How to Write Your Yearly Performance Goals
The year is ending, and it’s probably the last thing you feel like thinking about, but in all likelihood your company is going to want you to set performance goals for the coming year sometime within the next few months (depending on when their year starts). Your goals help your company understand if your plans and theirs align. They also help you create a metric to show management your growth as an employee—allowing you to communicate with real data why you deserve that promotion, bonus, or raise.
Find out what your company’s performance goals are
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how great your performance is if your accomplishments don’t bring your company closer to their goals. If you don’t have it already, ask your manager to provide you with the company’s objectives and mission for the coming year. Your company should have a larger growth strategy (think three-year or five year, etc.), but they should also have annual objectives that will help them reach those goals. They should be—just like your yearly performance goals—specific, concrete, and measurable.
What goals will feed into the greater mission?
Now that you have your company’s objectives, sit down and look at what your roles and responsibilities are. Does your company plan to expand into three new markets, and you can spearhead B2B marketing communications for one of them? Are they launching a customer-facing app, and you can create a plan to survey user experience? Will they be promoting a website, and you can develop a social campaign to introduce it? How can you expand, develop, or execute in a way that will funnel up into that bigger picture?
Make your goals SMART and maybe even SMARTER
Yes, it’s a classic, but it’s a classic for a reason. Applying this lens will help you stay on track by creating goals that push you, but are based in reality:
This is the mission—so think about the who, what, and why. Who needs to be involved in this? Can you do it on your own? Or will you need to lean on different members of your team? What, exactly, will be accomplished? And finally, why is this a goal?
Here’s where we think about the steps that will be taken to reach the goal. It’s where you lay out milestones—a, b, and c will take me to x, y, and z.
You’ve created a goal and laid out the steps it would take to achieve it—now, you need to look at it critically to decide whether it’s possible or not. If you don’t have the skills (and can’t develop them rapidly) or resources (and can’t acquire them quickly), then you may need to rework the goal. If, however, you see your goal is challenging but achievable, move on to the next step.
Remember the part where we’re aligning with the larger company objectives? Take a look at the goal and make sure it does.
You must make sure your goal can be accomplished in the timeframe you’ve laid out. If you have a goal that will require you to receive additional training, gain buy-in from senior leadership and obtain new budget approval, and you know the training takes more than a year, and your company is notoriously slow-moving, you may need to stretch out your timeline—creating your own three-year plan.
Now that you’ve completed each step, revise your mission statement. You should have a goal that will push and interest you, but is possible to attain.
At this point you can add the ER to SMARTER (and this part will be ongoing throughout the year):
As the months pass, don’t become so focused that you get tunnel vision. Revisit your goals and make sure you’re on track. It doesn’t have to be every day, but check in from time-to-time to make sure you’re hitting those measurable milestones.
If you’ve reached a point where you feel stalled, take a step back. Is there something about your approach you can change? You don’t have to ditch your goal if it’s getting difficult, but you may need to modify and adjust to get where you want to be.
It can feel like an annoying exercise, but goals don’t just help your company—they give you a sense of purpose and motivation on those days that feel like a pointless, monotonous grind. We all have those moments, but if you’ve given yourself a map to follow, it is much easier to stay on track.