How to set individual performance objectives

This guide provides tips for line managers on how to create strong performance objectives for direct reports.

Download PDF

What’s the problem?

Creating poor employee performance objectives and setting them up poorly will lead to misdirected efforts, weak accountability and slows the forward momentum of your business.

When people work to good objectives, they’re more likely to achieve excellent results. There’s an opportunity here for HR professionals to support the writing and acceptance of good objectives. This is the starting point for achieving a high performance culture.

How do you solve it?

1. Help people to take accountability

Individuals are far more likely to do something when they make the decision to do so, rather than if their manager wants or tells them to. There are several routes to achieving this, which can be used together:

  • Get employees to draft their objectives and then agree them with their manager
  • Have an agreed measure of performance and allow flexibility for the employee to change plans in order to meet this
  • Identify the resources available to employees to meet objectives
  • Be clear on what different levels of performance mean as far as appraisals go
  • Outline and agree a personal development plan
  • Agree what high performance looks like
  • Get employees to commit to delivering the objective.

2. Define a good performance objective

Your employees may need support to understand that, for an objective to be effective, it needs to be successful across several dimensions:

  • It should be something that, if achieved, will advance business aims
  • It should be clearly written not requiring any further explanation
  • It must be measurable either objectively or subjectively
  • One person should be personally responsible for delivering a particular objective.

3. Review the quality of objectives

Ensuring that people are using good objectives requires review and support. We advise the following steps:

  • Conduct a business review of a sample of objectives to assess the quality (against your definition of a good objective)
  • Encourage peer review and calibration of objectives by managers before they’re signed off.