Performance measurements are only as good as your goals.

Goals Priorities Outcomes Initiatives

Do your organizational goals sound something like this: Foster talent by building a culture that maximizes opportunities for growth. Sounds nice, right? But how would you measure that? How would you know when you’ve achieved it? The truth is, it would be next to impossible. Whether you’re creating goals at an organizational level or at an operational level, here are some tips for improving them so that you can demonstrate their achievement.

Describe the outcome.
The trick is to describe the result you hope to achieve rather than the activity. Measuring an activity can result in meaningless metrics. (It is also wise to stay away from words and phrases that cannot be measured such as maximize or more efficient.) Here’s a possibility: Growth and innovation will increase through training, mentoring, and creating time buffers around scheduled projects.

Studies have shown that goal specificity and level of difficulty have a direct impact on employee performance: Goals that are specific and challenging (but not unreasonable) lead to better performance by motivating employees.

Create line of sight.

Just as important, a clear line of sight should exist between corporate objectives and the goals set at the operational level—employees should be able to grasp their roles’ importance in the larger picture. In order to achieve this, it is helpful to include different levels of the organization in developing the goals to ensure consensus, cooperation, and realistic goal-setting.

Define the measure.

Once your goals have been determined, you will be able to think about how you will measure the outcome.

  • What are we trying to achieve?
  • What behavior are we hoping to encourage? (Key Performance Indictors)
  • What will success look like?

Performance measures should be as explicit as your goals, and answer the following:

  • What change is being measured?
  • How will the change be quantified (generally a number or percentage of something)
  • What is the starting point or baseline measure?
  • What is the target performance? By when?

It is an old saying but true: you cannot manage what you do not measure. Measuring tracks the specific activities and conditions necessary to support your goals and provides the means by which you communicate to the organization what is important. Measuring also presents the opportunity to identify problem areas and affords employees the ability to monitor their performance and see themselves comparatively. It is therefore vital that you measure the correct things—not the easy things because they exist or because you’ve measured them before—the right things. If your goals have been delineated with specificity and the outcomes you wish to achieve are clear, chances are you will know what they are.