Why You Need Measurable Employee Performance Goals

May 16 2023
5 min read
Why You Need Measurable Employee Performance Goals

Being able to measure employee performance goals is necessary, but often complicated. Some performance factors are easy to observe and grade, while others are definitely subjective and demand a thoughtful approach. However, now that soft skills are dominating the workplace, it’s time to understand the right way to measure performance.

Why Is Measurement Important?

Business is all about numbers. Productivity, revenue, expenses – it all needs to be recorded and measured to know how the company is doing, and if it’s underperforming, what should change.

Employee performance goals are no different. Both HR and managers look at employee performance for two essential reasons:

  • On a company-wide level, there are many moving parts. Production quality, supply, and finance are a few of the factors that are essential for operations. The ability of employees to do their jobs in an efficient way is yet another factor. If worker performance in general is not meeting expectations, then the organization needs to look at cause and effect.
  • On an individual level, it’s critical to keep employees up to speed with the latest skills. When a worker lags behind their peers, it’s bad for morale, engagement, and retention, while it obviously affects productivity. Gauging the performance of single employees allows HR to identify candidates for remedial training and mentorship.

Essential Aspects of Measurement

Many best practices exist for performance metrics. They include:

  • Regularity – reviews and assessments should be held frequently so that problems are realized as early as possible
  • Comprehensiveness – “performance” includes many factors, and the major ones should be included in any report
  • Consistency – from period to period, the same methods need to be used, including when different people are conducting the assessment
  • Benchmarking – there should be a standard for comparison on a department or organizational level and for each employee over time

But not all of these practices are easy to apply when it comes to even basic tasks and skills.

Objective vs. Subjective Measurement

For very simple and objective jobs, like number of widgets produced per hour, metrics are easy to use. But let’s take a look at other performance factors and how they can be confusing to grade:

  • Teamwork – is a good team member somebody who is a follower, or a leader? If the team performs well, does it mean that everyone gets a good evaluation, or only the dominant players?
  • Communication – with so many kinds of workplace communications, which counts the most for an evaluation? What happens if one manager likes an employee’s communication style, but another doesn’t?
  • Leadership/Initiative – what counts as leadership? Being pushy? Or helpful? Can somebody be a good leader even if their overall effort fails?
  • Creativity and Problem Solving – if an employee generates all kinds of ideas, but they are not practical, does that count? If a worker has essentially perfected their approach to a certain task, and there are no problems to solve, what kind of grade do they get?

Performance Assessment Made Practical

One way to even out the differences related to measurement is to stick to the idea that “results count”. Because a manager often isn’t around to observe how an employee performs, then all that matters is how things turn out. In business terms, results are sometimes called key performance indicators (KPIs).  

In turn, the simplest way to grade KPIs is with a numerical measurement. For every part of an employee performance evaluation, HR and managers should set goals and grade every worker on a 1-5 scale that describes the range between success and failure for that goal.

But what about subjectivity? How do you measure opinions, especially when there are other stakeholders involved? There are two ways to accomplish this:

  • Involve the stakeholders, such as coworkers and clients, in the KPI assessment. For instance, in a teamwork situation, each member can be asked to grade the others on their performance.
  • Look at contributing factors – overall performance, notable contributions, and motivation. For instance, if an employee wasn’t elemental in creating a solution, but kept everyone organized and cooperative, then that’s important. Again, a numerical scale should be used.

And finally, perhaps the most important indicator of all is “would you recommend this person to other managers or departments?” By asking employee supervisors and HR staff about a choice that would put their own reputation on the line, you might get some revealing answers.        

Performance vs. Development

One area of confusion is how performance relates to development. A simple way of explaining the difference is that performance is like a snapshot of how an employee is doing today, whereas development compares a start and end point.

For this reason, performance measurements are useful for comparing employees to each other and to company standards, and as a means for determining who could use an L&D course in order to develop.

With GrowthSpace, It All Starts with Measurement

GrowthSpace was created with a single goal in mind. Its founders realized that most L&D programs failed because there was no way to gauge their success. Without measurement, it’s impossible to say if employees have the skills they need, if an instructor is worth hiring again, or if L&D resources are wisely spent.

That’s why every GrowthSpace project begins and ends with measurable goals. As part of an intuitive process, L&D teams decide on what they want to achieve, and, once the course is over, can use a simple method to understand if goals have been met. This is only one feature of a market-leading L&D platform that’s winning over major organizations around the globe.

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