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The start of the New Year is a great time for employers to review performance goals with their employees. Goal setting can have far-reaching benefits—in addition to increasing an employee's commitment and motivation, an employer can direct its employees' efforts toward maximizing accomplishments and supporting the company's own long-term goals.

Goal setting will be most successful when an employee is provided with clear expectations regarding performance that are tied to an understanding of how his or her individual work contributes to the company's overall goals. According to experts, goals should be:

  1. Specific. Clearly communicate the tasks or behaviors employees must accomplish or demonstrate to achieve successful results. Performance goals should function to align the employee's growth and development with that of the employer's business.
  2. Realistic. Set goals that are challenging, but attainable based on a particular employee's knowledge, skill, and access to necessary resources. Seek input from employees and be sure to monitor and update goals as circumstances change to sustain and improve performance.
  3. Measurable. Employees need to understand how their performance will be measured. Some types of performance can be measured quantitatively (i.e., number of sales), while some may be qualitative (i.e., customer satisfaction). Other goals may be more difficult to measure, but may be evaluated based on achievement.
  4. Deadline-Driven. Set firm, but realistic time frames for achieving goals to increase productivity. For ongoing or long-term goals, regularly monitor progress and provide feedback to keep employees motivated and focused on the desired outcome.
  5. Prioritized. When goals are numerous or complex, it can be easy for employees to lose a sense of priority and simply jump from one thing to another. Ranking is helpful so employees understand the relative importance of each goal.
  6. Evaluated. Goals should be designed to support both the company and the individual employee's personal development. Keep in mind that goals may need to be updated based on the employer's needs and the employee's progress.
  7. Coordinated. Develop goals for each individual that complement the efforts of other employees. Break apart more complicated goals into manageable pieces and delegate them to each employee working as part of the team.

Be sure that any goal setting process and measurements of performance treat all employees equitably and are in compliance with federal and state nondiscrimination laws. (Source:

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