What Are Performance Goals? — Definition & Examples

What Are Performance Goals — Definition & Examples

When you’re in the workplace, it’s quite common for your employer to set you some performance goals. The rationale behind these goals is to try to help you reach achievable targets and guide you towards a much more productive or beneficial work output. 

But sometimes, words and phrases get banded around and lost in their importance, like targets, KPI’s and others – so it’s important that we differentiate from these and understand exactly what performance goals are and what they’re for.

This guide will do that by showing you examples and how an employer might come up with your specific performance goals. 

What Are Performance Goals — Definition & Examples

Why Might Your Employer Set You Performance Goals?

Most workplaces are always looking to continually improve their performances with their company structure, methods, practices and their employees personal performance. 

Setting performance goals can allow an employer the opportunity to view and monitor the employees personal performance and try to work out a plan for improvement, which in turn, can strengthen and build the employee’s performance and help the company as a whole. 

Additionally, these performance goals may:

  • Help link the work from the employee to the overall needs of the company 
  • Create new guidelines, helpful hints and tasks for employees 
  • Help to bolster the employee’s loyalty to the company
  • Allow the employer to establish and create new incentives and bonus structures for performances

Generally, an employer will create your performance goals in the following ways: 

  1. Setting goals to align with the objectives of the company 
  2. Asking you (the employee) to come up with their own job-related goals 
  3. Create SMART goals 
  4. Maintain consistency and attainability 
  5. Create incentives for future performances 

We’re going to explore these in more detail. 

Setting Goals That Align With Objectives Of The Company 

A company is only as good as its employees in reality, so setting out the goals for the employee which aligns with the company is critical for advancement. 

Employees need to understand how their role relates to the company as a whole, so explaining in detail how the entire company works and why the employee is valued and essential to the firm is very important when it comes to setting performance goals. 

If an employee recognizes this, they are more likely to increase their output and productivity for the overall objective. In essence, when an employee does well, so does the company and vice versa. 

So, an employer might continually double down on the company’s vision and mission which should boost the employee’s ethic to their job. Therefore strategic objectives within a team and each performance goal will structure benefits from their role to other roles. 

Asking The Employee For Job-Related Goals 

There are always advantages for an employer to ask the employee for their own specific goals. They will be able to assess if the employee has their own vision for their place within the company and how they might be able to boost their productivity. 

One advantage to this is, often, some employers do not realize some difficulties that employees might be having due to the absence of things like tools, software or machinery.

By asking their employees if they have certain job specific goals, an employer might understand that their job is being hindered by the lack of, for example, a type of software that can increase productivity by 50%.

Additionally, this allows employees to feel as if they have more control over their own performance and not having someone “looking over their shoulder”. They are therefore more likely to feel part of the overall cycle of the company and much more valued. 

An employee might come up with their own goal which seems very achievable and if they recognize this, they can work on it. For example, increasing their sales calls by 10 a day etc. 

Setting SMART Goals 

Perhaps the most well known tools for setting performance goals is a model known as SMART. This acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Based. 

This is a simple method which can really help employers and employees understand their performance goals and allow them to track their progress. If by the time frame, the goal has not been achieved, an employee and employer can assess why this was the case and look to work from there. 


This is where the performance goals are really created. This is the specificity of what the employee and employer will be looking to set. 

For example, one goal might be “I want to increase my chocolate sales”. This is a specific goal rather than “I’d like to sell more”. 

To come up with the specifics, you’ll need to assess the following areas:

  1. What do you want to accomplish?
  2. Who is involved in this performance goal?
  3. What steps will you take to achieve this goal?
  4. Why do you want to work towards achieving this goal?
  5. What needs to happen for this goal to be achieved?


This is the outline part of the SMART framework that will allow both employers and employees to conjure up the numbers of how they will get to their specific goals. 

If we’re using the previous example of the chocolate sales, the employee might say they wish to increase their chocolate sales by 2 units each week. 

When you’re coming up with this area of the performance framework, you could ask the following questions:

  1. How much of this improvement will you be looking to get?
  2. Have you previously used any KPIs before? Did you meet them?
  3. How will you know if you have achieved this part of the goal?


When you’re setting targets, both the employer and employee need to understand how achievable the goal that will be set actually is. If a goal is wildly unachievable, the employee will not see the point or will know they cannot achieve the goal.

When this happens, productivity is likely to go down. Therefore, it’s best to agree a performance goal together and understand if it is achievable or not. You will need to understand your own limitations when doing this area of the target. 

Questions need to be asked like:

  1. Is this a realistic goal or not?
  2. Have you got everything to your disposal to make this achievable?
  3. How and why does this goal align with the rest of the work?
  4. Has this goal been achieved by others in the company? How did they do this?
  5. Do you have help at hand to guide you and assist you during this process?


Relevance to the job is as important as the achievable nature of it. If an employee does not see relevance, they will likely not care to improve their performance in this manner. Therefore you should ask yourself:

  1. Is there a reason for this goal?
  2. Does this goal help the company and align with the overall mission?


As the name suggests, this is the area where the time frame will be agreed. Ask yourself how long will this goal take to achieve and what you’ll need for this to happen. 

You may also need to question:

  1. When is the deadline?
  2. Is this deadline crucial and why?
  3. Are there any initiatives or incentives for achieving this goal?

Example Of Performance Goals Using SMART 

Using our chocolate sales example from earlier, here is an example of setting performance goals using the SMART method.

  • Increase sales of chocolate by 2 units each week 
  • Attend sales training every week to better understand how to do this
  • Liaise with management to track performance and sales figures halfway through the month and at the end of the month 

Improving Your Performance 

During your period of your performance goals, you will need to continually monitor your own progress. The best way to do this is to have a diary and regular meetings with management. 

Understanding your goals and then working towards your goals with small, manageable chunks is important to the success of these performance goals. 

What If I Haven’t Achieved My Performance Goals?

There are a number of reasons why you might not have achieved your goals, depending on your type of work. These might include:

  • Poor month with no sales traffic 
  • Low motivation
  • Accidents and the unforeseen (tornado for example)
  • The goals were not achievable 
  • You did not track your performance correctly 

If you don’t achieve your goals, it can often seem like a failure – but sometimes, it’s beneficial. Through failing, we can work towards success. 

After a meeting with your management, you will likely be asked why you think you did not meet these targets. New targets might be made for the next month which align with what you’ve stated. 

However, if you did not try to achieve your goals, you may find it’s time up with your company! 

The Bottom Line

Performance goals are critical to succeeding in your line of work. Having the right goals agreed and a solid plan to work towards them can be the stepping stone for promotion. Good luck!

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