How to Increase Employee Efficiency in 2017 with Goal Setting

January 20, 2017

Employee Goal Setting

Now that January’s more than half way through, how are you feeling about the resolutions you made on the first? Can’t quite remember what you aimed to achieve? Didn’t quite get around to setting any goals? That’s okay — it’s not too late for you to optimize 2017 to improve employee productivity. To get started or simply keep you on track, we recommend an employee goal setting exercise to keep your business initiatives top of mind and understand what your colleagues are focusing on. By doing so, you’ll have greater insight into cross functional projects, and be better equipped to stay on task throughout the year. Studies show that individuals who weigh themselves daily have greater success than those who avoid the dreaded scale. We can apply the same theory to our personal and professional goals — by checking in often, you can celebrate little wins along the way and redirect yourself if you find you’re veering off track.

Why Employee Goal Setting is Empowering

When organizations make employee goal setting a company wide initiative, it demonstrates that management prioritizes each contributor’s success. Moreover, it gives employees the benefit of clearly knowing what to focus on in the coming month, quarter and year, and allows project prioritization to flow more smoothly. For example, if a business-wide goal is to improve customer satisfaction, which actionable items does this translate to for your department? Once you’ve honed in on what this means, be sure to clearly define the metrics you’ll use to track progress. If you’re in Marketing, this might translate to driving more engagement on social media. Determine if this means more retweets, Facebook likes or reviews left on a public site. Be sure to take note of your starting metrics so you can keep a close eye on growth. Whatever the business goal may be, defining what success means and how it will be measured will help you stay on course. Set the bar high, and create to-do’s that will directly correlate to your team driving that effort.

Kicking things off

Goal setting should be fun! After all, you’re getting together to collaborate on how you can improve your work. We recommend kicking off this process during a team meeting where managers highlight the importance of setting your sights high. Reiterate company goals, and then break out to meet with individual contributors so you can align on where their contributions will be most impactful. Take this opportunity to look back on processes that have been effective in the past, and be sure to iterate the same strategy to be even better as you move forward. Adjusting goals as needed is always an option, but you’ll be better able to stay on task with frequent check ins to ensure you’re staying on course.

By including all employees in a goal-setting process, you increase their sense of ownership and demonstrate to them that their input, work and effort is valued. As a result, the goals are no longer only management’s goals, they are everyone’s goals. To get started on mapping out your plan for the year, the SMART Principle is often used to help teams get organized:

The SMART Principle

Goal setting using the SMART principle enables employees to measure their progress, see how their efforts have an impact, and gauge how far they have yet to go to reach the goal. Get started with defining your goals by using the following criteria to structure your initiatives:


  • Determine clearly what needs to happen
  • Make it a positive statement – “improve customer engagement by 10%”
  • Detail the size and scope (length, participants involved etc.)
    • Create incremental goals / milestones that showcase progress along the way


  • Define objective units
  • Be able to track progress and partial success


It’s fun to accomplish something! Don’t create a goal that seems highly unachievable (this can be demoralizing)

  • Exercise personal control
  • Be action oriented – it should take specific effort, clearly defined that in the goal


  • The goal should be pertinent to the overall mission of the organization or improvement in the quality of life/work for the individual


  • Connects to measurement – set a date by which you will measure and track your progress
    • Prioritize goals by clearly setting what needs to be completed first

At the end of the day, what matters most is that you and your team make a connected effort to support and see each other’s work through. By making that a priority, we ensure 2017 will be your most productive year yet.

Interested in a deeper look at how employee goal setting can help you build a stronger team? Tune in to hear from our HR experts Danny Speros and Kristin Robinson in a recording of their webinar on goal setting here.


Caitlin is a content marketing manager who loves telling small business success stories. When she’s not tweeting at industry influencers, you can find her crafting pickles and exploring San Francisco.

Category: HR Tips & Trends, Culture

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