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5 Tips for Creating Successful Employee Performance Objectives

Quick look: Performance objectives can help employees feel more fulfilled, focused, and engaged and contribute to an organization’s overall success. However, developing impactful objectives isn’t as easy as it sounds. From following a standard format to understanding various types of goals, here’s how SMB leaders can create performance objectives that will make a difference.

A successful organization relies on accomplishments occurring within every layer of the company. But how can business leaders ensure that their staff focuses on the work required to help drive the organization forward?  

One way to do so is by making sure performance objectives are in place for all employees. A performance objective is a specific goal a worker is expected to accomplish that aims to contribute to the success of the department and/or organization.

Performance objectives allow staff to plan and organize their work to achieve the expected results. Goals also tend to increase an employee’s engagement and productivity, showing them how their work ties into the business’s success. Without performance objectives in place, team members can feel disengaged from their jobs, which can cause numerous issues for managers, like “quiet quitting,” increased turnover, and more.

Other benefits of performance objectives include:

  • Allowing workers to understand what’s expected of them
  • Enabling managers to observe, document, and coach more readily
  • Providing employees with a way to self-measure
  • Helping staff develop job knowledge and skills to thrive in their careers
  • Providing tangible means of clarification if disagreements about work assignments arise
  • Allowing for an accurate comparison of “what was done” to “what was expected”
  • Helping workers focus on achieving their deliverables in a way that supports greater business outcomes

Performance objectives vs. work activities

Before business leaders develop performance objective strategies for their organizations, they must consider the difference between performance objectives and work activities.

Work activities are the actions an employee takes when performing their job and are the duties you would find in their job description. For example, a work activity would be, “regularly create website metrics reports.”

On the other hand, performance objectives specify the outcome of a work activity. For instance, a performance objective for the above work activity could be, “By the end of the calendar year, deliver one website metrics report per quarter to the senior leadership team.”

Performance objectives define the level of performance you expect an employee to achieve in their role. Having clear and well-crafted performance objectives in place will help your staff achieve success in their positions.

5 ways to develop better performance objectives

As simple as the performance objective process may sound, just having these goals for your employees isn’t enough—you need to have objectives that are carefully crafted for each individual.

While creating performance goals that enable success can be challenging, here are a few tips to help managers create actionable and relevant work objectives for their teams.

1. Share overall business goals companywide

Ideally, each employee should understand how their work contributes to the company’s success and aligns with its vision, mission, and values. Workers should be aware of organization-wide goals, and each performance objective should link to at least one of them.

For example, when considering the performance objective example above, the quarterly website metrics reports can help senior leadership determine if the company is hitting its overall customer acquisition or brand awareness goals.

2. Set employees up for success

Performance objectives must be obtainable. Managers and business leaders should evaluate potential stakeholders, resources, capabilities, and possible roadblocks to help ensure a successful outcome for each goal.

For example, do certain staff members need to be reskilled or upskilled to achieve their future goals? Should a new technology platform be implemented? Management must make sure all targets are feasible, or that other steps must occur first.

3. Review the different types of performance objectives

There are three major categories of performance objectives: routine, project, and developmental.

  • Routine objectives are based on tasks or assignments the employee is expected to regularly complete. These objectives are consistent from one appraisal period to the next and are part of the employee’s day-to-day work process.
  • Project objectives are based on certain projects or specific stages of a project that are be completed during the appraisal period.
  • Developmental objectives aim to enhance the worker’s performance and prepare them for future positions and growth within the organization.

4. Follow a standard format

Standardization is key when developing, tracking, and analyzing the success of performance objectives. A proper format captures all the critical elements of a well-crafted goal: “To do what, for whom, by what standard, by when, and under what conditions.”

For example, an ineffectively formatted objective could be, “resolve more help desk tickets by next year.” And a proper objective could be, “By December 31, I will increase the number of help desk tickets I close within 24 hours by 25%.”

5. Use the SMART technique

A good way to determine if a performance objective is written in an actionable and achievable way is to evaluate it and see if it is a “SMART” goal. SMART is an acronym that stands for the following:

  • Specific: The objective describes an observable action, behavior, or achievement and explains the results rather than the actions taken to achieve it.
  • Measurable: The objective includes features to determine the outcome’s success.
  • Achievable: The objective must be realistic, meaning the employee has the resources and skills to complete it. The best objectives require staff to stretch to reach them, but they aren’t extreme.
  • Relevant: The objective aligns with, supports, or advances the organization’s vision, mission, values, principles, and strategies. This element ensures workers maintain the right focus.
  • Time-bound: The objective indicates a timeframe for action, including when the objective will be completed.

Using the SMART strategy when developing performance objectives helps give employees a sense of direction, challenges them, and keeps them organized.

Supporting your performance objectives strategy

Ultimately, the key to achieving your company’s performance goals is ensuring a strong linkage to them throughout your organization—from employee, to department, to division, to the overarching business plan.

Setting up your employees for success by having well-thought-out performance objectives will help make business goals achievable while also boosting employee engagement and improving the employee experience.

These things likely sound appealing to nearly every company, yet small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) especially may find themselves stretched too thin to dedicate enough time and resources to developing a detailed performance objectives strategy.

A professional employer organization (PEO), like ExtensisHR, can help. For instance, ExtensisHR has dedicated HR Managers who help guide SMBs as they develop their performance objective plans and policies.

And in addition to its Performance Cloud platform, powered by 15Five, which synchronizes goals and performance, enables peer reviews and social feedback, and helps improve employee retention, ExtensisHR offers an enhanced performance management solution. This optional add-on provides access to a holistic, evidence-based people and performance platform that allows workers to become their best selves wherever they are located by featuring:

  • One-on-one meeting coordination between managers and direct reports
  • Objective creation and tracking
  • 360 reviews
  • Real-time feedback
  • Regular check-ins
  • Employee appreciation functionalities
  • Engagement surveys
  • And more

If you want to implement a streamlined performance objective strategy throughout your organization, the HR professionals at ExtensisHR are here to help. Contact us today to get started.

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