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Performance Management Performance Management Cycle

Performance Management Competencies: Setting Goals

This article explains goal setting competencies and provides tips on how to achieve the best results.

Supervisors need to communicate organizational goals and how they link to individual and work group per-formance in order to energize their employees to accom-plish desired results. While developing performance plans, supervisors and employees can talk about how employee accomplishments support organizational goals. By aligning employee performance with organizational goals, supervisors direct their employees' efforts toward maximizing accomplishments and supporting the agency's strategic plans.

Once the supervisor and employees make these connec-tions, they can agree upon more specific, individual goals and can analyze individual responsibilities. Without the employee's agreement to perform at a certain level, it is very difficult to meet or exceed established goals.

Steps for Setting Goals

In their book, Goal Setting: A Motivational Technique That Works, Edwin A. Locke and Gary P. Latham propose seven steps for effectively setting individual goals:

  • Specify tasks and results. Clearly describe tasks to be accomplished that produce fully successful results.
  • Set targets or standards. Setting goals that are difficult but possible to achieve produces higher lev-els of performance than no goals or vague goals.
  • Determine the measures. Using clear measures (quality, quantity, cost, timeliness, and frequency of completion) at all levels is necessary for successful performance management.
  • Outline time frames. To maximize the benefits of goal setting, specify expected time frames for achieving goals.
  • Prioritize goals. It is helpful to rank or prioritize goals so employees are aware of their relative importance.
  • Rate goal performance. Employees need to know about the process of appraising elements and assigning a summary performance rating.
  • Coordinate efforts for goal achievement. If goal attainment requires a group effort, make certain to plan and measure each individual's contribution.

Goals have a directive effect on an individual's thoughts and actions. A goal focuses a person's attention on goal-related factors. It also regulates a person's energy expenditure. Setting hard goals increases an individual's persistence and thus transfers effort into commitment and motivation. This ultimately leads to increased performance, especially if the goals are set at a high level and are accepted by employees.

Additional Advice

According to Lynn Summers and Elizabeth Hampson in their article published by Performaworks, Setting and Attaining Goals: How to ACT BEST, supervisors need to be skillful at setting goals successfully. In addition to the steps listed above, these authors say that supervisors should be able to:

  • break apart organizational goals into manageable pieces, and delegate them;
  • use multiple criteria to evaluate successful goal achievement using client satisfaction, quality, and value added, as well as cost and quantity;
  • visibly track and update goals to maintain or increase employees' energy and drive; and
  • gain top management's support to overcome barri-ers, clarify goals, and free up resources.

Goal setting can have far-reaching consequences for the organization and its employees. Summers and Hampson cite recent research that reports that productivity has increased an average of 39 percent in organizations that practice systematic goal setting. Of those organizations, productivity actually increased by 57 percent when goal setting was supported by top management. In contrast, productivity increased only 6 percent in organizations with little top management support.

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