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In today’s issue, I’m going to share how you can take a traditional annual HR activity – goal setting – and turn it into an employee experience advantage.

Goal setting – both for the company and for individuals, can be an important activity at most companies to align employee efforts and to eventually measure or gauge performance. While we can easily go down the performance excellence process (performance reviews, merit, talent management, etc.), rabbit hole, I’ll leave that for another day.

Instead, I want to show you how to easily take something we are likely doing on autopilot – with continued pushback, heavy sighs from employees, and dread from all directions, and turn it into something that generates excitement and connection for your team.

Most HR professionals get this wrong because it’s not a sexy topic and because it’s something that we do every year. It becomes a rinse-and-repeat activity, instead of a differentiator.

Setting annual goals can become the THING that engages and connects your employees – instead of something they skip or worse, laughs at.

This project will take you little time to improve, but will have a big impact on your employees. Note: It won’t be instant-love for them, but you’re laying the groundwork for resetting expectations and helping your employees understand why this “HR activity” is so important. Oh, and don’t worry if you’ve already started this – just adjust and update from here on out.

To shift goal setting into an EX activity, you will:

  • Reframe the activity/project as a whole
  • Ensure the company goals are SMART and applicable
  • Teach employees how to create goals that matter
  • Ongoing measurement

Reframe the goal-setting project as a whole 🪟

Instead of simply saying that it’s time to set goals, reframe the way you speak about goal setting – and it’s value for the employee. For some companies, it may be a bigger stretch – maybe because your company doesn’t set goals well (if at all), or the company goals are focused on product outcomes and deliverables.

Regardless, “goal setting” has a bad rep – and changing this is key.

So how?

Start by understanding the core of the activity itself. Using the KFAT process (click here to learn more), outline:

  1. What your employees need to Know about the goal-setting process. Why is it important for them to participate? How does it enhance their career? Or move them forward? Or help them succeed?
  2. How do we want our employees to Feel during this process? Do we want them excited to see all they get to work on this year? Perhaps, eager to have clear boundaries in place to uphold? Overwhelmed with everything on the list that they have to get done?
  3. What’s one Action we want them to take? Yes, to set their goals, but why do those goals matter to them? How can they use this activity to their advantage? Further their own career?
  4. What Touchpoints will they interact with, to set their goals – and are they reinforcing the experience we want our employees to have? Is it easy to complete?

Essentially, the project isn’t just about setting their annual goals to check a box (not that anyone would ever do that, ahem). The project becomes about how each employee can set their focus areas for the year; boundaries of what they work on (even in the eyes of fire drills); set priorities; knowing exactly how their work helps the company – and the company’s customers.

With this reframe, we’re setting our employees up for success as well as providing them with deliverables that matter.

Ensure the company goals are SMART and applicable 💡

You may not be able to influence how the company-wide goals are set, but you can help make them SMART for your clients. Provide guidance for this, especially if your company goals look something like: “increase revenue this year.”

SMART = Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-driven, and Timebound. Simply fill in the blanks so you’re eliminating questions and potential friction points.

Provide clearly written company-wide goals so employees know and understand the specific mission for the year. Here is what the company has committed to deliver – it’s also an indicator of what the company cares about and what it will invest in. All important signals for teams and employees, as to what they should be focused on as well – and how they align.

Teach employees how to create goals that matter 🍎

And then, here’s the key: teach your employees how to create goals that matter to the company and to them.

Listen – I like a cascaded goal like anyone else, but the problem with goal setting without consideration, is that employees end up with goals that they don’t personally care about. Or, goals that they care about that the company doesn’t care about.

This is a simple skill to master and teach your employees!

Take one piece of paper and fold it long-wise. On the left-hand-side, write down each company goal. And then on the right-hand-side, write out the team’s goals or personal goals. From there, you are going to take a pen and draw lines from the company goals side to the personal goals side – matching up personal goals in a way that will help the company reach their goals.

For example:

company goal example

If you aren’t able to draw a line or make a connection to the company’s goals, then it’s not something your team or employee should work on for the year (even if it’s a super cool project).

Ongoing measurement 📏

Finally, goals are notoriously a once-a-year thing – we set them and forget them… until it’s time to do performance reviews. Unfortunately, we’ve created bad habits around this, so employees have stopped paying attention to their goals throughout the year – or the converse has happened, and goals are the ONLY thing they care about.

Neither approach is ideal – we need some balance with structure and agility.

To do that, make sure employees are measuring their progress toward their goals in an ongoing basis. This is more than just a status update or a long boring Zoom where people share their tracking updates. This activity is about discussion and alignment.

Each leader – either individually or as a team – should be reinforcing how their work matches up with the company’s success and key performance indicators (KPIs) throughout the year. It’s about reinforcing to our employees, why the work they’re doing matters – and we can visually show that along with provide guidance, support, and redirection when needed – throughout the year.


  • Reframe the activity/project as a whole
  • Ensure the company goals are SMART and applicable
  • Teach employees how to create goals that matter
  • Ongoing measurement

Four steps, but something that will greatly change the way you deliver HR.