? Ireland recommended exploring what’s causing the disconnect, and how the gap can be closed. During this alignment process, she noted two crucial components to bear in mind: curiosity and the ability to keep asking “Why?”

While identifying and writing cascading goals might sound complex — it’s easy to achieve using Lattice Performance Management. By setting, tracking, and reflecting on goals in one place, you can ensure they continuously guide work, rather than gathering dust at the bottom of the to-do pile. 

Types of Goal Methodologies

There are countless goal methodologies out there — so how do you know which is the right choice? Here are some of the most popular options. 

SMART Goals

SMART goals have been around since 1981, and they are still a popular choice for performance review conversations today. The acronym SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. 

SMART goals are effective during performance reviews because they help create goals that are intentional and specific. By measuring success based on specific outcomes, the SMART goal-setting framework also helps provide clarity, making the chances of achieving goals much higher. Once you create your SMART goals, using goal software that integrates with your existing tech stack makes it easier to keep these goals front and center. 

OKRs

OKRs, or objectives and key results, are a goal-setting framework frequently used to connect the dots between different levels of an organization.

OKRs define one overarching objective, which is then linked to a number of key results — the measurable outcomes required to meet the objective. Embedding OKRs into performance reviews can have a transformative effect on workplaces by increasing engagement, improving corporate culture, and increasing a sense of belonging. 

It’s important that employees take accountability for creating their own OKRs during performance reviews but also understand how these connect with wider organizational goals. 

Locke and Latham’s 5 Principles

First developed by psychologists Dr. Edwin A. Locke and Dr. Gary P. Latham, this goal-setting theory is based on a review of scientific research showing that the most effective goals are specific and also challenging

In their book A Theory of Goal Setting & Task Performance, Locke and Latham recommend using these five key principles during the goal-setting process:

  1. Clarity
  2. Challenge
  3. Commitment 
  4. Feedback 
  5. Task Complexity 


Following these principles during performance review conversations makes it easier to set specific goals that boost motivation. But Locke and Latham’s research also uncovered that it’s crucial to involve employees in the creation of these goals. That’s because a collaborative approach harnesses intrinsic motivation, which in turn increases commitment, enthusiasm, and the chances of success. 

BHAGs

This goal-setting term stands for a big, hairy, audacious goal. Created by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras, and first described in the book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, a BHAG is designed to energize and inspire. 

These are often used as aspirational, long-term, company-wide goals, but a BHAG can also be trickled down into individual performance reviews. This needs a careful approach, including ensuring all employees know the BHAG and how their performance will help achieve it. 

If performance review goals are being tied to a BHAG, it’s a good idea to set objectives that are aligned with the BHAG but focus on what each employee needs to do to move the needle. 

P.S. Don’t forget to keep it simple. 

The methodologies outlined are popular, but Ireland also cautioned that sometimes, it’s easy to overcomplicate things by spending too much time choosing a method, rather than just getting things done.

“I’m a huge fan of simplicity, and I see a lot of organizations either not having the basics in place when it comes to goal-setting, or they create a huge process that is too rigid and then becomes redundant during the year,” she said. Ireland added that while she doesn’t have a favorite methodology, SMART goals work well — if done properly. She also has a lot of experience with OKRs and likes the clear connection between objectives and specific outcomes that demonstrate success in achieving these objectives. 

But she added, “As long as you’re clear on what you are doing, how it connects to the bigger picture, and what success looks like (what, how, by when), I think you’re on the right track.”

Helping Employees on the Path to Growth

Managers have a crucial role in enabling their teams to grow and succeed — and knowing how to create effective goals is an essential part of this process. No matter what methodology you prefer, these goals should always have a shared purpose in mind: driving employee growth while also contributing to the overall mission of the company. 

Ready to empower your people with better performance reviews? Request your free demo of Lattice AI, and see what’s possible.