Goal Setting

Setting goals and priorities at the beginning of each performance cycle builds the foundation for successful performance. It is a collaborative process between you and your manager. You initiate the process by drafting goals in Talent@GW - Performance for your manager for review. Ideally, your goals connect in some way to your school or division’s goals, and/or your department or team priorities.

Working through this process helps you clarify what is most important and positions you for an objective review at the end of the review cycle.

Tools for Setting Goals in Talent@GW - Performance


How-to guides


For employees:


For managers:


Setting Goals


Online training available in Talent@GW - Learning

Setting SMART Goals

Draft goals related to your top priorities such as new initiatives, projects for the coming year, or aspects of your job description where you will enhance your performance. Goals can target specific service expectations (e.g. returning all customer phone calls within a specified time period) and/or processes that you can improve (e.g. taking responsibility for monthly reporting requirements using newly acquired Excel skills).

Your goals should be SMART:


Be specific in the goal description so the deliverable is clear. Avoid generalizing. Use action verbs as much as possible.


Identify how success will be measured. Common measures include quantity, quality, timeliness, accuracy, etc.


Questions to ask to determine if a goal is attainable:

  • Can I influence the outcome?
  • Are there contingencies outside my control that need to be considered? If yes, what is the strategy to deal with those?
  • Do I have the resources and the time to complete this goal in the context of my other goals and work priorities?


Goals should be linked to the higher-level team, department, and/or Division/School goals. This provides context and ensures that goals and actions contribute to the bigger picture.


Each goal needs to have due dates. For more complex deliverables, set milestones. Milestones are particularly effective when they are measurable.


How many goals should each person set?

We suggest no more than five active goals. The exact number should be linked to the number of key priorities that need to be accomplished during the performance period. This does not mean there will not be other important work to accomplish during the year, but the goals outlined and maintained in Talent@GW - Performance need to represent your overall top priorities.


Differentiate goals, job responsibilities, and professional development

Job responsibilities and goals

Job responsibilities are the established, recurring duties and job requirements for your position. Goals are set annually and describe your top priorities, such as new initiatives and projects for the coming year. Goals may also be related to enhancing your performance in key areas of your job.

Common types of goals are:

  • To increase something (satisfaction, retention, effectiveness)
  • To make something (documents, reports, presentations)
  • To improve something (processes, results, relationships)
  • To reduce something (risk, expenses, waste)
  • To save something (time, money, space, energy)
Goals and professional development

Your goals are work-related priorities. They define what must get done. Your Professional Development Plan includes your developmental priorities and how you will grow within your job.

  • If the feedback is related to what will be done over the next year, it should be noted in your goals.
  • If the feedback is regarding how you need to do your job, the actions related to this feedback should be recorded in the Development Plan.
  • For example, learning something new provides for how the work gets done, so it would be included in a Development Plan. Taking a class or maintaining a certification falls in this category. The application of a new skill to achieve an end result, however, describes what work is being done, and it should therefore be included as a goal.


  • Develop and pilot a new student outreach strategy by August 30th using social media (Twitter and Instagram) to increase inquiries to our programs by potential students by 25%. 
  • Have lunch or coffee at least once a week with a team member from a different department to gauge their feedback on how I can foster a safe, caring, and efficient environment. At the end of each month, identify three things that are working well and three areas for improvement. Suggest solutions by May 1.
  • In an effort to foster delegation, communication, and organization, I will create a procedures manual that outlines how to perform each of my job duties. I will document five new procedures each week, with a targeted completion date of March 1, and I will review the manual on the first Tuesday of each month moving forward to make sure it remains up-to-date.
  • Prepare for system launch by developing a launch checklist, tasks, due-dates, and drive approval process from department stakeholders by June 30, 2020.


Manage your goals

Review your goals and development throughout the year, as you or your team’s priorities may change.

To update your goals, document what you think needs to change and have a discussion with your manager. Ensure that you and your manager are aligned on changes and that you both agree to any modifications.

The midpoint check-in can be used to manage and update your goals. In addition, you can schedule an informal goal checkpoint to review and discuss changes to your goals. These discussions should summarize accomplishments to date, identify any goals that were added, eliminated, or changed, review priorities, and clarify performance expectations going forward.