Setting Objectives

Setting Objectives is an engagement imperative, yet you will be surprised at how very unpopular this is in most workplaces today.

I’ve heard all sorts of reasons. Ranging from they are too busy to they don’t find it necessary and that their work is not measurable. Yet, they problematize non-performers and free loaders who won’t decide to leave on their own volition and worry about overall team performance.

Well, if hair and oral hygiene product companies found a way to measure objectives and create performance criteria, so could you. And having the time to do something is always relative, is it not?

Let’s talk about key components when you start setting objectives.

Setting Objectives Key Components

Aligned to Company or Team Goals

The foremost thing to do is to ensure you align your goals to that of the bigger team’s or with the Company’s. That way, when you and your team meet your objectives, you have contributed to achieving the mission. Many employees feel alienated from the Company because they cannot relate what they are doing with the Company vision. It’s like being busy but not feeling fulfilled.

You have to make sure your contributions make sense and contributes to the bottomline.

Example: The Company might have as one of its key prioriorities, “to delight our customers worldwide.” You might want to set an objective of, “Increase customer satisfaction score from x to y by date” or “Increase customer satisfaction score by x% per region.”

Has Measurable Key Results

SMART is the most popular of calling it. Specific, measurable, achievable (or aspirational, in case of a moonshot in OKRs), relevant and time-bound.

Not having measurable key results is like being in a relationship with someone from an entirely different love language. While you give and receive love via acts of service, s/he might be giving and receiving love via gifts. Even when you love each other greatly, neither will feel it because you come from different angles.

Now, back to corporate setting. One thing that I always see everywhere in set goals or objectives is ‘taking initiative’. So, an employee who always initiates on a project might think s/he is meeting and even going above and beyond the goal. However, these projects might not really be relevant to your bigger team’s agenda. And in the eyes of the team leader, this same employee is just doing what s/he wants and neglecting job-related projects.

So, define what taking initiative mean for you. You might even need to change the terminology used.

Example: Following our sample above, if what you want is for the employee to take initiative in program relevant tasks, you might want to frame it in this way, “Initiate 2 cost efficiency projects under the program (name) that will yield cost savings of Php/%(amount) with completion dates mm/dd/yyyy and mm/dd/yyyy (or with first milestone completed by mm/dd/yyyy).”

Has a Scoring Criteria

Scoring criteria, or in the academic setting, they call these the rubrics. Second graders know how they will be graded on any given performance task. They know what to prepare and which areas to focus on to get a perfect score. In the corporate setting, you find this in your performance management system.

I remember a time many years ago, when an employee reached out to me (in my role as an HR Business Partner) saying their manager was not being fair and gave them a rating of just meeting expectations even though they have greatly improved as they have agreed. The Manager reached out as well saying one of her team members was complaining about the final rating, and she was so confused because they always talk about how important it is to improve their communication in terms of the number of connects with his/her stakeholder.

Further in the conversations, I realized that while number of connects improved, they both had very different idea of what improvement means. I asked the Manager to further breakdown her standards and how it might look like if she put a criteria around it. Here’s what she came up with, see in the below table. Coming from performance of meeting only once monthly, the employee thought meeting weekly was improvement enough.


So, you see how very different their definitions of the basic term ‘improvement’ are. This is just an example, of course the employee had more expectations on top of and in preparation for meeting with the stakeholders.

Assign a Weight

When setting objective, make sure to assign weight to each of the objectives. It is also important to note to keep it to the important few. I have seen objectives that are 15 to 20 number of items long. But if looked more closely, majority of these are actually quite related and some are not relevant. Of course, the more you spread 100%, the smaller the percentage. This will dilute the importance of the goals and (sadly) encourage some employees to “game” the system, just focusing on those with higher percentage points while neglecting those with low percentage points. And it might even work for the employee and not for business.

The ideal number if just 4-5, with 6 as a push. This way, more weightages could be assigned to each one, taking care to assign more points to those that are more important. For example, for new hires, quality might score higher over timeliness because you first want them to focus on the quality of their output over quantity.

Availability of Tools and Systems

Every item you set forth as your team of individual objectives, there must be a way to measure them and to keep track of. Most companies have tools and systems available, while others track manually on excel. No matter how you track it, make sure everyone could have access to it.

“No surprises,” is a common phrase we say in HR. The managers and employees should both know how the employee is faring on any given month so much so that the employee will not be surprised with the final rating that s/he will receive at the conclusion of the performance year.

Timely Communicate and Acknowledge

Just as we started with alignment, we will end with alignment as well. Once done, whether you created this together with the employees or set by the leaders, be sure to communicate to everyone and secure their agreement, acknowledgement and signatures before the implementation phase. Remember that only when it was discussed to them in a 1-1 setting or group setting, do they fully understand hence fully contribute to team goals.

All the best and may you have a truly fruitful and fulfilling journey to success with your team/s!