An essential part of a successful performance review is developing meaningful performance goals for employees to achieve in the following year.  This positive approach to performance development cannot be applied universally, however.  

Rather, one must tailor performance review goals to take into consideration the size of an organization, the variety of departments/specialties, the personality of the staff, and the organization’s culture. 

Let’s review some helpful tips for developing performance goals that will be meaningful for your organization and, more importantly, your employees.

Know your System

The most effective approach to the performance appraisal process is one that facilitates communication and professional growth.  One size does not fit all.  

Rather, each organization’s performance review system must consider the size of the organization, varying work specialties and departments, and the organization’s culture and staff. 

For example, due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations have found value in investing in digital performance review systems and talent management systems

Regardless of your performance review system design, the facilitator/supervisor of an employee’s performance review must be able to comprehend how the appraisal system works and explain it clearly to each employee. Through that process, the employee comprehends how they are being measured. Clear communication helps open the door for open assessment and a more productive review. 

Be Prepared

Employees expect honest feedback on their work efforts. 

BEFORE the performance review, review the employee’s record of employment, which should include both achievements and moments of misjudgments.  Managers should reflect on their own interactions with the employees.  Select the areas to highlight for the employee based on his / her strengths and noticed weaknesses, and integrate them into potential performance goals for the coming year.

Recognize that Goal Developing is an Interactive Process

Although the employee expects to receive both positive and negative feedback, they should never feel like the performance review is one-sided. 

Be prepared to hear where the employee thinks they’ve succeeded and perhaps fallen short. If an employee may be hesitant to share their viewpoints ask them open-ended questions to get their opinions.

When establishing future goals, allow the employee to voice where they would like to improve and how they see that improvement coming to fruition.  Managers must be willing to find areas where they can help employees become better.

Align Goals Align with Both the Organization and the Employee

Developing meaningful performance goals requires keeping in mind not only the employee’s work pace and personal goals but also areas where the organization would like to grow within the next year.  Are there areas within the organization that management would like to see further explored or developed?  These organizational opportunities should be presented to the employee to determine interest in participating and associated developmental goals.

In addition, perhaps the employee sees other areas within the organization where they could provide value and insights during the upcoming year, for both organizational and personal growth and success.  If so, these areas are another opportunity for mutually beneficial performance goals.

Make Sure to Schedule a Follow-Up

Depending on the type of goals that are set, and the organization’s frequency for performance reviews, follow-ups need to be scheduled throughout the relevant time period.  This way, employees stay on track, unanticipated resources can be allocated, and goals can be adjusted in light of previously unknown information.  

Then, during the following quarter, the manager and the employee might see that goals need to be adjusted.  Be flexible for success!


Developing performance goals can be an enjoyable experience for both the employee and the supervisor/reviewer.  To make the most of the process, ensure that open communication permeates all discussions, and be prepared to offer insightful highlights, constructive criticism, and actionable suggestions.  Through this process, both individual managers and the organization at large will surely watch the employees & the organization grow and enjoy mutually beneficial success.


Jennifer C. Loftus is a Founding Partner of and National Director for Astron Solutions, a compensation consulting firm.  Jennifer has 23 years of experience garnered at organizations including the Hay Group, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Eagle Electric Manufacturing Company, and Harcourt General.  

Jennifer has held volunteer leadership roles with SHRM, New York City SHRM, and WorldatWork. She serves as a subject matter expert to the SHRM Learning System and as a SHRM instructor.  Jennifer is a sought-after speaker for local & national conferences and media outlets.