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Goal Setting Time! Where Do I Start?
by Marnie Green

If you establish performance goals during the annual performance evaluation process and have often wondered where to start, here is a little guidance. I work with many supervisors and employees who see goal setting as the opportunity to list the classes the employee will attend for the coming year. And, while learning goals are appropriate, the goal setting process can be much more meaningful. Here are four kinds of goals that you might consider when setting annual performance goals.

1. Essence of the Job Goals – These are the goals that clearly describe tasks that are required on the job. For example, an accountant might have a goal to prepare and submit monthly financial statements. A librarian might have a goal to catalogue and reshelf returned books within 12 hours. A mail clerk might have a goal that requires her to deliver all mail daily to all work sites. Essence of the job goals make the expectations for the job clearer than they are listed on the job description. These goals personalize the job to the position and to the individual employee.

2. Project Goals – Project goals are those activities that the employee will pursue with a beginning and an end and may be above and beyond the employee’s routine duties. Project goals can be related to improving systems, developing new products, creating new programs, or anything else that you can think of.

3. Professional Development Goals – Professional development goals specify what the employee will learn for the coming year. While attending a class to learn something new is noble, I challenge you to find new ways to help employees develop their skills while clearly linking the goal to the organization’s needs. For example, "cross training in a new work area at least one day per week" is a professional development goal. A better goal would be to cross train in the accounting department at least once per week and be able to reconcile bank statements by October 31. Or, "attend a training class on PowerPoint and develop a new slide show to be used in new employee orientation" would be more challenging than just attending the class. Make sure the professional development goals not only develop the employee, but also help your organization.

4. Performance Improvement Goals – Performance improvement goals should be saved for those times when you want to emphasize clearly that an employee’s behavior must change. Performance improvement goals include things like, "arrive to work ready to serve customers at 8 a.m. every day" or "limit the number of customer complaints you receive to three per quarter." Obviously, not all employees would need these kinds of goals. However, they can be helpful in documenting your performance expectations in a clear and measurable way.

Now, go out there and set some goals! Make your expectations clear and everyone wins!

Marnie E. Green is Principal Consultant of the Arizona-based Management Education Group, Inc. She is the author of Painless Performance Evaluations: A Practical Approach to Managing Day to Day Employee Performance (Pearson/Prentice Hall). Green is a speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations develop leaders today for the workforce of tomorrow. Contact Green at Marnie Green may be contacted at


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