The Definitive Guide to Setting Goals at Work

Despite the benefits of setting goals at work, the stats surrounding such initiatives are grim: studies show a whopping 93% of employees are unable to tie their actions to organizational goals.

This inability to connect daily work to the greater business vision affects more than just employees. Wide-spread confusion about how to set, track, and measure goals can stop managers and leadership teams in their tracks.

And rightfully so there’s a lot that goes into the art of goal setting that can be difficult to grasp, including its impact on employee engagement and a business’s financial performance.

To make goal-setting easier to comprehend, we created this guide to ensure everyone at a company from executives to employees can understand why, how, and when to set goals.

Read on to learn…

goal setting worksheet

What is a Goal? (The Four Components)

According to Merriam-Webster, a goal is defined as “the end toward which effort is directed.” But anyone who has ever tried to set and achieve a goal knows there’s more to it than that.

One of the first mistakes workers make when setting goals is failing to move past the high-level vision. Truly actionable goals have four distinct components that offer clarity on the more granular aspects of the “what” and “how” of an employee’s mission. Here’s the breakdown:

1. Goals and objectives are the end-point, the desired result of your work.

2. Strategy is the “how,” the high-level approach needed to achieve a goal.

3. Tactics are the actionable steps needed to pull off your strategy.

4. Results are the specific indicators that you’ve achieved the goal.

As a reminder, goals should be tailored not just to the demands of a job, but the aspirations of an individual person.

Goal Frameworks (SMART Goals and OKRs)

There are several frameworks to choose from to help you effectively write goals, but SMART goals and OKRs are the most popular picks for leading enterprises, like Google and LinkedIn.

What is a SMART Goal?

SMART is an acronym. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. Incorporating each part of the SMART acronym into your goals increases the likelihood you’ll reach them.

  • Specific goals are direct, detailed, and meaningful.
  • Measurable goals are quantifiable and can be tracked to monitor progress or success.
  • Attainable goals are realistic and require employees to have the tools or resources to attain it.
  • Relevant goals align with your company mission and will push a business forward.
  • Time-based goals are time-bound and have a definite completion date.
Recommended Reading: How to Set SMART Goals →

What are OKRs?

Invented by Andy Grove of Intel, OKRs stands for Objectives and Key Results. As the name suggests, OKRs are made-up of two parts:

  • Objectives are the desired goals or end-results you want to achieve.
  • Key results are time-specific measures on how you will achieve your objectives. On average, each objective has three to five key results.

OKRs focus on top priorities and are intended to be frequently set, tracked, and updated almost quarterly. They’re also designed to be ambitious stretch goals, where hitting ~70% of your OKRs is considered a success.

OKRs are designed to be ambitious stretch goals, where hitting ~70% is considered a success.

See how defines OKRs on a company, team, and individual level:

  • Personal OKRs identify what the person is working on
  • Team OKRs set priorities for the team
  • Company OKRs are the big picture, top-level focus for a business

So what’s the difference? At a high level, SMART goals are a method for writing effective goals, while OKRs align these goals to organizational and departmental goals.

Recommended Reading: How to Set and Measure OKRs →

The Six Types of Goals

All goals are not created equal. When setting objectives for yourself or your team, it’s worth considering the following 6 goal types and how they can help drive both employee and business success:

Performance goals vs. development goals

Simply put, we set performance goals for the job we have; they should reflect the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in our current role.

Development goals help us advance to the role we want and should be part of your overall career path planning activities.

Public goals vs. private goals

Public goals can create camaraderie between employees and build company culture as employees congratulate each other and celebrate achievements.

Private goals serve a very different purpose. Employees may choose to make goals private between themselves and their managers to work on specific skills or address performance review issues without peers following along.

Individual vs. shared goals

Individual goals provide an objective way to evaluate performance as well as create clear paths to professional growth and promotion.

Shared goals can help teams work better together and tie in individual performance. They also help employees understand how their own work affects their peers.

Learn how to track individual, team, and company goals with Kazoo →


Tips for Setting Goals The Right Way

Use Goals to Drive Employee Engagement

Goals can make or break an employee’s dedication to their work. The simplest way to think about the relationship between setting goals at work and employee engagement is to remember this formula:

aligning personal goals with company goals to increase employee engagement

The more aligned an employee’s personal goals are to their company goals, the more engaged they will be.

Align Company, Team, and Individual Goals

A lack of understanding of company goals can fuel an employee’s decision to leave a company, and a survey by Woohoo Inc. found that 37% of employees feel uncertain about their workplace’s vision or strategy.

To retain top talent and keep company, team, and individual goals aligned, we recommend:

  • Regular check-ins with managers to make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to prioritizing goals
  • Promoting continuous feedback to learn how to move on if a goal fails or doesn’t go to plan
  • Using goal management software to write and track the progress of goals for transparency and accountability

Set Goals Frequently

Sometimes, our carefully planned goals lose meaning as business priorities change. We recommend evaluating goals quarterly to keep them up-to-date.

At this cadence, you’ll either take your goals to the next level, refresh, or retire them. Throughout these iterations, we encourage managers to collaborate with employees to modify and refine goals as needed.

Goal Accountability

A sure-fire way for managers and their teams to miss goals is to set them and forget them. To truly keep all parties accountable for hitting milestones, businesses need to invest in the time, culture, and technology to do so. Performance management tools can help employees and managers keep tabs on their current and historical goals while iterating on what matters most to the business.

To truly keep all parties accountable for hitting milestones, businesses need to invest in the time, culture, and technology to do so.

Moreso, a research study found that 32% of employees want to see the progress they’ve made toward goals set by their manager. It makes sense there’s no point in goal setting if you don’t track your goals. Companies need to recognize and celebrate goal achievements in real-time and see missed goals as growth opportunities, not as failures.

Are you ready to take your goal setting to the next level?

Ultimately, effective goal setting is a skill that combines tactical business insights with emotional intelligence and project management.

To make things easier, the Kazoo Employee Experience Platform can help you set individual and team goals that tie to bigger company initiatives while keeping all parties accountable and informed on the progress in real-time.

Learn more about Kazoo by scheduling a demo today →