From the Blog

Understanding employee development goals and objectives (with examples)

Setting employee development goals and objectives is a crucial leadership task. It is the key that unlocks employee coaching success and drives organisational performance. The right professional development goals and objectives can inspire employees, lift capability and improve outputs. Alternatively, failing to set goals or a lack of clarity around goal creation can lead to team members feeling unmotivated or unsure about what’s expected of them.

So how do you set effective employee development goals aligned with organisational needs? Is it possible to keep employees motivated and engaged in goal setting? Employee development goals are important to get right. Read on for our guide about how to set professional development goals.

What are employee development goals? 

First up, what do we mean by development goals and objectives? Put simply, employee development goals are the professional development objectives that team members are working towards. They are the goals that outline the desired outcomes or results that employees are aiming to achieve (beyond business-as-usual KPIs). These goals and objectives can vary but generally should help employees improve their performance and enhance professional skills. They may also encourage career growth and support career development.

Goals should:

  • inspire action
  • lift capability
  • be achievable
  • be measurable
  • align with organisational strategic objectives.

Employees and managers collaborate on setting professional development goals and they’re developed as part of an organisation’s employee development strategy.

What’s employee development?

Employee development is the process of supporting staff to achieve professional goals. It involves assessing where there are capability gaps and needs to support job satisfaction and professional growth and then providing training, learning and development programs to achieve stated goals. This development can be through formal courses, informal opportunities like networking events, and on-the-job training, like employee coaching.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that employee coaching is one of the most powerful ways to shift behaviours (and performance) at work. This is because most of what we learn at work, we learn by doing, on the job. On-the-job coaching combined with effective goal setting is a particularly good way to maximise professional development plans. It helps to keep employees motivated and on track. Goals are usually captured in an employee development plan, which is used to set and track progress.

What’s an employee development plan?

These plans are used to outline agreed professional goals. They’ll often capture individual professional goals and career growth aspirations along with specific objectives related to improving capability – in addition to organisational priorities. Examples of goals can vary depending on the role. They might be around developing leadership skills, career advancement or ways to achieve success in a role or be focused on developing or practising specific job-related skills. Professional developmental goals related to micro-behaviours can really lift capability.

Plans should detail the resources that will be provided to help employees reach agreed goals (including supports like on-site-training programs, online courses to improve technical skills or update industry knowledge, and on-the-job coaching to practise certain behaviours related to performance measures and so on). 

What is a good professional development goal?

Setting professional development goals is a collaborative process. Goals should be developed with, or even by, team members. Goals are much more likely to be achieved if team members are involved in the process.

What’s ‘good’ for one employee might not be great for another. Professional development goals can vary and should be tailored to each individual. A ‘good’ goal for one team member might be to prioritise developing new skills, but for another team member ‘good’ might be about supporting a particular career path or career aspiration. When setting goals think about whether you need to focus on driving individual performance, lifting specific role-related capabilities, providing opportunities to gain new skills and experiences, or engaging employees.

Even though professional development goals may vary, one thing that ‘good’ goals have in common is that they’re SMART! Effective development goals empower employees and are easily measured and monitored. Using the SMART formula supports that. SMART goals are those that are specific, measurable, achievable, results-oriented (or relevant) and time-bound. Consider these components of well-formulated professional development goals:

  1. Specific: What are you wanting to see change? For example, is it a specific behaviour that will be demonstrated on a customer call?
  2. Measurable: The goal should be easy to measure. For example, will it be self-reported by the employee in a coaching meeting or will you be observing the team member? Make sure you and your team member can determine how the team member is progressing.
  3. Achievable: Does your employee understand the goal? Is it using clear language? Make sure everyone is clear about what needs to be achieved and ensure the team member feels comfortable about achieving it.
  4. Results-oriented: What metrics or business objectives should the behaviour drive and how will you track the performance? Every goal should clearly link to a result that needs to be achieved.
  5. Time-bound: Ensure there is a clear ‘due by’ date when the goal needs to be completed. Ideally, it should be no more than a week away.

Let’s explore an example of a professional development objective at work

A financial services company wants to retain market share. Across the organisation, different teams are given KPIs including customer support.

  • Company vision: ‘Empower customers with choice’.
  • Company KPI: Retain 19% market share.
  • Frontline customer support KPI: Lift to 65% customer retention.

Charli has worked in the frontline team for six months and is keen to prove that they’re one of the top customer specialists. The organisation uses employee coaching (and YakTrak) to lift capability, and the team leader (Charli’s coach) has observed that Charli needs to improve the conversations they’re having with customers – specifically, Charli needs to introduce talking points about products at a sufficient rate. Charli and their team leader agree that Charli is leaving it too late in conversations, so they set a goal to introduce the products earlier in conversations. They agree that Charli will make a note after each customer conversation and aim for a minimum of 10 attempts. Charli will do this for a week and then have a discussion with their team leader once completed.

  • Charli’s objective: Engage more customers in conversations about certain products to improve customer retention.
  • Charli’s SMART goal: Ask 10 customers each day over 1 week if they’ve heard of product ‘ABC’ within the first 45 seconds of a call.

Charli and their team leader will use YakTrak to record the development goal and note how they’re tracking towards it in their regular coaching conversations and catch-ups.

Examples of development goals

The example we listed above was related to improving performance to meet specific performance measures and departments. Let’s look at some other development goal examples.

  • Developing leadership skills: ‘In the next six months lead a cross-departmental collaboration project to achieve stated project milestones and positive stakeholder feedback’.
  • Learning a new technical skill: ‘In the next year complete a professional certificate in project management and apply the knowledge gained to at least one project within our team’.
  • Developing professional relationships: ‘Over the next three months expand my professional network by attending a professional conference, making a minimum of three new contacts and following up with them within two weeks’.

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Keeping your team engaged

It can be easy to get lost in day-to-day operational requirements. So how can you make sure that your team meets its KPIs and that you support your team’s professional growth and career aspirations?

  • Make goals meaningful – help your team understand where they fit in the bigger picture.
  • Keep it real – it doesn’t matter if the objective is about achieving personal career goals, developing soft skills or is related to job performance, but make sure that goals can be realistically achieved.
  • Be a supporter – ensure that team members are supported with opportunities to develop professionally.
  • Communicate KPIs and organisational objectives to your team – make sure your team knows why and how the KPIs will be achieved.
  • Track performance – track how your team is performing and support them where there are capability gaps.
  • Celebrate wins – make sure they are clear on what behaviours drove the results you are seeing. If they know which behaviour drives the right results, they will keep doing it.
  • Log the goals – make sure both you and your team member have real-time visibility over goals by using a system like YakTrak.

Engaging and motivating employees to set goals and take ownership of their professional development plan improves job satisfaction (and increases their career opportunities), so encourage active participation and input. Create a culture of openness and transparency, and if something’s not working for your people, assess feedback, get a deeper understanding of any issues and readjust your development program.

How YakTrak can help

YakTrak supports on-the-job coaching and professional development. YakTrak:

  • helps to set up an operational rhythm that keeps people development in focus
  • keeps the focus on where it matters
  • enables team leaders to improve their coaching skills by setting up a cadence and framework for coaching conversations
  • empowers team members to take ownership of their development
  • helps to embed culture change and coaching across a workforce
  • keeps everyone accountable
  • provides visibility to see where you can celebrate successes and find areas for improvement
  • improves documentation management and provides a central location for documenting employee behaviour and coaching activity.

Chat with us to find out how you can use YakTrak to improve visibility over your employee coaching program.


Image by Hello I’m Nik from Unsplash

Ready to power up your employee development?

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