Employee Goal Setting

Getting started Employee Goal Setting

A goal is simply something that you want to achieve. Employee goal setting is an essential part of running all types of business, with goal management being the process whereby business, team and personal goals can be set and continuously monitored and evaluated. The aim of goal management is to not just set better goals, but to achieve your goals in the most efficient and effective way.

Getting started with Goal Management

Why do we set goals for employees and why goals should be hard?

There is over 35 years of research on employee goal setting that beyond telling us what we know, which is goal setting is an essential part of achievement, the research tells us why goal setting works and the conditions that make some goals way more effective that others.

Goals increase our focus on the relevant activities – Goals serve as a directive function. They direct attention towards goal relevant activities, and away from irrelevant ones.

Hard goals increase effort – Hard goals are energising and lead to greater effort. Easy to achieve goals have low levels of impact and value so should be avoided.

Hard goals prolong effort – When employees can control their time, e.g. they work remotely, hard goals prolong their effort, with sustained effort helping to achieve more.

Hard goals accelerate learning & improved collaboration – Hard goals cause the arousal, discovery and use of task relevant knowledge and strategies. Easy goals don’t.

How do you set goals for employees?

How you set goals for teams and employees will very much depend on the approach you take. Tools and frameworks like KPIs, SMART, and OKRs are complementary ways to approach goal setting, and are supported in ZOKRI.

Good guiding principles are to ensure your goals contain:

Create alignment – Goals set in silos that are not going to support strategy, and are not vertically or horizontally aligned run the risk of being poorly aligned, with energy being directed to lower impact or irrelevant activities.

Use quality metrics – Quality metrics / KPIs make good goals and focusing on the ones that require the most change makes a good goal. Making sure you track the metrics that matter is a key part of know what needs to become a goal and how you measure achievement.

Make goals a stretch – As you can see from the research, easy goals are low value goals, so hard goals need to be normalised and failure needs to be made safe and a learning experience. If you’re not able to set hard goals, you will achieve less.

Avoid BAU – Goals that are set that involve following business-as-usual processes and doing everyday jobs-to-be-done make poor goals. They dilute your focus from the goals that matter most and are the focus of the change required.

The building blocks of better goal setting & goal management


Inputs like Strategic Pillars can provide specific areas of focus and a structure that enable success criteria to be defined for the successful implementation of the strategy, as well as allowing departments and teams to align goals with your strategy.

Strategy Maps Provide Longer-term Direction

You could also use themes that allow for alignment. Balanced Scorecard (BSC) for example, where you would use Financial, Customer, Internal Process, and Learning and Growth as themes in which you set goals. The BSG can form the basis of a Strategy Map that acts as a long-term guide and compass that compliments shorter-term more agile approaches to goal setting like Objectives and Key Results – OKR.

Balanced Scorecard

Financial Examples

Increase Profitability
Grow Revenue Sources
Lead in Strategic Markets
Diversify Revenue Sources
Lower Cost Of Production
Improve Cost Efficiency
Optimize Channel / Revenue Mix

Customer Examples

Understand Customer Needs
Increase Customer Satisfaction
Deliver Customer Value Faster
Increase Customer Choice
Lead In Value / Price
Have What Is Wanted In Stock
Proactively Deliver Support
Be Seen As A Trusted Advisor & Business Partner
Be Seen As The ‘Go-to’ For What We Do
Provide More Opportunities For Customers
Build Deeper Relationships With Customers
Be Seen As A Long-term Partner
Solve Issues Faster
Provide Expert Guidance When Needed

Process Examples

Make The Complicated Simple
Improve Target Account Selection Process
Improve Marketing & Sales Alignment
Expand Territories
Strengthen Key Account Relationships
Improve Management Of Risk & Compliance
Create Plan For Full System Recovery
Use Technology To Improve Efficiency
Improve Procurement Process
Make Distribution More Efficient
Gather & Share Customer Insights Systematically
Improve Forecasting
Understand Risk & Mitigate It
Improve Budgetary Control
Performance Manage Our People
Find And Recruit The Best Talent
Monitor Wellbeing & Catch People If They Fall

Education & Growth Examples

Teach The Skills That Help Employees Succeed
Continual Learning & Development
Create Psychologically Safe Teams
Provide Goal, Role & Executional Plan Clarity
Connect Work With The Impact People Have
Make It Safe To Be Ambitious
Make Internal Transparency The Default 
Make Appraisals A Positive Experience
Retain Our Best People
Develop Managers
Provide Wellbeing Support To Those That Need It 
Compensation & Benefits Are Fair & Competitive

Goals Need Metrics (KPI)

Having a strong measurement culture will help you set better goals. These are the measurements that will define the success of your strategic objectives and alert you to issues. KPIs that need to be reviewed frequently, with monitoring and prioritisation providing the basis for reporting and goal setting. 

OKR – Objective & Key Result Give Employees Autonomy

Company set’s its annual and / or quarterly goals using OKRs. These goals align tightly with strategic objectives and pillars. These are the goals that are used by departments, teams and individuals will be aligning with each quarter from the bottom up. It’s this more empowered and autonomous form of goal setting that has been proven to offer huge increases in performance. If you’re looking for ‘best practice’ employee goal setting, OKRs are it.

Project / Time Based Goals aka Initiatives

Project based goals where the delivery of a project by a specific time is the achievement is another type of goal which should be aligned with the more outcome based, metric centric goals.

In Objectives and Key Results and frameworks like BSC these are called Initiatives. They are designed to be aligned and bring executional clarity alongside goal clarity.

Set Goals For Employees In ZOKRI

ZOKRI is a flexible goal management platform that allows you to set strategy, align annual and quarterly goals, align Initiative with key results, and manage the day-to-day processes and job-to-be-done that ensure everyone is on-track.

This makes ZOKRI a flexible and best practice way to set and manage goals in your company. Creating clarity on what needs to be achieved, clarity on who is working on what, and providing transparency on progress, problems and achievements. Putting managers in control and employees in the picture. Both of which improves performance, engagement, retention and improves the bottom-line

Pros and Cons of setting goals



Goals provide clarity on which goals need to be achieved and what does not, who is working on each goal, and how you’re going about achieving them.

Goals provide the framework around which employees can align, collaborate, learn, adapt and even innovate.

Knowing how your work is impacting the business provides increased purpose and improves employee engagement and learning.

Goals are one of the many ways we can recognise effort, contributions and achievements.

Goals allow us to work autonomously as well as more effectively in teams, helping to stop destructive behaviours like micromanagement.

Goal setting is obviously important but takes time and effort. You have to do the work and commit. If you half commit, or commit to goal setting in an inconsistent way between teams, you won’t see the results and unlock the pros.

Goal setting takes some skill with poorly thought-out and poorly defined goals reducing our effort, impact and learning opportunities.

The best goals reflect business strategy and priorities, not the BAU which a large number of employees are working on. It’s therefore important to ensure performance management takes into account a wide variety of types contributions e.g. goals, KPI maintenance, process and project delivery, as well as personal development and cultural contributions.

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Goal Management Content To Help You Right Now

KPI Examples Written By Experts

KPI Examples For 2021

Work out exactly what to measure – set KPIs that get the results you’re looking for by using our KPI examples as inspiration.

Human Resources KPI Examples

Company OKRs are top of the OKR hierarchy. They are often Annual or Quarterly and are an extension of your strategy.

Sales Team KPI Examples

Sales are one of the most Metric Driven team in any business. So what’s the difference between a Metric and a KPI?

Marketing KPI Examples

Marketing is a department that has more metrics than most. This is due to the width of the complexity of the discipline.

SEO Team KPI Examples

The primary goal of SEO is to increase revenues from search engine results pages, without paying for the click.


SaaS, like most types of business, should involve a data lead Leadership Team. Consider using these KPI examples.

OKR Examples Written By Experts

OKR Examples For 2021

We’ve created OKR examples for common departments and teams within a company to help inspire your own.

Company OKR Examples

Company OKRs are top of the OKR hierarchy. They are often Annual or Quarterly and are an extension of your strategy.

Finance OKR Examples

The finance team are often the custodians of a companies most important metrics and as such are usually aware of set targets.

Human Resources OKR Examples

Human Resources OKRs have a huge impact on a business – and OKRs can be used to measure HR effectiveness.

Marketing OKR Examples

Marketing is one of the teams that sees significant performance increases from using Objectives and Key Results.

Sales Team OKR Examples

Sales teams are used to having goals, but setting OKRs are quite different. Sales have their tools but they lack transparency.

Customer Service
OKR Examples

Whether you call your department Customer Service or Customer Success, it’s all about keeping them happy.

OKR Examples

Engineering build the products that underpin competitive advantage. OKRs will really help to streamline this.

Product Marketing
OKR Examples

Product Marketing OKRs are really important to growth. Improvement ensures your product is understood and trialled.

Product Management OKR Examples

Product Management OKRs are where you will express the biggest priorities you’re facing right now as a department.