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Goal setting and performance planning

Goal Setting and Performance Planning for the Year Ahead

Embracing the new year goes beyond flipping the calendar; it's an ideal moment for companies to set the stage for success. During this time companies stand at a pivotal point. This provides businesses with an opportunity to assess their current status and outline new objectives for 2024, and participate in strategic workforce planning to facilitate the success of those goals.

As the new year unfolds, businesses have a unique opportunity to review what they want to achieve in the coming months. This is a chance to understand where they are now, set new goals, and efficiently plan their workforce to reach the goals smoothly. This strategic planning is important to make sure the company not only sets big targets but also has a clear plan to reach them.

In business, setting goals and planning for performance isn't just a routine task; they serve as guiding principles. This isn't just about having goals, it's about everyone in the team collaboratively working towards the goals set for the year. Join us as we explore the important parts of setting goals and planning for the team in the new year, showing how planning opens the door for success.

The Art of Setting Realistic and Measurable Goals

Setting business goals is more than just expressing aspirations - it's about creating a roadmap for success. Setting goals that are both realistic and measurable form the foundation for an effective workforce planning process. The process of goal setting involves analyzing your current capabilities, market conditions, and overarching objectives.

Realistic goals acknowledge the practical constraints and opportunities at hand. This ensures that the set objectives align with the company's resources and potential. At the same time, the emphasis on measurability introduces a crucial element of accountability. Measurability allows for clear progress tracking and identifying areas for adjustment.

This strategic alignment of setting goals with practicality cultivates a culture of goal-driven excellence. Additionally, it empowers teams to navigate the path to success with precision and purpose.


Setting realistic and measurable goals serve as the foundation for effective performance planning. This involves using a commonly recognized criteria, SMART goals. These goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. This framework ensures that goals are not vague but are well-defined and achievable within a reasonable time frame, providing a clear path for execution.

  • Specific Goals:

Clearly state the goals and what needs to be accomplished. Being detailed leaves no room for confusion. Specific goals tell everyone who is involved, what needs to be achieved, where, when and why, giving a clear roadmap.

  • Measurable Goals

Use numbers or benchmarks to track progress. Measurable goals involve identifying clear metrics, making it easy to see how close you are from reaching your goal.

  • Achievable Goals

Set goals that are realistic and attainable. Consider the resources and capabilities available. Achievable goals acknowledge current circumstances and encourage motivation by being within reach

  • Relevant Goals

Align goals with the company's overall objectives. Relevant goals contribute to the company's mission, fostering a sense of purpose and synergy among teams.

  • Time-bound Goals

Establish a specific timeframe for achieving the goals to instill a sense of urgency and focus. Time-bound goals create accountability, prevent procrastination, and help prioritize tasks within a predefined period for a consistent progress evaluation.

This framework ensures that goals are well-defined and attainable within a reasonable timeframe, providing a clear path for execution. For instance, rather than setting a vague goal like 'increase sales,' a SMART goal would be 'increase sales by 15% in the next quarter through expanded online marketing and customer outreach initiatives.' (That said, for what it’s worth, not everyone agrees with the SMART approach to goal-setting).

Try Using FAST Goals

If you find yourself not entirely aligned with the traditional SMART goals, FAST goals offer a different approach. Setting FAST goals - Frequent, Ambitious, Specific, and Transparent - provides an alternative framework for achieving success.

  • Frequent: encourage regular and consistent goal assessment and adjustment.

  • Ambitious: strive for goals that challenge and drive significant progress

  • Specific: clearly define the objectives and outcomes to avoid confusion

  • Transparent: Emphasize openness and clarity in communication and goal-sharing

That last point, transparency, is surprisingly important and often overlooked. According to research published in the MIT Sloan Management Review, “less than one-quarter of middle managers knew their company’s strategic priorities.” How can they be expected to support company goals and performance objectives if they don’t know what they are in the first place?

Goal Alignment & Transparency

Effective goal setting requires aligning goals and objectives while promoting transparency. Alignment ensures everyone moves in the same direction, aligning personal goals and company objectives. Transparency provides insight into the company's strategic direction, fostering openness and shared understanding.

This collaborative effort ensures each department understands their goals and contribution within the broader organizational vision. Transparency allows every team member to see the impact of their work within the company.

Goal-setting becomes crafting a cohesive narrative, where each team contributes to the story of organizational success. This culture encourages individuals to understand their role, recognize interconnected efforts, and actively contribute to the success of company goals.

Use Metrics to Track Progress

To enhance progress tracking, ensure the measurement and tracking of metrics related to goals. Metrics provide concrete evidence of progress, enabling companies to assess the effectiveness of their strategies. This data-driven approach allows for informed decision making, allowing for adjustments and interventions based on actual performance. As Peter Drucker, a renowned management consultant, famously stated, “What gets measured gets managed.”

In setting metrics to track, try to favor leading indicators rather than lagging indicators. For example, if the goal is to increase sales by 15%, the actual increase in sales is a lagging indicator because it follows the actions your organization will take. Instead, identify which actions will precede and produce an increase in sales—like making more sales calls, adding headcount to the sales team, or increasing ad spend—and focus on tracking those.

Best Practices in Workforce and Performance Planning

Don’t neglect workforce and performance planning. This might seem like a separate effort from goal setting, but the two efforts fit together hand-in-glove. That’s because, once your organization has set its objectives for the new year, the HR team needs to ensure the workforce is ready and geared to pursue and achieve those objectives.

This should be a collaborative and continuous process throughout the year, rather than a one-time event just at the start. It involves regular check-ins and reviews, allowing for adjustments and course corrections as needed. Encouraging open dialogue about goals, progress, and challenges helps in maintaining momentum and addressing any issues promptly.

Moreover, provide the necessary resources and support for team members to achieve their goals. This might include training, mentoring, or even reallocating resources to areas of higher priority. Acknowledging and celebrating achievements along the way also plays a vital role in keeping teams motivated and focused.

To summarize:

Goal setting and performance planning for the upcoming year is a strategic action that goes beyond just aspirations. It's about creating a roadmap for success, aligning realistic and measurable goals with the long term goals of the company. Whether following the SMART criteria or the FAST approach, the focus on transparency, alignment, and proactive metrics tracking remains crucial.

As companies deal with workforce and performance planning, it becomes evident that these efforts go hand-in-hand with goal setting. The collaborative and continuous nature of this process, coupled with open dialogue, resource allocation, and celebration of achievements, shapes a culture of achievement and motivation.

In the end, the significance of setting clear, attainable goals with aligning them with company objectives cannot be overstated. This is both a procedural and strategic necessity. With the right approach, teams and individuals can not only meet but exceed their goals, driving organizational performance.

CoAdvantage, one of the nation’s largest Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs), helps small to mid-sized companies with HR administration, benefits, payroll, and compliance. To learn more about our ability to create a strategic HR function in your business that drives business growth potential, contact us today.