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Free Employee Goal Setting Template

Published 31 Jan 2022

According to the New York Times, over 50% of new year’s resolutions fade throughout the year, and a third of all resolutions are discarded by the end of January.

If your team member has big ambitions for this year, don’t encourage them to rely on sheer motivation alone to achieve them (spoiler alert: this never works). Instead, work with your employee to create a solid plan for success by using this goal-setting template.

What is this employee goals template for?

To achieve our goals, we need to work smarter, not harder. This goal-setting template is designed using scientifically-backed goal-setting strategies. At the beginning of the year, sit down with your employee and work through this sheet to help them pave the way forward.

Get this downloadable template for free now.

two girls talking
Setting goals should be a collaborative process.

How do you set goals with your employees?

Setting goals should be a collaborative process between manager and employee. You both need to have equal buy-in and full transparency over what the goals are, and why. If you have a great understanding of what your employee is trying to accomplish from the beginning, it will make it much easier to assist them as they work towards success.

It’s not just the goals themselves that you can work together on. You can also work together to create a plan or identify a framework or routine that will help them keep moving forward.

Any process should be kick-started by sitting down together and filling out this goal-setting template. This template provides ample opportunity for reflection, professional development identification, business goals alignment and even motivating factors to make getting started extra exciting.

young nicolas cage
Your team member will be ready and raring to go.

Why is having a goal-setting process important?

Ever heard the term; if you fail to plan, you plan to fail?

Having a process where you and your team members can properly and solidly put goals in place means they will be much more likely to stay on track in their pursuit of success.

What are the key elements of a goal-setting process?

In our goal setting template, you’ll see there are a few key elements that can help you and your team members define goals.


Before you jump into your new year’s goals, it’s important to take a minute to recognise what you achieved last year.

What was achieved that needs to be celebrated? Why is your team member proud of their success, and what was the impact on the greater business? You need to enjoy the afterglow of the wins before you get started down a new road.

Then there’s the less fun reflection of identifying what didn’t work. Which goals were set last year that could not be achieved? What were the main roadblocks that stood in the way of your team member achieving them and how can these roadblocks be removed or reduced as we look towards new performance goals?


Now’s the time for blue-sky thinking.

Where does your staff member see themselves in one, five and ten years from now? Are they looking to take on a management or leadership role, or would they like to pursue a new skill or speciality? Aligning any future goals with their ambitions can help them think about their long-term career with your company, which is fantastic for employee retention.

These conversations can also lead to greater learning and development opportunities. If you’d like to go deeper into these career discussions, download our Professional Development Plan template.


Now it’s time to note down each goal in detail.

We’ll get more into SMART goals later in this article, but this part of the process is your opportunity to be specific.

If you and your employee note down vague suggestions like, ‘make positive progress in my overall call numbers’ or ‘improve my management skills’, they’re not going to get very far. But if you swapped these for statements like, “increase my weekly call numbers by 20%” or “complete management training and pick up three management responsibilities”, you’re going to have a much better idea of what you’re actually aiming for.

We like to take a 360 degree approach to defining goals at this point in the process by identifying;

  • The motivation behind the goal
  • Why the goal is realistic
  • Who the employee will share the goal with to stay accountable
  • Their first three steps that they can get started on right away to achieving this goal
  • Routines that they can establish to make reaching their goal easier
  • How they will celebrate their goal, should they achieve it

It can feel like an overwhelming amount of information at first, but working through these points together can give an employee a clear road map.

These detailed plans are essential in projecting us towards success. As we mentioned in our scientifically-proven methods to reach your goals article, a 2015 study from Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania found that creating a plan for a goal was critical to achieving it.

Researchers spoke to a group of people who had intentions to vote in an election. With half the group, they simply asked if they were going to vote. With the other half, they asked when, where and how they would vote. As you might expect, the group that talked through their plan to vote were twice as likely to actually do it.

like a boss gif
Plan for those goals like a boss.


It’s the least exciting but possibly most crucial part of any goal setting process; deciding how tracking progress will work when it comes to your employee’s goals. It’s time to think about measuring; the all important ‘M’ in any SMART goal.

Most goals will be able to be quantified in some way, so dig a little deeper if it doesn’t appear possible at first. Not everything has to be tied to a monetary value, there’s plenty of other metrics that you could use.

Just a few examples include;

  • Amount of time spent on completing a task
  • A number of calls made or emails sent to customers
  • A number of products produced
  • A number of services completed
  • A number of customer service tickets completed
  • Ratings of your product or service, or ratings of your customer service (complied as an average number)

Not every single goal will be able to be quantified, and that’s ok. Just remember that whatever you lose in measurability, make up for it in specificity.

The numbers never lie.

Creating employee action plans with SMART goals

Now it’s time for everyone’s favourite goal setting acronym – SMART!

SMART goals were invented in 1981 by George T. Doran, a consultant and former Director of Corporate Planning for the Washington Water Power Company. In his paper, ‘There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives’ he writes about establishing a simple and easy framework that could cut through the masses of information for leaders around goal setting.

“How do you write meaningful objectives?’- that is, frame a statement of results to be achieved. Managers are confused by all the verbal from seminars, books, magazines, consultants, and so on. Let me suggest therefore, that when it comes to writing effective objectives, corporate officers, managers, and supervisors just have to think of the acronym SMART.”

For the uninitiated, SMART stands for;

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable (the word Assignable is also sometimes used)
  • Realistic
  • Timely (the term Time-Related or Time-Bound is also sometimes used)

We’ve already spoken a little bit about the importance of creating specific goals and measurable goals; but what about those three other letters?

Attainable goals

An attainable goal means that the goal-setter has the necessary resources available to complete this task. Assessing attainability might include identifying whether the person has;

  • The right equipment, tools and products to complete their tasks
  • The right support available from their manager, the rest of their team or freelance/contract workers
  • The right skills to complete their tasks

If a missing piece is identified when evaluating attainability, this doesn’t mean that the goal isn’t worth pursuing. Rather, the attainability factors will need to be addressed in the first steps taken to achieve the goal.

Realistic goals

What about realistic goals? And how are they different from attainable goals? Well, you might have everything you need to complete a goal, but your target could be completely unachievable. This is one of the most common mistakes when it comes to setting goals.

So, for example, if you’re a social media manager you might have the objective of growing your Instagram followership. Say the last quarter you were able to increase your followership by 5%, it’s probably unreasonable to think that this quarter you could increase your followership by 50%. You’d need a viral post every other day to make numbers like that work!

When we set unrealistic goals (which we will inevitably never reach), it’s incredibly demotivating. We feel like we’ve failed when we never really gave ourselves the opportunity to succeed.

Yoda talking about failure
Yoda has always been a big believer in setting realistic goals.

Taking a look at previous performance and making modest estimates about the impacts of new initiatives can help you manage expectations and create goals that are within reach.

Timely goals

Finally, let’s talk about time-bound goals. It’s important to set a deadline for your goals, otherwise, there’s not a lot of incentive to start working towards them.

If you create goals at the beginning of the year, you’re probably thinking about goals that span 12 months. If that suits your goal, that’s great! Other common time frames include;

  • Year quarters; Q1 (January 1 – March 31), Q2 (April 1 – June 3), Q3 (July 1 – September 30) and Q4 (October 1 – December 31)
  • Year halves; January – June, July – December

Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) is another great framework that incorporates SMART principles. Learn more about this powerful goal setting strategy.

Other performance management resources

Looking for more assistance with performance management? Here’s a handpicked selection of helpful resources.

Performance review template

We’ve created these performance review templates for managers, to help guide conversations with your direct reports. Our comprehensive performance review guide might also help.

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Regular one-on-one (1:1) meetings between managers and employees are crucial for ensuring that employees feel valued and supported at work. Use this 1:1 template to get started.

Performance improvement plan template

Motivate employees to get back on track if their performance takes a turn for the worse with this performance improvement plan template.

Employee coaching plan template

Receiving coaching at work can help employees tackle unique challenges, spark new ideas, build confidence, and keep their skills relevant. Use this employee coaching plan template to guide you through this process.


Register for the template.
Register for the template.
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