Effective Management: How to Write Objectives for Employees


You write these goals and objectives to give the team member a clear picture of the expectation as you assign it, and to keep your team moving toward the result.

There is another way to use objectives in management to make the job more manageable, to give clear expectations for each employee, and to be transparent about how each will be evaluated. In the literature you may read, these are often called MBOs or management by objective.

In this article, you will take the same pattern for writing goals and objectives for the jobs you assign, and simply write them for each individual to make the workplace expectations transparent to each person. You set up what is determined as the outcome of their work over a period of time, write objectives as steps toward that outcome, and then monitor these objectives at specifically designated times.

Unfortunately, this way of managing employees and evaluating is not currently being used much in business. It means the managers and workers have to stop and develop them together, and companies do not like to stop work for any reason. If the top management could see how effectively this time spent improves work, motivation, trust, and ethical management, surely they would put it at the top of what is important. Old habits in companies are difficult to break.

Focus Points:

1. A brief overview of writing objectives, in general.

Setting goals means you plan ahead. It means you know what you are working toward. Writing objectives under each goal clarifies how you will get to that result or outcome. Goals are broader than objectives. Because the objectives are steps that are given in specific terms, there is no question about what to do, how to do it, or when it is due. The objective is written in terms that can be measured, with a statement of how it will be measured. Nothing is left to chance. The only thing that happens is that after these are written between the workers and the manager, the workers take off to complete a task and require little management interference. The manager is left to monitor the employees, the assignments and to prepare for future jobs to delegate.

Using this technique in management does require the manager and his or her boss to get rid of the micromanagement ways, power plays, and to change the workplace into an interactive one.

2. What are SMART goals?

Often you will hear goals called "SMART" goals. It is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.

Specific means the steps toward reaching each goal are spelled out, so anyone reading it will understand, and know exactly what the expectation is. The person who was assigned to do the work is never in the dark. Everything is out and on the table. There are no secrets, hidden agendas, or ulterior motives in the assignments. This alone is enough to create a team that will be more motivated to work hard and do their best.

Measurable tells you that each objective has to include a way to measure if it has been achieved or not. It may be measured with a specific check list, or a peer rating scale, or a percentage of improvement. This is probably the most difficult part of writing an objective. It helps if you have a baseline or some number that represents how the employee did on the last assignment. If you use a check list, it is prepared together with the employee making a list of objectives with a rating scale that will ascertain the level of the performance at the completion of each.

In other words, the employee will check off that he met with the client and obtained his vision for the project. He demonstrates the completion of this objective by checking off and dating when he met with the client and showing his notes outlined with the client's signature that he indeed understands what the assignment is about.

Sometimes the objective is more subjective. If the employee is required to draw up three plans for the client, you put into the objective that three of his peers will rate each plan on a 1-5 scale, where 1 is poorly done, and 5 is excellent. You might use several rating scales for measures of different things. For example, one might be for choice of materials, one for design, and one that rates how he met the client's expectations in the drawings. This measurement will then be shown to the manager. If this is a first job, then that might simply be used as the baseline for future projects. For the next job of this kind, you can say the employee's peer rating scale will increase by 25 percent. Employees are then motivated by progress made, not by some perfect standard.

The A stands for achievable. Objectives that require perfection, ask the employee to do something he has not been trained to do, or to do it in a time period that is unattainable, then the objective is flawed. If the employee needs training, that needs to happen before he is given the assignment. If the employee is brand new, he should be attached to a mentor as he works to have the advantage of a long term employee who knows the ropes. As a manager it is your job to see that as you and the team member write the goals, they are attainable and the employee knows how to make it happen in every way.

An objective that is realistic is one that is stated in a way that explains how it will be done. It states when the team can be more creative and when they must be exact in what has been established with a client. The result is not realistic if the materials, time, space and money are not made available for implementation. It is not realistic if the work should be done by a team and it is assigned to one person.

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Delegation Skills course?

Timely means the set time for monitoring by the manager should be manageable. That is not to say you cannot challenge your workers somewhat, but in a reasonable way. Time is a big priority in most businesses. The objectives are written with the employee or team who get the assignment. Together you must negotiate the time line and how that can be met. It is possible that at that time you determine that the job will take more than one person. There are several issues to consider, one being the experience of your team, another being the coordination of the work or the complexity of the pieces to get finished, and another might be the abilities of the team member and if you are going to have to coach or train them to reach the outcome effectively.

3. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using objectives to evaluate and motivate employees?

The advantages are endless. But to start at the beginning, you first require a baseline of your employee's skills. Develop a numbered rating scale that rates everything you will need to evaluate to see if your employee is working toward improvement in all areas, to designate training needs, and for the purpose of giving raises, bonuses, promotions -- or to detail the ways the employee continues to be lacking. In that last case, the goals and objective measures assure fair and continuous data on which to base your decisions. It gives you the information that will be needed for motivating, or for firing, without being accused of any underhanded activity.

Once you have a base rating scale, use it as you meet with your employee to determine what needs to show improvement, what is going well, and what is demanded by you, as the manager, to support the worker. This is an interactive method for evaluation but has more effect on improvement than any other way.

Now you pick two to four things to work at and set goals. Remember that these can be broader, but need to contain a way to measure. For example; "Van will demonstrate an increase in his skills of using the new software by scoring at least an 85 percent on the software assessment quiz in six months from the date of this form." You have stated the specific skill, how it will be measured, to what degree, and by when. Then, under each goal, list the things the employee must do to reach the goal, being specific. Under this goal you could write;

a. Van will enroll in the company class offered each week within the next two weeks.

b. Van will attend the classes on a regular basis making up any missed classes within a week of missing.

c. Van will past the assessment quiz with at least an 85 percent by the end of the class.

d. Van will demonstrate improved use of the software by creating a new client account with 90 percent accuracy within one month after the end of the class.

In writing the goals together, you are demonstrating respect, fairness, trust, and openness with your employees. You will get their input, and be able to set realistic goals that both meet the needs of the company and the employee.

The advantages are based in these things. There is no hidden agenda and your workers do not have to guess about what you are looking for them to do. There is opportunity for them to weigh in at the beginning so as not to complain at the final evaluation. The manager is not pulled into making subjective appraisals that bring in attitude, biases, or egos. It is all stated objectively and the employee will know where he stands at all times.

The disadvantages are created by those in power who feel you are making managers seem less powerful. Though in reality, this gives you more power to make positive changes in your people than any other method. Some of your people who like to gripe will not like this method because it removes that from the equation.

4. How can a manager implement the use of SMART goals for evaluation and motivation purposes when his boss is not on board?

Examine the reasons. Probably the boss is "old school." He may not do well with change. Try by first working with him to evaluate you in this manner. If you can get him to go through the process personally and see how effective it can be, you might win him over. Ask for a temporary time period -- say a year -- to try it out. Keep him in the loop as you go along, so he can see the progress your employees are making and the trust and faith it builds in the entire company.

There are few in top management that do not like it that employees are fans of the company.


Goal – Bill will demonstrate improvement in the organization of his work by organizing 80 percent of his space more effectively than his initial self-rating, and within three months.

Objective a. Bill will examine the organization of three peers, noting at least three things from each peer that he is willing to implement, and sending this info to the manager, or discussing it with him within one week.

Objective b. Bill will make a list of priorities for his reorganization, materials he needs, and set a timeline for each thing on his list within two weeks.

Objective c. Bill will begin the first thing on the list within three weeks, and work down that list over the next three months, with updates to the manager each week, as to his progress.

Objective d. Bill will bring in at least one peer a week for feedback, then he will summarize that feedback immediately, have the peer to initial and then copy to the manager.

Objective e. Bill will self-rate his efforts and meet with manager within three months.

During this time the manager will monitor the work at each time juncture.

The same rating scale will be used by Bill at the beginning and at the end.

The scale can be developed for him, or by the manager and Bill, or found on line.

Set up your physical or computerized notebook:

In this article, you have learned to write specific goals and objectives for employee evaluation. In your notebook, come up with a goal for yourself and write objectives that are SMART. Get a peer to be your manager for this.


1. Can remember what the acronym SMART stands for?

2. Do you understand the difference between writing goals for assignments and writing goals for evaluation of employees?

3. Do you feel evaluation of an employee using goals and objectives makes sense?

4. How would your company feel if you implemented such a method for evaluation?