As we approach the midpoint of the year, it’s an opportune time for employees to reflect on their achievements and set new goals for the next financial year. For many, this is seen as a ‘tick a box’ process that sparks some angst as workers prepare to agree on what can be achieved in the next cycle. Despite these hurdles, setting performance goals is not just a formality, but a powerful process that can motivate employees, align team efforts, and drive organisational success.

It may not be high on the worker’s agenda, but taking the time to work in partnership with the leader can result in meaningful conversations about aligning output with employee passion. It positions both parties to be on the same page and for the leader to better understand their role in supporting success and employee development.

The Importance of Goal Setting

We may only be midway through the calendar year, however many organisations reset their goal setting process at the beginning of the new financial year on July 1st. This is a critical time to not only reflect on the year that was, but to look out the front windscreen and prepare for the next destination.  Although employees are technically only halfway through their year, the new cycle marks the beginning of a new set of goals and the opportunity to calibrate objectives based on the progress made in the last performance cycle.

A thorough process ensures that an employee’s efforts remain aligned with the evolving needs of the organisation and the market. Moreover, it provides an opportunity for workers to take ownership of their growth and contribute more effectively to the organisation’s success.

The Process of Setting Performance Goals

The process of setting performance goals involves several key steps. First, it’s important to review the employee’s performance in the last performance year. This involves assessing their achievements against the goals set at the beginning of the cycle.

Next, it’s time to align the individual’s goals with the strategic objectives of the organisation. This ensures that everyone is working towards a common purpose.

Finally, set SMART goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. By setting SMART goals, we ensure that the goals are clear, trackable, realistic, aligned with the employee’s role, and have a defined timeline.

Here are some examples of team based SMART goals:

Sales Department: Increase the department’s total sales by 10% by the end of the fourth quarter. This goal is:

  • Specific: It targets the sales department.
  • Measurable: The goal can be tracked by monitoring the sales figures.
  • Achievable: A 10% increase is a realistic target.
  • Relevant: Increasing sales is directly related to the department’s function.
  • Time-bound: The goal is to be achieved by the end of the fourth quarter.

Customer Service: Reduce customer complaints by 15% by the end of the second quarter. This goal is:

  • Specific: It targets the customer service department.
  • Measurable: The goal can be tracked by monitoring the number of complaints.
  • Achievable: A 15% reduction is a realistic target.
  • Relevant: Reducing complaints is directly related to improving customer service.
  • Time-bound: The goal is to be achieved by the end of the second quarter.

Employers can access our SMART goals worksheet and learn more about How to Set SMART goals and objectives.

Setting Up Performance Discussions

Performance discussions are a crucial part of the goal-setting process. They provide an opportunity for managers and employees to review progress, address challenges, and recalibrate goals. Ideally, these discussions should occur regularly throughout the year, but it’s particularly important to have a comprehensive review as we approach the mid-year mark of the calendar year.

When setting up a performance discussion, choose a time that works for both parties and ensure you have a quiet, private space to talk. Prior to the meeting, both the manager and the employee should review the employee’s goals and progress. The manager should come prepared with specific feedback and the employee should be ready to discuss their experiences and any obstacles they’ve encountered.

During the discussion, it’s important to maintain an open and positive tone. Begin by acknowledging the employee’s achievements, then discuss areas for improvement and new goals. Remember, the aim of the discussion is not just to review performance, but also to motivate the employee and plan for future success.

Tips for Employers to Navigate Performance

Employers play a crucial role in this process. Here are some tips to guide your employees effectively:

  • Encourage Open Communication: Foster an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their goals and challenges. This open dialogue can lead to better understanding between you and your employees, and it can also help you identify opportunities to provide support. Regular team meetings, one-on-one check-ins, and open-door policies can facilitate this communication.
  • Provide Constructive Feedback: Regular feedback is key to employee growth. Constructive feedback should be specific, timely, and actionable. Highlight their strengths and areas of improvement. Remember, the goal of feedback is not to criticise but to help employees improve. It’s also important to encourage employees to give feedback to the business. This two-way feedback process can lead to continuous improvement.
  • Recognise Achievements: Recognising and celebrating achievements, no matter how small, boosts morale and motivates employees to perform better. This could be as simple as a shout-out in a team meeting, a thank-you email, or a more formal recognition program. Recognition shows employees that their hard work is valued and appreciated.
  • Support Professional Development: Encourage employees to pursue professional development opportunities that align with their performance goals. This could include workshops, courses, or conferences. Supporting professional development shows employees that the organisation is invested in their growth and success.

When employees succeed, so does the organisation

Many employees believe that performance goals are just about business outcomes, but they are equally about personal growth and development. By setting clear, achievable goals and providing the necessary support and recognition, a positive work environment can be created where everyone feels valued and motivated. Remember, when employees succeed, so does the organisation.

Further information

For assistance with your workplace matters, Members of Ai Group can contact us or call our Workplace Advice Line on 1300 55 66 77 for further information. Ai Group has an extensive performance management section offering members a range of tools, resources and support to optimise and manage performance. 

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Georgina Pacor

Georgina is Senior HR Content Editor – Publications at Ai Group. She is an accomplished Human Resource professional with over 25 years of generalist and leadership experience in a broad range of industries including financial services, tourism, travel, government and agriculture. She has successfully advised and partnered with senior leaders to implement people and performance initiatives that align to business strategy. Georgina is committed to utilising her experience to create resources that educate and engage and is passionate about supporting members to optimise an inclusive workforce culture that drives performance.