How to Set Goals With Employees: Increasing Employee Performance

February 21, 2012 by  Filed under: Management 

It doesn’t matter the industry or the position. Managers who do goal setting will achieve over time more success than managers who don’t. Research by Locke and Latham found over 100 studies on goal setting in the workplace. In over 90% of these cases productivity was improved. The average improvement was 16% gain. What manager doesn’t want that kind of jump? A manager has two main approaches to goal setting. First, you set goals for the employee. Second, you set goals with employees.

How to set goals

Before we review these two methods, you need to know the value and process of goal setting. Goal setting will:

  • Improve your communication with employees
  • Prevent problems
  • Facilitate problem solving
  • Establish clear expectations
  • Increase morale and productivity

To set goals consider this Bluebook Goal Setting Process. Why is it called the Bluebook process? The manager who taught me had a blue covered binder he kept his information in. To start, you ask an employee to put four headings on a sheet of paper: Job duties, strengths, improvement areas and goals/action steps. Then, together you discuss these headings in terms of the employee’s job. Talk about the key job duties and clarify any misunderstanding. You review the employee’s strengths and area for improvement and set 3-5 goals with a few action steps for each. As a general rule you will hold a one on one coaching session with each employee monthly to review results. If you have 10 or more direct reports you will have to do some group goal setting by a team of 4-6 employees. This isn’t as good as doing it one on one but it can work.

Set Goals for the Employee

When an employee is new in the job with little experience you have to give them their goals for the first 90 days on the job. They don’t have the expertise at this point to know what the results should be. You lead the conversation. For the strengths and improvement areas, ask the employee for input. You establish the goals and action steps. You can ask the employee for feedback or thoughts on the action steps.

Set Goals with the Employee

If the employee is experienced you can ask them to fill out a form-with the headings mentioned above-for their goal setting session. Always set a meeting schedule. A manager at one of our seminars gave us a great example about her experience. She said, “Rick, I gave out the goal setting sheet and asked the employees to get back to me, but none have.” Really? You have to follow-through as a leader.

In this type of goal setting session you ask the questions. What are your key job duties? What are your strengths? What do you need to improve? What goals can we establish? Based on the employees response you facilitate the discussion and give advice or your input.

The biggest concern that managers have is time. Yes, it takes time, but it also increases results. The process described is the beginning of excellent performance management. Done consistently on a monthly basis you have the opportunity to see employee morale and productivity increases.

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Rick Conlow is CEO with WCW Partners, a management consulting and training firm. Rick has helped organizations increase sales 218%, improve repeat and referral business by 20%, increase customer retention to 99%, reduce complaints by 60% and achieve 34 quality awards. You can reach Rick at: or 888-313-0514.

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