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Ohio State University Extension


Performance Planning

Text below is original work by Graham Cochran, Ph.D.
Planning and goal-setting is a critical part of a strong performance management process. Research shows that setting specific and challenging goals is invaluable for improving performance and productivity (DelPo, 2005; Lock & Latham, 1984). Effective goal-setting clarifies expectations and is associated with increased job satisfaction and greater respect for the performance management process.

Performance planning occurs at the beginning of a review period. Additional planning should also occur any time performance expectations change. Performance planning takes place through a conversation between the employee and his or her supervisor; it is a collaborative effort. Three elements should be addressed in the performance planning conversation: performance goals and other plans for work to be accomplished, core competencies/areas of expertise (AOEs), and professional development.

Performance goals and professional development goals should be developed and documented in the performance review and/or the annual performance report. Information from informal discussions, individual assessments, and performance feedback as well as the position description, strategic plan(s) or unit/area plans, and needs assessments should be used in the planning process. 

Click here for examples of performance and professional development goals. 

Performance Goals

Performance goals are a powerful tool for aligning individual effort with organizational strategy. The power of goals that are specific and challenging is that they focus effort and provide something to strive for during the performance period. Three to a maximum of seven performance goals should be set for each employee, outlining specific plans for what the employee will accomplish. 

Not every duty and responsibility should have performance goals. Each position description outlines key job duties and performance in each major area is evaluated. Performance goals should be about the “big rocks," the things that are truly most important and will be where major time is invested in the coming year. Performance goals provide help with prioritizing; employees can refine or adjust their workload throughout the year to make sure they are on track with their goals. Together, a supervisor and employee set goals based on strategic needs of the unit/organization, strengths and abilities to nurture, and weak spots in overall performance. 

Professional Development Goals

Learning and growth are important aspects of performance management and a high-performance culture. Professional development goals are focused on plans for learning and development to address areas identified through performance review, developmental assessments, performance goals, and/or career goals. Two to four professional development goals should be set for each employee. Goals might leverage a strength and/or address an area for improvement or growth. 

Professional development goals should clearly link learning and growth to skills needed for work to be accomplished and/or core competencies/AOEs. For example, job-related skills the employee might learn or strengthen to increase job effectiveness or to develop in a specific core competency or AOE. Or, a goal might be related to future career aspirations. 

Questions to help with identifying professional development goals:

  • What training would you like?
  • What skills would you like to hone?
  • What new tasks/responsibilities will you be taking on that might require learning and development?

Professional development goals should be specific so the employee and supervisor are clear on what the plans are for learning and when it will be accomplished. Professional development goals will not be evaluated. Coaching for success and towards achievement of the goals should be provided at check-in meetings.

Ongoing Coaching and Feedback
Coaching is an ongoing process of communication between the supervisor and the employee focused on improving current performance and building capabilities for the future. Coaching may involve informal conversations as well as more formal coaching meetings and written documentation. Supervisors and employees should hold check-in meetings at least twice during each performance period. 

Summary of Planned Programs
For educators and other employees with programmatic responsibilities, planning should include documentation of planned programs in RiV. This represents specific plans for Extension teaching and program delivery in the upcoming year.

Guidelines for Effective Goal-Setting

Set a few key goals (three to seven). Don’t be excessive (whittle the list down to essential goals); research shows too many goals can actually lower performance (DelPo, 2005; Grote, 1996; Latham & Wexley, 1996).

Address the most important aspects of the job.

Make Goals SMART (the acronym commonly used for goal-setting)

Specific – clear and understandable
Measurable (if possible) – some way of determining if the goal is achieved. Not all jobs and goals lend themselves to measurement so it is ok to have goals that are not easily measured, but try to keep those at a minimum.
Applicable – the goal must fit with OSUE and University strategy; Attainable – realistic but sufficiently challenging.
Relevant – the goal must make sense in terms of what the employee, unit, and OSU Extension are trying to accomplish.
Time bound – provide specifics on a schedule; milestones.

Core Competencies and Areas of Expertise (AOEs)

Planning should include a conversation about how the competencies and AOEs will be rated. Discuss specific behaviors that are relevant to the individual and the role she or he performs. Address questions an employee may have about what it takes to reach the highest rating on the scale. 

For supporting information, see OSU Extension’s competency model, including key actions describing each core competency.