Employee Goals

As an employee, what are you working for? You go to work for eight hours every day to pay your bills, but is that all there is to it? What are your goals at work? Do you hope to help your company become a success? Are you hoping to learn new, marketable skills? Are you working towards a promotion or pay raise?

As a manager or employer, what goals do you have for your employees? Are you striving for increased productivity? Perhaps you’re looking to foster more teamwork between workers? Do your employees respect and follow the goals you set for them?

Employee goals are a two-sided coin. As an employee and as a person, you should always be looking to improve yourself and the business you work for. As an employer, you must always look out for your employees’ best interests, all the while encouraging their growth and the growth of your business. In this article, we hope to teach you the importance of both sides, as well as what each side involves.

For Employees

As an employee, are you happy just getting through the day, getting your paycheck, then going home? Or do you have hopes and dreams besides that? We naturally have dreams and goals inside us that often feature advancement. To promote better work performance, we should all have aspirations of moving up the corporate ladder eventually.

If we don’t have that innate desire to grow, do better, and advance, we inevitably stagnate, and this will cause the business to stagnate as well. Stagnation as a person should be your mortal enemy, both in your work and personal life. In both cases, it will result in you eventually being overtaken by more capable people who are willing to grow and excel.

If you can’t grow with the times, they will leave you behind. Growth will be expected of you in your personal life and demanded of you in your work life. Even if you’re not keen on moving up in the company, you should still strive to do the best job you can in your current position.

That being said, don’t we all want to stand out from our coworkers? Don’t we all love the satisfaction of being praised for exemplary work above others? Regardless of the reasoning behind it, striving for excellence in the workplace often benefits us in many ways. If you haven’t taken the time to set personal working goals before, we’ll show you how below.


The first part of stepping up your performance as an employee is setting goals for yourself. In most business settings, your boss will have their own goals for you to reach, but it’s beneficial to create your own goals to go along with them.

However, make sure that the goals you set are compatible with company goals. Following company goals alone may feel like a rote, forced exercise without passion behind it, but setting your own goals that don’t match with the company’s mission could compromise your performance. Finding the right combination of the two is a balancing act.

As such, defining your career goals is an essential first step. You may have some preconceived notions in mind. Perhaps you dream of being a CEO one day, for example. Your first step should be reconciling these long-held dreams with the immediate goals of the business you work for.

However, the way that you set your goals is just as important as the goals you set. To establish proper goals (both in your career and in your personal life), try following the SMART system below:

  • Specific: clearly define your goals. Don’t make them overly vague.
  • Measurable: your goals should hold some sort of quantifiable statistic. For example, if they involve money, quantify precisely how much you’re thinking about.
  • Attainable: make sure your goals are feasible with the time and resources you have available. Don’t set impossible goals.
  • Relevant: the goals you set should be related to the topic at hand – in this case, your career. Make sure they’re related to the broader goals of the company, too.
  • Time-Based: include a (feasible) timeframe for the completion of your goals.

If you set goals with the above in mind, they will be better defined, you’ll have a better idea of when and how to complete them, and they will be much harder to weasel or rationalize your way out of!

If you set a goal like, “I want to earn $10,000 more by the end of this year,” you will either have failed or succeeded by the end of the year. If you set a non-SMART goal like, “I want to earn more money,” It’s too easy to say that you didn’t have enough time or to make other excuses.

The following categories will help you nail down precisely what you should be looking at to set working goals for yourself.

Your Growth

How do you think you can best help your company? Do you believe that you can handle something that seems to have been lacking lately? Think of places where you can acquire skills and grow to handle new responsibilities or positions.

Think of skills that you might be lacking that might help you out on the job. You can take it upon yourself to obtain mentorship in that area, or perhaps approach your boss with the idea to see what they think. Showing that you’re willing to grow and change as the company needs it is a significant point in your favor, and it will facilitate greater trust between you and your boss.

Your Happiness

What do you need to be happy on the job? Some jobs will just never be pleasant to work at, and we all have good days and bad days, but if there’s anything that you can change to make your work life more pleasant, look into it. Greater happiness and morale at work translates into higher productivity. If your request doesn’t compromise productivity or the integrity of the company, it’s worth looking into.

Employee morale is directly linked to performance, so suggestions for anywhere that you can find morale lacking, especially if you have potential solutions on hand, will be appreciated by any shrewd supervisor.

Your Desires

What do you want to change in your workplace? Are there new technologies or services becoming available that you’d like access to? These are things that can be brought up to bosses and supervisors. New technologies may not always be an option if they’re cost prohibitive for the business, but anything that increases productivity is bound to get your boss’s attention.

Moreover, what do you desire for yourself at your workplace? Do you want to be promoted? Are you looking for a pay raise? If these things are on your radar, set goals that will help you get them done. If your goal is a promotion, for example, start learning skills that will benefit you in the position you want.

Your Needs

What do you need in your workplace to get your work done? What do you need access to in order to accomplish your goals? Perhaps a quieter, more private setting might benefit you in terms of productivity, and so your goal might be to convince your boss to move you to a private office instead.

Keep what the business needs in mind here, too. More often than not, if you feel like you need something to do your job, others might feel like they need it, too. Thus, the business itself needs it – sometimes sorely. If multiple people in the office need something, your requests are much more likely to get through to your supervisors.

Your Success

This is the ultimate question: what do you need to be successful in the workplace? What is your vision of success at work? Take your most prominent dream of where you’d like to be in the perfect world, and try to make your reality as close to that vision as possible. Think of the big picture here: what can you do to make the business successful, and what can be done at the company to help you become successful?

Whatever comes to mind, compile it all in a statement to be made to your boss. If you work with the business and yourself in mind, you will get much further than you would if you were just looking out for yourself. Think about how you can be the best possible performer in your work environment, and then execute everything you can to make that happen.

For Employers

Some employees will require more guidance than others. As someone responsible for the performances of others, it’s your job to let your workers know what you expect from them, inspire them to improve and grow as individuals, and teach them how to help your business grow. However, there are right and wrong ways to do this.

Holding your employees’ hands every step of the way will only lead to them being dependent on your explanations in the future. However, in the same way, showing too much leniency can result in laziness and misplaced efforts.

There is a fine line to walk in inspiring workplace greatness – you will need to dictate just enough to make sure your employees are following orders and working hard, but not enough that their own creativity is stifled. Check out our checklist on the topic below of the things you’ll want to do:

  • Inspire your employees to work hard, be creative, and set their own (related) goals.
  • Make sure your employees know that they can come to you with questions, concerns, and suggestions. This will give you a further inside view on the inner workings of the company.
  • Foster a team environment for employees that stimulates interpersonal relationships. This will boost morale and make it a more pleasant place to work.
  • Train your employees to be responsible for themselves. You should not have to hold their hands every step of the way. Questions are okay, but confidence is important, too.
  • In the same way, discourage overconfidence. Questions should always be asked before action is taken, or work may have to be redone later. This reduces workplace efficiency.

The above isn’t an exhaustive list. The keys to being a great employer make up a very long list, and we do not have the space to discuss them all here. You get the picture, though – it’s important to foster a workplace where employees can work confidently, efficiently, and independently, but not directionlessly.

While your employees should be fully capable of working under their own merit, keeping the workplace a viable, enjoyable, and current place to be is your responsibility. Forward-thinking and shrewd employees may come forward with advice for you about this every so often. Make sure you’re receptive to their information when it comes your way, as it provides an essential window to their working environment.

While many aspects of your business are your responsibility, we have compiled some of the most important (and some of the most commonly neglected) issues below.

Watch for Gaps

As the manager, supervisor, or boss, you should be on the lookout for any gaps in efficiency in the running of your business. This includes systems that you would normally be responsible for, of course, but it also consists of some of your employees’ duties. Efficiency gaps can include any of the following:

  • Performance gaps
  • Growth gaps
  • Opportunity gaps
  • Training gaps

The above are relatively self-explanatory, but how you should address each gap varies. Performance gaps and training gaps, for example, come intrinsically from employees, but the other gaps can also be unintentional effects of bad management.

Performance Gaps

Performance gaps refer to when an employee is not measuring up to the expectations placed on them by the company. However, a performance gap can come forth from many different things, and identifying where the problem is will be something between you and your employee. Performance gaps can arise from improper management, laziness, personal issues of the employee, training gaps, and more.

To address a performance gap, it is best to pull the employee aside and work out a way to remedy the issue. In an ideal situation, talking things out with the employee, helping to set new goals, identifying setbacks, and fixing any lingering issues should remedy the problem. If it does not, the employee may not be a good fit for the company.

Growth Gaps

Growth gaps come about when employees do not have the proper skills or credentials to advance in their careers. This can be quite easily remedied through career planning, inside or outside training, or just good goal-setting practices. When a new employee is hired, make sure to sit down with them and address their future career goals, if only to get them thinking about future skills they might need or want.

Opportunity Gaps

Opportunity gaps are similar to growth gaps, but they tend to occur much more suddenly. In the case of an opportunity gap, an employee may not be able to pursue an opportunity even when interested if they don’t have the requisite skills and experience. This issue should be mitigated in the same way as above – employees should be aware of growth opportunities early on so that they can pursue related skills.

Training Gaps

Training gaps, as the name suggests, come about when a current prospective employee does not have the skills needed for their current position. To resolve this, it may be necessary to instate routine re-training programs for current employees, or it might be useful to start a training program that all new hires complete before beginning work. Both strategies have been used in businesses to great effect.

Relate Goals to Performance

When proposing goals for your employees, they should be performance-related as often as possible, in addition to making them SMART goals as we covered earlier on. Take the following performance-related categories, for example:

  • Productivity: how much gets done in a certain period of time
  • Efficiency: finding better, faster ways to get work done without sacrificing quality
  • Education: the training and learning needed to do the job right
  • Personal development: improving skills that are useful in the workplace

The four categories above are not exhaustive, but many workplace woes fall into them. It’s more than likely that, if you and an employee have something to address, it will fall under one or more of those categories. Accordingly, you should encourage employee goals to be set to address deficiencies in the above categories.

Now, establishing employee performance goals can be done in one of two ways: through one large, sit-in meeting – the quick-and-dirty method – or a one-on-one with each employee. The former process is easy, cheap, and very impersonal, and might not leave a lasting effort on your employees unless they have a lot of respect and trust in you.

The latter method, however, can prove to be very effective, but it can also scare employees. Being pulled aside for a one-on-one meeting with the boss can be daunting for any employee, especially if they’re unsure of their performance. Only do this every so often, and make sure employees know that it’s not a punishment, but more of a method of figuring out what they need to reach their full potential.

Productivity issues are functionally very similar to performance gaps. If an employee is not productive, it’s often because they’re slacking at work, unable to work fast enough, or are incapable of working at their own discretion. The trouble with productivity issues is that sometimes they can be addressed, and sometimes they cannot.

When a lazy employee is confronted, they’ll often reply by shaping up, even if only for a time. An employee that is slow and unskilled, however, may be too old or unequipped to handle the pace you’re looking for. An inefficient employee, on the other hand, can often be taught faster, better methods to complete their jobs. The same goes for uneducated employees.

Personal development can be tricky as well. Personal development involves learning skills to assist in all workplace matters, such as expedience, politeness, leadership, sociability, and tact. Some of these skills cannot be taught – they need to be learned through trial and error – or sometimes employees will refuse to learn them. Sometimes, the only option for problematic employees is to remove them from the workplace.

However, if you pull an employee aside that genuinely cares about keeping their job at your company, they will generally work hard to make things work rather than suffering the consequences. This is why it’s so important to foster relationships with each employee and help them identify goals where they may need improvement.

Collect Feedback

Collecting feedback from employees is especially valuable in any social workplace. Any savvy boss knows that an office is often a rumor mill, and its workers are valuable sources of information (how useful it is can sometimes vary). If you have an honest, open relationship with your employees, they will hopefully come to you with their hopes, concerns, dreams, and goals.

Use the thoughts and feelings of your employees to change how you address them going forward. For example, if morale is low because of a new rule in the workplace, think about looking into ways of changing it or working around it. If a new hire is ruffling feathers among older employees, think about pulling them aside to see what’s going on.

Aside from allowing a listening ear into the workplace itself, a good relationship with your employees is a great way to learn what they think about your goals for them, how these relate to their own goals, and how successful they’ve been at addressing them. If your employees feel that your newest productivity goal feels too harsh and stifling, you may want to think about revoking it or reworking it, for example.

Promote Collaboration

Promoting collaboration, teamwork, and good relations between employees is critical for any teamwork-based business setting. After all, if your employees don’t work well together, the work that they do won’t end well, either. Sabotage in the workplace, especially, is something you will want to avoid.

Consider some ways to foster an agreeable, collaborative environment that we’ve provided below.

  • Create a rallying cause to encourage cohesion and common passions
  • Communicate your expectations for collaboration to employees
  • Establish several explicitly team-related goals to foster unity and fair work-sharing
  • Build teams so that members’ strengths balance others’ weaknesses
  • Incorporate team-building activities into daily routines
  • Encourage and reward innovation from teams

Consider Google, which has been touted as one of the most desirable companies to work for many years. Google considers workplace interaction to be one of the most important variables in a happy, healthy, successful company, and every aspect of its employee experience reflects that. Even Google’s cafeterias are designed to encourage interaction between employees.

Even if your workplace is more of an independent environment, it’s still a good idea to promote positive interpersonal relations. Like we said earlier, an office is a rumor mill, and negative emotions are bound to develop when office gossip gets out of control. Teaching and rewarding respect between employees is an excellent way to discourage these destructive workplace behaviors.

Keep It Fresh

If you want to encourage continual growth and development, one of the greatest ways to do it is to make sure your workplace is lively, diverse, and ever-changing. As someone in a position of management, you should do your best to organize different activities that challenge your employees to collaborate, think, and be creative. Keep your workplace fresh!

If you let your workplace stagnate, your employees will stagnate as well. Workplace activities can be utilized for many reasons, such as:

  • Keeping employees up-to-date with new technologies and news
  • Fostering collaboration and team play
  • Encouraging creativity and out-of-the-box thinking
  • Promoting friendly competition among teams or individuals
  • Helping employees develop new and useful skills

Workplace activities are a fantastic tool because they are a blank canvas. You can bring in influential voices to speak to your workers, utilize established programs, create your own activities on the fly, or anything else, really – especially anything that involves taking your employees’ goals into account. If productivity is an issue, for example, plan an exercise that promotes or teaches it.

If setting something as an employee goal doesn’t seem to be working, planning “surprise” workplace activities can also be an unsubtle way to hammer the message home that it’s important! If you have recommended that your employees shore up their skills in some areas, but they haven’t heeded your advice, surprise activities can act as a sort of performance test.

If worse comes to worst, activities like team-building camps are also available, but we only recommend these for the worst of situations. Besides being a heavy-handed tactic, your employees will not be working during these camps, so you will be losing out on productivity that you may already need quite badly. Whatever you decide, it will surely help drive the message home about how devoted you are to your employee goals.

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