Setting Objectives

This series of articles are aimed at helping you to provide the appropriate level of direction and support so that every employee, subject to their own efforts, can develop and perform to their own maximum potential. This article focuses on setting objectives.

For any employee to perform to the best of their ability they need to have clear and specific objectives that they understand and agree to. Having clearly defined objectives will give the employee a sense of direction and be likely to create commitment and enhance motivation.

Setting Objectives

There are three over-lapping areas for setting objectives:

Job Objectives
Targets defining specific tasks to be completed or projects that the employee agrees to achieve. Job objectives would be relevant no matter who was performing the job in question.

Career Objectives
The setting of projects that will assist the employee’s future career development.

Skills-related Objectives
Areas in which the employee agrees to take specific action to develop his or her skills, for example the goal of becoming proficient to a defined standard in the operation of a new computer system. Such objectives will be specific to each individual.

In order that the employees performance can be evaluated the objectives should be quantifiable.

Setting and measuring objectives which are results-orientated also makes business decisions which are based on the results more secure.

How to Set Objectives

Most importantly the objectives should be discussed and agreed with the employee, so they are fully committed to achieving the objectives.

In addition they should be SMART:

SPECIFIC about what has to be done and the expected end result
MEASURABLE in terms of quality, quantity and time, wherever possible
ACHIEVABLE realistic but challenging
REALISTIC in terms of resources available and factors within the appraisee’s control
TIMED with an agreed and realistic time-scale or turnaround time

The number of objectives that are set will depend upon existing opportunities, the ability of the individual and the complexity and nature of the individual’s role. Too many objectives become unrealistic and unachievable.

When to Set Objectives

New Employees
For new employees, objectives should be set as early in the probationary period as possible. A further set of objectives should then be set at the end of the probationary period and thereafter at the annual performance review meeting.

Internal Transfers and Promotions
Individuals who move to a new position in the Company will have a new set of objectives set as early on in the new post as possible and thereafter at the annual performance review meeting.

Recording the Objectives

The objectives should be recorded in writing. I like to ask the employee to write them up, this way you can be sure they have understood what you’ve agreed verbally.

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Setting Objectives


Kathryn is a highly experienced HR Manager with a wealth of skills and knowledge acquired across a variety of industries including manufacturing, health and social care and financial services. She has worked in small localised business and larger multi sited organisations and is comfortable liaising with senior managers and union officials as well as answering queries from team members. Connect with Kathryn on:

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