Insight Performance

Resetting reasonable employee performance goals in times of uncertainty

Written by Lauren Scholtz on 14 Oct 2020

Is it time to revisit and rest your employee performance goals?

The climate of disruption and uncertainty that we’re operating in means that sometimes goals we set last financial year, or even last month, can look shaky (cough cough covid).

Goals can be a source of motivation or stress creation. But how can you hit a target when the bullseye is flapping in the wind? In this post we focus on making them a source of motivation and be sure to grab a copy of our free goal setting worksheet.

What does ‘reasonable’ mean now?

What does ‘reasonable’ mean now

Goal setting can be stressful — just ask any nervous employee during a performance review or performance management conversation. Especially when goals are set from above, unrealistic and a threat to job security.

But we can’t expect to keep lofty growth goals in place if market conditions have changed.

So for employee goals to be reasonable, they need to be employee-led.

Your employees are much closer to the frontline truth of what is and isn’t workable. The sales rep on the ground, customer service agent on the phones or engineer in the field all know what is and isn’t possible. They live it.

So empowering employees to set their own performance goals ensures reasonable goals are set. It also creates a sense of ownership.

But these goals still need to align with organizational objectives and business goals.

Be SMART to ensure employee performance goals are measurable AND reasonable

Be SMART to ensure employee performance goals are measurable AND reasonable

The easiest way for HR to ensure employee performance goals are reasonable and effective is to use a goal framework. Like S.M.A.R.T., which stands for:

S – Specific

Goals must be clear and specific about what employees need to do.

M – Measurable

Goals must be measurable in some way, so that they can be tracked.

(rule of thumb: can you add this goal into your goal management software?)

A – Achievable

The goal HAS to be attainable. The best way to be sure is to ask the manager, employee and another team member if it’s realistic. Or to enable managers and employees to set their own goals. Here are some goal setting strategies you can share with managers.

R – Relevant

The goal must be worthwhile and related to business objectives. Currently, that also includes being relevant to the global economic environment. Be empathetic to customers and clients and the world. Can this goal help those you serve with their COVID-19 related struggles?

T – Time-based

Goals need time constraints and an end-date for them to be relevant. With such shifting conditions, we suggest using shorter time-frames (1 – 3 months) to allow for volatility.

SMART goals are a good start, but for goals to be visible (and effective) across your organizations, it’s best practice to use some form of goal management software. We all know goals left in filing cabinets (or misplaced docs) collect dust and get forgotten. Worse still, if leaders can’t see goals, then sometimes assume none exist.

New employee performance goals: Examples

With SMART goals in mind, let’s look at some ways to set new performance goals for your employees (that are relevant right now).

Collaboration employee performance goal example:

Collaboration goals help improve communication and a sense of wellbeing at work by bringing teams together. I can’t think of a more urgent time for either of these things.

Goal / objective:

By December 12th, help marketing plan and release the recruitment video and campaign for North America.

Measurements / key results:

  1. Write script with comms team input
  2. Coordinate talent on recording day and outfits
  3. Plan and track communication with marketing
  4. Launch

Professional development employee performance goal example:

For many HR teams, training budgets have been put on hold, frozen or reallocated. This makes professional development goals harder, but not impossible. There are tons of free resources available right now that employees can capitalise on. Encouraging their uptake is a great way HR can continue employee development without budget.

Goal / objective:

Spend 60 minutes each week during November 2020 to complete a free Public Speaking Course (to improve skills before presenting at HR event in March).

Measurement / key result:

  1. Complete course
  2. Present notes and learnings to manager
  3. Add to training records

Self-management employee performance goal example:

With productivity being so elusive, it’s important to help managers and employees set self-management goals. Especially if your teams are remote, or blended — staying productive working from home can be tough (but here are some great tips).

Goal / objective:

For the next 30 days, dedicate two hours in the middle of the day to draft and complete my 2021 diversity and inclusion strategy, using a pomodoro timer for focus.

RELATED: How to measure employee performance (using quality metrics)

Some out-of-the-box employee performance goal examples:

  1. Challenge: invent an entirely new process to solve a current challenge in your role by December 1st (problem solving)
  2. Help my manager feel appreciated with weekly gratitude messages until Christmas (collaboration)
  3. Learn the basics of new HR system from free resources in the next 30 days (educational goal)
  4. Create an empathy-based customer response process by Nov 30 that improves service satisfaction scores (process management)
  5. Make my own workplace wellbeing habit, and practice everyday for two months (wellbeing/wellness)
  6. Make two new connections in the next month from other departments (communication, culture)
  7. Run an eNPS (employee Net Promoter Score) survey, analyse the results and create a 3-step re-engagement plan by December 1st (HR)

Wrapping up

Goals need a reset. Especially employee performance goals that are tied to the state of the economy. Managers and leaders simply can’t expect to hold employees accountable for growth in a slowing market.

If your goals were disrupted by COVID-19 and could be putting undue pressure on your team members, then why not sit down, re-evaluate and reset some more reasonable goals, in order to make the first half of 2021 much brighter.

And if you’d like some help, or need a goal management system that helps do this for you, feel free to reach out. Our goal is to help you achieve your HR goals, employees’ performance goals and business goals. Learn more here.


intelliHR is a people management platform helping HR, leaders and managers enhance performance, culture, engagement and retention. With built-in HRIS and powerful real-time analytics, see how the platform works today.

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