Setting Objectives

Setting Objectives

Setting Objectives

Process Guidelines

June 2017


Recognising and supporting high performance is a critical enabler. The performance process supports managers in their role of developing talent, rewarding performance and providing constructive feedback. If done well, it will embed the College’s values in everyday behaviour and focus effort on achieving our purpose and strategy.

Managing performance is not a one-off review, it is an ongoing conversation. Managers will lead, inspire and drive a performance culture by working with staff to improve individual performance and, in turn, improve the performance of the College as a whole. Simply, doing the people ‘stuff’ helps us achieve the business ‘stuff’.

Performance management is a partnership between managers and their staff members, providing for personal advancement, professional development and organisational achievement.

The performance management process has four steps:

  1. Plan: Set performance and development objectives for the coming year and detail them in a performance management plan
  2. Monitor: ongoing feedback and coaching between managers and their staff members throughout the year on progress against achieving objectives and undertaking development
  3. Assess: assess performance against objectives
  4. Recognise: appropriately recognise and reward contribution

The first step of the performance process cycle is to set performance and development objectives for individual staff members for the coming year and detail them in a performance management plan.

This guide sets out a step-by-step process to follow when setting objectives for your staff. It is designed to make the process of setting objectives as simple as possible, while also encouraging constructive discussions between you and your staff member about what is expected.


At the start of each performance year managers are required to identify the key areas of focus for the coming year and set performance objectives and areas for development with their staff member.

The key activities in the ‘Plan’ step are:

Setting Objectives

Objectives ‘kick-start’ the performance management process –they set clear expectations for employees to work towards and provide a clear focus to allocate and prioritise resources. Objectives specify the outcomes that staff members need to accomplish in the coming performance year and also provide guidance for managers on where to focus their feedback and coaching efforts.

Each employee should have between 4 – 6 objectives depending on the scope or complexity of the role.

An exercise of Collaboration

The objective setting process should be collaborative with both the manager and the staff member having input. While the manager will ultimately set the objectives, for them to be successful they must be owned by both parties. If the staff member does not buy into the objectives set, there is every likelihood that they will not be achieved.

Line of Sight

At the highest level, all our work is guided by our Purpose, Strategy and Values. Cascading strategic goals drive our operational plans which in turn guide our business performance at all levels. In this way, individual objectives are focused on where effort needs to be directed. All staff members should understand how their objectives contribute to the success of the College. The College’s Strategic Pillars set out specific strategies for the College. A breakdown of the Strategic Pillars can be found attached at the end of this Guide.

The College Purpose:

“To demonstrate the enduring value offered by general practice and general practitioners (GPs) in a rapidly changing environment by leading, educating and supporting members and general practice to ensure high quality, equitable care offered to all patients.”

Strategy (in draft):


The Values are at the core of the College’s identity. They embody how the College will achieve its purpose and they underpin the culture of the organisation.A staff member will be held to account through the performance management framework for demonstrating and modelling the Values.

Our Values:

SMART Objectives

Objectives describe what a staff member is expected to deliver and can cover any of the following areas:

  1. Business as usual where effort needs to be particularly focused for the coming year, for example, key reporting requirements, building of relationships with certain groups, management of staff issues, etc, or where specific accountability will be assigned to the person.
  2. Specific projects or components of bigger projects that need to be achieved over the period.
  3. Activities that are outside the formal role of the individual that make an important contribution to the College and therefore need to be recognised, for example, health and safety representative responsibilities, peer support or mentoring, etc.
  4. Stretch objectives as agreed with the staff member. These are goals that challenge or stretch a staff member over and above the requirements for the role. They are in addition to the standard requirements and challenge a staff member’s current level of skill and ability. Stretch objectives will vary according to an individual’s level and experience and are typically used to motivate staff to provide a positive challenge without being unrealistic.

When developing performance objectives it is important to describe the ‘what’ – the specific outcomes for which the staff member is accountable for and how these will be measured.

The second important aspect of the objective is the ‘how. – how the staff member is expected to go about reaching their objectives – the behaviours. In the College, the ‘how’ of an objective is the demonstration of our organisational Values.

Performance objectives will be written as SMART objectives – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound.


Objectives need to be specific and unambiguous. They should clarify what success will look like, ie what is the ultimate outcome of achieving the objective. They should not describe the activities that will deliver on these results but rather the outcomes expected.


The successful outcome needs to be clearly defined. How will you know when the objective has been achieved? What measure will you use to indicate progress towards the objective? Specify the measure to be used and the target level.


An objective should be appropriate for the context, time, skill and experience of the staff member. It should be within the scope and influence of their role. An objective should be challenging, encouraging your staff member to stretch a little bit further. However, it must not be unrealistically high so that they are unfair or unrealistic expectations. It is important to be realistic also when setting deadlines.


Objectives must be aligned with the College’s strategic plan and focused on the required results or achievements, not activities.

Time bound:

Objectives are not open-ended. They must focus the employee energy on a specific target for a defined period of time. The appropriate time period will depend on the urgency of the objective, other demands on the staff member’s time, the need to coordinate with other processes or people and the availability of necessary resources.

And, if appropriate, Evaluate:

Establish the measurement or evaluation method, for example, random checks, computer reports, discussion, peer review.

Examples of SMART Objectives

Example 1 - Initial objective: Deliver a Performance Management Framework

Think about:

Make it Specific: Establish a high performance organisation through the design and implementation of a Performance Management Framework.

Make it Measurable: Establish a high performance organisation through the design and implementation of the College Performance Management Framework in line with defined stakeholder expectations and published best practice quality standards.

Make it Achievable: Yes (discussed with employee)

Make it Relevant: Yes – contributes to the College’s goal of building a high performance organisation and ensuring everything we do aligns to the purpose and strategy.

Make it Time bound: Establish a high performance organisation through the design and implementation of a Performance Management Framework by 31 August 2017 in line with defined stakeholder expectations and published best practice quality standards.

Final objective: Establish a high performance organisation through the design and implementation of a Performance Management Framework by 31 August 2017 in line with defined stakeholder expectations and published best practice quality standards.

Example 2 - Initial objective: Improve member relationships by ensuring they receive the information they ask for. Current statistics show that only 60% of requests for information are being met upon the first request.

Specific: Increase the percentage of members who receive the information they ask for.

Measurable: Increase the percentage of members who receive the information they ask for from 60% to 80% of requests being met upon first time of asking.

Achievable: Probable – moving from 60% straight to 100% is likely to be unreasonable.

Relevant: Yes – links to the College’s Strategic Pillar – Membership: Building stronger connections with members and providing better services to them.

Time bound: Increase the percentage of members who receive the information they ask for from 60% to 80% of requests being met upon first time of asking. To be met by 31 March 2018.

Final Objective: By 31 March 2018, increase the percentage of members who receive the information they ask for from 60% to 80% of requests being met upon first time of asking.

Example 3: Produce and distribute personalised welcome letters, error free, to all new GPEP1 students by 16 December 2017.

Example 4: Create the College strategic plan, obtain final approval from the Board, and discuss it with the SMT so individuals can begin setting their performance objectives by 31 August 2017.

Discuss Behaviour Expectations

The way we all behave in carrying out our roles is core to our culture at the College. Behaviours have a direct impact on achieving our purpose and strategy and therefore play a role in the performance management process. It is essential that all employees are aware of the College’s expectations of their behaviour in achieving performance objectives.

As noted earlier, when setting performance objectives we need to describe the ‘what and the how’. In defining the ‘how’ we use the College’s Values as a point of reference for the behaviours expected. There is a specific section in the Performance ManagementPlan where expected behaviours can be noted. Our Values in action is described in the College’s Values Model which is attached at the end of this Guide at Appendix 2.

Determine Career and Development Plan

At the beginning of every performance year staff members will develop and agree with their manager a development plan. This plan sets out the learning and development which will support the staff member to develop their skills, knowledge and behaviours and achieve their career aspirations. Development and career aspirations should be discussed with the staff member once performance objectives have been set. The same meeting can be used to have the discussion, however, other staff members may prefer to have some time to reflect before arranging a separate meeting.

The primary responsibility for developing the career and development plan is with the staff member. The responsibility of the manager is focused on facilitating the discussion and suggesting and agreeing on development goals and activities.

In determining development needs consider the objectives and capability expectations – what specific skills, knowledge and behaviours are required and, of these, which are areas for the staff member to work on? The position description for the role may help identify the capability expectations for the role.

The manager should consider the best development opportunities for the employee. To do so, the manager should take account of the learning preferences of the staff members, time and money available and the options available.

Not all learning activities need to be gained through formal training. The development plan should comprise a blend of learning activities. The ’70:20:10’ model states that:

  • 70% of learning and development takes place ‘on the job’, for example, undertaking targeted projects and pieces of work or perhaps taking secondment opportunities.
  • 20% of learning and development takes place from peers and colleagues through feedback and observation, for example, work shadowing, coaching and mentoring.
  • 10% of learning and development comes from formal training, for example, training courses and conferences.

As with the performance objectives, development objectives should be SMART.

Examples of SMART development objectives:

Example 1: Attend the Project Management Essentials workshop on 2 November 2017, report what I learn to our team by 10 November 2017, and apply the relevant concepts during the planning and roll-out of the GPEP1 exams.

Example 2: At each quarterly progress meeting with my manager, ask for feedback about what I am doing well and what I can improve. Keep a journal with this information, try my manager’s suggestions, and reflect each week on what worked, what didn’t work, and what I will do the following week.

Example 3: Find a mentor by 1 July 2017, schedule two informal lunch meetings over the FY17/18, and call her/him for guidance as needed.

Finalise Performance Management Plan

At the end of the performance planning process the staff member should have a clear understanding of the objectives and development areas for the coming performance year.

An important element of the ‘Plan’ step is that objectives are agreed by both parties. While the manager is accountable for setting the objectives it is encouraged that the staff member contributes ideas and information as part of that process.

Objectives and development plans should be documented in the Performance Management Plan document and saved in the staff member’s personal file on Objective. The Performance Management Plan document is designed to succinctly capture the key objectives for a staff member over the coming year, rather than a complete description of their role and responsibilities. A copy of this document is attached as Appendix 3. Managers, in discussion with staff members, can also capture in the Performance Management Plan document comments about progress against the objectives and development plans throughout the year. Objectives should also be regularly revised throughout the year to ensure that they remain fit for purpose.

Once the objectives and career and development plans have been recorded, the manager should set up regular, scheduled meetings to review progress against the plan, provide feedback and adjust the plan, as required. Should any issues occur, these should be raised with the staff member as soon as possible with feedback provided in a timely manner.


APPENDIX 1: Strategic Pillars

APPENDIX 2: Values Model

APPENDIX 3: Performance Management Plan