Setting Effective Organizational Goals

[This is a guest post from Sean Conrad. Sean is a Certified Human Capital Strategist and Senior Product Analyst at Halogen Software, whose performance management software makes best-practice goal management simpler for leaders and employees. For more of his insights on talent management, read his posts on the Halogen Software blog.]

One of the important roles of leaders is to set goals for their organization. In fact, some would argue it’s their most important function. Goals are what keep the organization moving, changing and reaching for more. Ideally, organizational goals should be what direct the efforts of every employee. Alas, that is often not the reality.

Why? Because many organizations and leaders are ineffective in setting and communicating organizational goals.

Here are some ways you can ensure your organizational goals are effective.

Make Organizational Goals Concrete and Measurable

It’s not uncommon to see organizational goals that are little more than slogans or vision statements; things like “Dominate the market” or “Beat the competition”. But these kinds of goals are hard for employees to align their efforts to because they’re not concrete. Organizational goals, as all other goals, are more effective when they describe the expected outcome in a measurable form. The aim is to create meaningful goals that employees can feel accountable for in some way. If they don’t understand what the organization is trying to achieve, and what success looks like, they won’t understand how they can contribute to the effort. Good leaders know that setting concrete, measurable goals for the organization is the first step to success.

Communicate Organizational Goals

Next, it’s important to communicate the organization’s goals to all employees. This is not an exercise you can do once. You need to do it repeatedly and consistently, to communicate leadership commitment and priority. Use multiple media and approaches. Make goals accessible and visible. Make sure very employee knows what they are.

Get Employees to Link their Individual Goals to Organizational Goals

If you want the organization to achieve its goals, you need to harness the passion, efforts and energy of every employee. The best way to do this is to challenge every employee to link their individual goals to the organization’s goals. Make it a part of your performance appraisal or goal setting process. Every employee should know how their work and role contribute to the organization’s success. This linking gives employees a larger context for their work, which is so important to engagement. As a leader, you should have visibility of employee goal alignment across the organization. Aligning your workforce in this way helps you see if the organization is well positioned to achieve its goals, or if priorities and efforts need to be realigned.

Revisit Organizational Goals Regularly and Communicate Progress

In some groundbreaking research in 2011*, leading talent management research and advisory services firm Bersin & Associates found that organization who revisit their goals at least quarterly, or even more frequently, dramatically outperform those who follow an annual cascading goal model. Regularly revisiting organizational goals allows you to be more nimble and stay responsive to a dynamic and changing environment.

Leaders should closely track progress on organizational goals, make any necessary adjustments to the goals, their priorities or assigned resources, and communicate progress, status and any changes to their workforce.


Strong leaders know how to harness the power of their workforce through effective goal management. They know that setting clear, concrete goals, communicating these, aligning employee goals with organizational goals, then tracking and communicating everyone’s progress is vital to success.

*Strategic HR and Talent Management: Predictions for 2012

Want to Lead Smarter? Check out the eBook The Portable Guide to Leading Organizations, which you can download absolutely FREE.