Best Practices for Ensuring Individual Performance Goals Motivate Staff Year-Round

Six best practices to attach meaningful financial incentives to goals and formalize goal-focused check-ins.

Individual performance goals help staff invest in organization-wide strategic priorities—but many organizations struggle to keep employees focused on goals year-round.

This study offers six best practices to sustain staff interest in goals through meaningful financial incentives and regular goal check-ins with their managers.

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Easy to lose focus on goals

When organizations announce individual performance goals at the beginning of the year, employees tend to pay close attention. But many lose interest as the year progresses, only to refocus on goals when performance reviews roll around.

By that time, it's too late to make up lost ground. HR leaders need to keep staff focused on goals throughout the year to see organization-wide payoff—and we've identified how.

Tie goals to financial incentives

Financial incentives give staff a meaningful stake in performance, but limited budgets, organizational culture, and collective bargaining agreements often stand in the way of implementation. So we've compiled best practices and implementation guidance to help HR leaders work around these barriers.

First, focus on creating a sustainable leader incentive plan, since leaders have a disproportionate impact on performance and staff engagement. They should be eligible for payouts that are based on results and commensurate to their level of responsibility.

For frontline staff, create a simple bonus program and regularly update staff on performance to keep them focused and working toward their year-end payout. To incentivize individual performance, reallocate compensation dollars based on merit. Shifting to merit pay—specifically, paying low performers less—can save money in the long run, since across-the-board salary increases compound year over year.

And for physicians, gradually incorporate nonproductivity metrics into compensation plans. This will ensure that their incentives align with the organization's risk-based contracts and larger strategic priorities.

Formalize goal-centric check-ins

Asking staff to meet with supervisors regularly to review progress is a powerful way to instill accountability for goals. The challenge is making these check-ins valuable, instead of just another meeting that's crowded out by more urgent priorities.

This study includes two templates to make check-ins goal-focused and efficient: one for senior leaders to use with their direct reports and one for frontline managers to use with frontline staff.



6 best practices to keep employees focused on goals year-round

Attach meaningful financial consequences

    • Develop a sustainable leader incentive plan
    • Employ a house-wide bonus system with a straightforward payout structure
    • Reallocate merit pay budgets to reward staff performance against key goals
    • Incorporate non-productivity metrics into physician compensation plans

Formalize goal-centric check-ins

    • Have leaders meet with their direct supervisors at least once per quarter
    • Provide a form and talking points for managers to use in mid-year check-ins

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