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What is goal setting?

All businesses share a primary goal: Success. Goal setting, aligning and tracking those goals through actions and results are critical to greater business execution… and, as a result, greater success.

Most organizations see a dramatic increase in employee and business performance when they effectively set individual employee goals and closely tie them to the company's overall strategy.

Setting goals

The process of setting goals should be a collaborative process between an employee and his or her manager. Whether writing long- or short-term goals, the most widely-used framework is S-M-A-R-T.

  • Specific: Well-defined to inform employees exactly what is expected, when, and how much. With specific goals, managers can easily measure progress toward goal completion.
  • Measurable: Provide milestones to track progress and motivate employees toward achievement.
  • Attainable: Success needs to be achievable with effort by an average employee, not too high or too low.
  • Relevant: You should focus on the greatest impact to the overall company strategy.
  • Time-bound: Establish enough time to achieve the goal, but not too much time to undermine performance. Goals without deadlines tend to be overtaken by the day-to-day crises.

Aligning goals

Goal alignment is critical for business success. It ensures that each person within your organization can see the direction for the business and know how their job fits in with the “Big Picture”. To achieve goal alignment in your organization, you must first clearly communicate your strategic business objectives across the entire company. By allowing managers to access and view the goals of other departments, your organization can greatly reduce redundancy while finding better ways to support each other. With everyone working together toward the same objectives, your company can execute strategy faster, with more flexibility and adaptability. Essentially, goal alignment strengthens your leadership and creates organizational agility by allowing managers to:

  • Focus employees’ efforts on your company's most important goals;
  • Understand more clearly all responsibilities associated with specific goals; and
  • Strengthen accountability by assigning measurable, articulated goals visible company-wide.

Tracking goals

Once you’ve established your company-wide and individual goals, the next step is tracking progress on those goals. It’s important for employees to track their progress on goals because they need to have the information available during the all-important review process. Additionally, managers need to be aware of progress on goals to step in with assistance or resources when it appears that goal targets will possibly be missed. Having this information handy is also helpful when management is not aware of all of the steps involved in reaching a goal and strong documentation assists you in discussions of past projects and successes when review time rolls around. Tracking your goals in a centralized location helps you stay on track in several ways:

  • Organize, manage and reassess your goals frequently
  • Create action plans with milestones for larger goals
  • Track your time to make sure your daily efforts are focused on meaningful tasks

Tools for setting, aligning and tracking company-wide goals

What do you do when it’s time to set goals—quarterly or annually? What is the best way to track these goals?

Goal software is the solution to make life easier for both employees and managers alike. This software is a valuable tool to communicate goals company-wide and hold people accountable for achieving those goals in support of the company’s strategic plan. Employees can use the software when setting goals. They can use it to include smaller tasks and milestones that are basically landmarks on the way to the completion of longer-term goals with metrics to establish how success will be measured on the goal.

Goals can be cascaded from the top down and made visible to all; everyone within the company is now fully armed with the information necessary when setting goals. They can create individual goals that support company goals and link to others if the success of their goal is dependent upon the actions of a co-worker or manager in another department or location.

Finally, dashboards provide a snapshot of your progress on your goal setting based upon the target dates you and your manager have provided. The secret to effective goal setting and high performance: review your goals at least once a week or month to clarify your focus and use this information as a basis for goal performance discussions with your manager. You can use the opportunity to review the progress and adjust timelines or request additional resources if necessary or expand the goal once more information is gathered from other sources.

Case study: Avnet

The issue:

Avnet, Inc. a Fortune 500 company, wanted to create an environment that engaged employees in the success of the company. The company looked for a software solution that would assist them with setting goals, conduct timely performance reviews, create a pay-for-performance culture and provide ongoing employee development.

The solution:

Avnet implemented SuccessFactors goal management and performance management applications to help drive consistency across the enterprise and increase employee engagement across the company.

The result:

Avnet increased engagement from 70 to 75%, resulting in higher performing branches and overall stronger financial performance. They found a direct link between top engagement scores and top performing branches of the company.

SAP SuccessFactors absolutely helps us drive our engagement strategy. It’s through the cascaded goals that employees can easily see how their goals fold into the overall strategic objectives of the company.
— Philip Gallagher, SVP & Global President Technology Solutions


Employees who clearly understand their individual goals—and how they relate to the larger goals of the company—naturally become more engaged with their work. Successful companies realize that their achievements are linked to their ability to manage, track and communicate goals — informing their workforce and linking reward systems with individual and team performance to keep them engaged in their work.

About SAP SuccessFactors

SAP SuccessFactors Human Experience Management (HXM) Suite helps you completely reinvent the entire employee experience. You can shift from traditional HR transactions to engaging, end-to-end experiences, using intelligent technology to make each interaction simpler and more meaningful. And by linking employee feedback to operational data, you’ll understand what’s happening and why, so you can continuously deliver unexpectedly exceptional experiences that keep your business growing.

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