Goal Setting

Performance development involves regular alignment of individual performance and development goals and aspirations with organizational needs and priorities.

Best practices for goal setting

  • Created jointly by the employee and manager
  • Aligned with the job description, goals and mission
  • Include performance goals and at least one development goal (below)
  • Incorporate competencies for success
  • Clearly communicated, written, measurable and action-oriented
  • Written as SMART goals (below)
  • Start with new employees within their first 6 months
  • Shared across the organization to support collaboration and alignment
  • Frequently revisited and updated with ongoing coaching and feedback

Performance goals

  • Projects, initiatives, key metrics or behaviors related to specific work in the current role
  • Create clear, measurable performance standards
  • Include clearly defined expectations for success
  • Related to and in support of the group’s overall goals
  • Answer the question: "What is expected of the employee in their position?"

Development goals

  • Acquiring or enhancing specific knowledge, skills or behaviors to perform at a higher level in the current role and/or prepare for new responsibilities in the future
  • Aligned with the organization’s current and future needs
  • Focus on the employee’s strengths, talents, and interests
  • Answer the question: "In what areas or ways should the employee develop for the future?"

SMART goals


  • Fully describe in concrete language the desired outcome.
  • Describe what is to be accomplished.


  • Make sure your goal is quantifiable or measureable in some way.
  • Describe how you will know you’ve achieved your objective.


  • Create stretch, yet achievable goals.
  • To assess attainability, have a conversation about practicality as well as resources and support needed.


  • Relevant to your group’s objectives and the DLCI’s objectives and mission.


  • What is the time frame for achieving the goal?
  • Answer the question: “By when will I achieve the desired end-result?” (Note: Large goals may include milestone dates).
Sample SMART Goal

Here is a sample goal:

Keep our department's web page up to date.

Does this meet the SMART criteria? What does "up to date" mean? How can the employee and manager be sure that they are working to the same standard? How can each of them know that the employee has met this goal?

Here is a revised goal that meets the SMART criteria:

On the first Friday of every month, solicit updates and new material from our department's managers for the web page; publish this new material no later than the following Friday. Each time new material is published, review our department's web page for material that is out of date, and delete or archive that material.

The revised goal is:

Specific: At a specific time solicit updates from a specific group of people, and at a specific time revise the web page.

Measurable: The goal answers the questions: Were updates solicited on schedule? Was the web page updated on schedule?

Attainable: This requires some conversation. The manager and employee might anwer the following questions in order to set shared, achievable standards: Are the updates too frequent? What should the employee do if managers fail to respond? What other time-sensitive work is this employee responsible for?

Relevant: The goal should tie to the employee's key responsibilities and be relevant to the mission of the department.

Time-Bound: This sample goal does not end with a particular action or event but carries forward until the employee's next review, or until it is changed for other reasons. Some goals might be time-bound by setting a deadline for the project or task to be completed. For example, "By March 31, include photos of the new graduate students on our web page."

Online Learning

Tools and Resources