Habio Blog

Goal Setting for Employees: How to Make It Clear and Effective

Setting the right goals for employees increases their motivation levels and makes them work more effectively. These tips will make employee goal setting and planning even clearer and more effective.
If a man knows not to which port he sails, no wind is favorable.
— Seneca the Younger
a man going upstairs on the stairs drawn by a hand with a pencil as an illustration of goal setting for employees
As a business owner or manager, the last thing you want is an office full of people gossiping around the coffee machine or playing solitaire while pretending to work. But how do you boost your employees' productivity and motivation?
First of all, make sure that everyone knows what they're expected to do.
This sounds like ridiculously trivial advice, but a Gallup study showed that only about half of employees know exactly what their manager expects from them. In your organization, there's probably room for improvement as well.

Why do employees need goal setting in their work?

Why all the fuss about setting goals? Can't employees just do what they're told?

The truth is that a simple job description and workplace instructions don't give your employees a sense of direction or purpose. Yes, they're doing something… but why? How do they know if they're doing a good job? And what is the result of their efforts? Well-defined goals provide the answers to these questions – and serve other important functions. We'll cover them in more detail right now.

Define the general direction of their career

Very few people are interested in spending the rest of their lives doing the same work. Most of your employees are eager to build a career based on their strengths and passions.

Setting attainable, measurable goals helps you evaluate employees' strengths and weaknesses using objective performance data, not biased judgments. Equipped with these insights, you can guide them toward inspiring career goals that set them up for satisfaction and success.

Attach importance to their work and input into the business

Your employees aren't just doing work for the sake of work. They're busy creating valuable products and/or services, outsmarting your competitors, and taking care of your customers.

Setting goals helps them see the bigger picture and feel genuinely proud of their work. Your programmer is not just writing code, he's creating an awesome program that will solve your customers' problems.
a woman sitting on the couch and thinking about goal setting for employees

Think outside the box and beyond simply completing tasks

Simply checking items off a to-do list is satisfying to a degree, but it gets boring after a few months. Researchers have found that employee engagement drops to just 33% within six months after starting a new job, largely because of a lack of clear guidelines and feedback.

This makes goal setting for employees even more important as it helps them stay focused and creative.

Make them more accountable and responsible

Properly set goals are highly motivating, so you can trust your employees to work hard toward them. You won't have to micromanage them like a schoolteacher who spends the better part of a lesson checking homework and trying to discipline misbehaving students.

Letting employees participate in the goal-setting process is a simple and straightforward way to boost their responsibility. Think about how setting your own goals makes you feel empowered and productive. Now, help your employees feel the same way.

Goal setting with employees is not always easy, so we've collected eight tips to help you.

8 noteworthy tips for effective goal setting and work planning

1. Set clear and achievable goals

Do you remember how your parents or teachers told you to "try harder" or "get better at math"? You were most likely confused or even frustrated because you didn't know what exactly they wanted.

Avoid this goal-setting mistake with your employees and set SMART goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Compare these examples of goals to see the difference:

  • Do your best to sell more.
  • Increase the sales of product X by 10% in the next six months.

If you're new to SMART goal setting for employees, consider using a checklist or a template so you don't miss out on any crucial elements.

2. Connect employees' goals with business needs and objectives

Make sure that your employees know how their work fits into the overall functioning of your business. This gives them a new, motivating perspective and encourages them to work with focus and engagement, instead of just feeling bored and tired all the time they are at work.

3. Develop a career plan

There are different types of goals for employees. Some can be achieved in a week, while others may take years.

Work with each employee to develop an exciting mix of motivating short-term goals and ambitious long-term goals that essentially will make their career plan.
a group of five people discussing goal setting for employees and drawing plan of the paper

4. Provide rewards for goal achievement

Every achievement deserves a reward. It could be a bonus, a pay raise, or even public acknowledgment at a staff meeting.

Rewarding your employees shows them that you value their efforts and creativity. If their hard work keeps going unnoticed, they'll eventually get frustrated and either leave the company or join the ranks of people who just sit there and pretend to work.

5. Set OKRs and make a detailed plan

OKRs are Objectives and Key Results. This simple but powerful goal-setting framework was developed by Andy Grove during his work at Intel and became popular at tech companies such as Google and Twitter.

An objective is a clear but ambitious goal (e.g., Make our company go viral), whereas key results are specific and measurable actions needed to accomplish this goal (e.g., Generate 100,000 views on our YouTube channel). Achieving key results requires a detailed plan that should be reviewed weekly.

6. Discuss goal progress regularly

It may be tempting to set goals and forget about them until the deadline comes. But a lot of things can happen in the meantime. Additional obstacles pop up. Priorities change.

This is why it's important to discuss goal progress at least weekly, ideally in a one-on-one meeting. You'll be able to recognize problems as soon as they arise and help solve them; and if necessary, you can also adjust the goals.

7. Retrospective meetings

Retrospective meetings are an integral part of goal setting and planning. These are meetings where you discuss what went well, what went wrong, and why. By taking the time to reflect on successes and mistakes, you can encourage the employee to set SMARTer goals and work toward them with more engagement.

8. Goal sharing in the team

One research study found that people who shared their goals with their peers had a 75% better chance of succeeding than those who worked solo. Make sure that everyone's goals are transparent and consistent to encourage accountability and healthy competition as the team members will probably try to beat each other's achievements!


Goal setting for employees is one of the cornerstones of successful management. Without it, employees lose motivation and get frustrated quickly. Fortunately, the art of goal-setting is not a closely kept secret. Rely on well-known, proven frameworks like SMART and OKR, and your company will be set up for success!


  1. https://habio.app/blog/what-is-motivation
  2. https://habio.app/blog/why-are-you-so-tired
  3. https://scholar.dominican.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1265&context=news-releases
  4. https://news.gallup.com/businessjournal/186164/employees-don-know-expected-work.aspx
  5. https://news.gallup.com/businessjournal/163463/engaging-employees-honeymoon-period.aspx
  6. https://blog.weekdone.com/how-google-sets-goals-with-okrs-objectives-and-key-results/

Related Articles