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Performance Management

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Goal-setting is a key part of performance planning. This page has particulars about what goals are and how to write them. See the Performance Planning webpage for things to consider when mapping out goals.



Goals are the foundation of performance planning and enabling employees to be successful in their roles. Goals provide a clear direction and focus for employees and ensure that their efforts are aligned with the University’s strategic plan. When used effectively, goals provide purpose, help prioritize efforts, track and measure progress and create a sense of accomplishment when achieved.

There are 3 types of goals that we focus on for performance:

  • Individual performance goals. These represent the performance expectations of your role and may include specific improvements and actions to achieve the desired outcomes. Performance goals for employees should be aligned to team goals and the University’s overall strategy.
  • Individual development goals. These represent professional development areas for employees and are designed to help employees improve their capabilities and advance in their careers. Development goals may include improving your professional relationships, expanding your network, gaining more experience in certain areas, learning or improving skills and more.
  • Institutional goals. These are the competencies and behaviors that we expect of all employees. This is how we live into our organizational values and create our organizational culture.

Put differently, individual goals focus on what each employee is to accomplish within a defined time period, and institutional goals focus on how the employees accomplished the goal.

During the annual performance appraisal, managers rate employee performance according to the institutional and individual performance goals outlined in the performance plan. The standardized rating scale for these goals is set by the University of North Carolina System and outlines three levels of performance: Not Meeting Expectations, Meeting Expectations and Exceeding Expectations. See the Annual Appraisal webpage for more information about ratings.


Institutional Goals

The UNC General Administration has established the following five institutional goals that apply to every employee; managers have an additional goal (of Supervision) to address their supervisory responsibilities. (While these competencies and behaviors are expected of all employees, SHRA employees are specifically evaluated on them through the Employee Competency Assessment.) Managers rate an employee’s institutional goals by the standardized three-point rating scale set by the UNC System. See more about ratings on the Annual Appraisal webpage.

  • Precision: Produces work that is accurate, thorough, and demonstrates sufficient analysis and decision-making to meet the requirements of the employee’s position and profession.
  • Resourcing: Makes efficient and appropriate use of materials and documents work appropriately. Innovation: Looks for ways to improve efficiency or quality.
  • Development: Maintains technical skills and relevant professional credentials.
  • Productivity: Completes required volume of work by established deadlines and stays productive throughout workday.
  • Autonomy: Generally completes work with few reminders and/or infrequent oversight.
  • Prioritizing: Takes sufficient/appropriate plan and organize work, prioritize tasks, and set realistic goals.
  • Coordination: Seeks needed information to complete work and timely communicates status with relevant parties.
  • Clarity: Listens to determine the most effective way to address customer needs and concerns.
  • Awareness: Shows a solid understanding of customer needs, seeks out customer input to better understand needs, and develops ideas to meet those needs.
  • Attentiveness: Follows through on commitments, despite time pressures or obstacles, and maintains relevant communication with customers until job is completed.
  • Diplomacy: Maintains a professional and respectful tone and exhibits diplomacy when dealing with frustrated individuals or during sensitive or confrontational situations.
  • Collegiality: Communicates and engages directly, clearly, and tactfully with colleagues.
  • Collaboration: Provides feedback and healthy dialogue on performance and operational issues, as requested, willingly adapts to change, and adheres to decided actions.
  • Contribution: Makes decisions with others in mind, and willingly performs additional duties when team members are absent, during times of increased workload, or as otherwise required by management to meet business needs.
  • Attendance: Absences are infrequent and do not place an undue burden on supervisor or colleagues.
  • Policy: Complies with personnel and equal opportunity policies, including prohibitions on harassment, discrimination, and workplace violence, and all other policies, including appropriate use of university resources.
  • Safety: Complies with all safety requirements for the position, including successful completion of training and proper use of personal protective equipment.
  • Ethics: Chooses ethical action, even under pressure, avoids situations that are inappropriate or that present a conflict of interest, and holds self and others accountable for ethical decisions.
  • Respect: Appreciates individual and cultural differences and treats all people with dignity and respect.
  • Oversight: Provides adequate stewardship of assigned resources, including budget, space, equipment, and staffing.
  • Goal-Setting: Provides clear objectives that foster work unit development and align with university values and goals.
  • Managing Talent: Provides candid, timely, and constructive feedback on performance and behavior, hires individuals with the qualities and skillsets for success, and contributes to meeting University EO and affirmative action goals.
  • Leading: Serves as role model and engenders trust, commitment, and civility.

Individual Goals

Each performance cycle, managers and employees work together to set individual goals for each employee as part of the employee’s performance plan for the upcoming year. These goals may be specific to an individual, a work unit or a classification group and support the organizational unit’s mission, strategic goals and priorities.

Goals may focus on:

Goals may be shared across employees or unique to individual employees. For example, some divisions may choose to set one division-wide goal, one work-unit goal and one employee-specific goal.
Goals may be based on current/on-going work, short-term projects or strategic initiatives.

Managers and employees should work collaboratively on defining 3-5 individual goals for each employee. Limiting performance goals to 3-5 in number is both a best practice and policy requirement and allows employees to focus on what is most important throughout the year.

Managers and employees work together to create these goals, which must clearly outline for how the employee can meet and/or exceed the expectations for each goal.

Individual goals:

  • Focus on 3–5 key deliverables for the current performance cycle
  • Do NOT need to cover all aspects of employee work
  • Reflect current priorities and strategic goals

Types of Individual Goals

Generally tied to broader strategic goals or initiatives.

For example, when school/division implements a software/system, all employees may have had a goal to achieve proficiency in the system by a certain date. The language of this kind of goal is usually consistent across employee types, but there may be small variations based on specific employee roles.

Apply to a specific work unit (generally, all the employees under one manager or team) or to employees performing a similar role. These may target specific initiatives defined for the work unit this performance cycle or target ways to improve/sustain work product or team dynamics.
Unique to the duties/role of an employee. May include goals designed to provide a development opportunity to broaden/deepen the employee’s skillset along with serving a business need (i.e., “stretch” goals).

For example, an employee who has not yet served as a project lead could be assigned a project lead role to gain that experience and expertise.

Relate to ongoing key deliverables essential to successful performance in the position. These goals are often compliance-driven, such as an annual report.

Preferably, not every individual goal would fall in this category (to avoid goals becoming too static year-to-year).

These “big-ticket” goals are time-specific to some ongoing work (e.g., developing and launching a new program or service offering or specific deliverables tied to a certain phase of a grant/research project).

They may also be short-term projects that are only needed in the current cycle based on a business need (e.g., “clean-up” projects for recordkeeping/storage needs or efficiency gains).

Designed to move the employee’s skillset and/or the unit’s work product forward in some way. These “stretch goals” are often aligned with strategic goals or development goals (i.e., what can this position do this year to get us closer to achieving the larger University strategic goals or to broaden/deepen the employee’s skillset so that they can achieve more in their current position or the next?).

Any of the above approaches is acceptable. There is no requirement about which kinds of goals must be used.

Ideally, at least one individual goal each performance cycle would clearly feed into the University’s strategic initiatives. For example, any position could have a goal regarding efficiency, which would contribute to the University’s plan. Certain work units already have established key deliverables that are aligned with the strategic plan.

Managers rate an employee’s individual goals by the standardized three-point rating scale set by the UNC System. Learn about ratings on the Annual Appraisal webpage.

Common Questions on Goals

Yes, goals should be dynamic and reflect the most current priorities. Goals set at the beginning of a performance cycle are ideally aligned with the University’s current objectives. However, as the performance cycle progresses, various factors can necessitate changes to these goals. Making goals dynamic allows for adaptability and ensures that efforts remain focused on the most relevant and impactful outcomes.

Goals should be defined such that it is feasible to complete them within the performance cycle. For large projects that span multiple performance cycles, managers and employees can define milestones or phased targets that can be achieved during one cycle.
There are valid reasons that an employee may not be able to complete a goal. Factors including changes in direction from leadership, shifts in team priorities, resource constraints, environmental considerations, and unplanned medical leave may impact completion. In such cases, the manager and employee should revise the employee’s goals to reflect what is attainable in the performance cycle.
Individual Goals
Each employee must have 3–5 individual goals per performance cycle. Managers rate the employee’s individual goals as part of the annual appraisal.

Goals are the foundation of performance planning. They provide a clear direction and focus for employees, ensuring that their efforts are aligned with the organization’s overall strategy. Well-defined goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART), enabling employees to track their progress and stay motivated. These goals may encompass various aspects, such as individual tasks, projects, key performance indicators (KPIs) or personal development objectives.

Development Goals
Each employee must have at least one development goal per performance cycle. Development goals are not rated.

A development plan, on the other hand, is a broader, more comprehensive roadmap for personal or professional growth. It outlines the strategies, actions, and resources needed to enhance skills, knowledge, and abilities over a period of time. A development plan may encompass multiple goals but also includes other elements such as learning activities, training programs, mentorship opportunities or experiences that facilitate growth and development.

See more about development goals.

How to Write a Goal

For each performance cycle, managers and employees collaborate to write the employee’s 3–5 individual goals to the “meeting expectations” level of performance. This approach eliminates generalities and guesswork, sets a clear timeline and makes it easier to track progress and identify missed milestones.

A helpful way to approach writing goals is to use the acronym SMART, which means goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Defining these parameters as they pertain to your goal helps ensure that objectives are attainable within a certain time frame.

Recommended Structure

Use the following structure as a guide to write an individual goal to the “meeting expectations” level of performance. Clearly state:

  • Key deliverable or desired result
  • Effect resulting from achieving that deliverable
  • Value that effect has for the unit and/or University
  • Action items needed to achieve the deliverable at the Meeting Expectations level (and Exceeding Expectations level, if desired)

The example below use the recommended structure above.

Project-oriented goal to establish a standard operating procedure for student admissions events

Note: The example below uses parenthetical explanations to point out the recommended structure in action; goals on the performance plan would not include these parentheticals.

(statement of key deliverable) Create standard operating procedures for duties related to admissions and event planning (effect of achieving deliverable) to provide consistency, efficiency and quality in our administration of these events (value to unit/University) so that we put our best effort in engaging and attracting top students.

(Action items needed at expectations levels)
Meeting expectations may include:

  • Meet with stakeholders involved in admissions process for MA program to identify stress points in the efficient operation of events
  • Establish follow-up survey for students to gain feedback on the events for future planning (due June 30)
  • Develop template emails/itineraries for students interviewing for admission (due July 31)
  • Create flowchart of overview of admissions process

Exceeding expectations may include:

  • Develop checklists for critical points in student recruitment process
  • Implement new procedures by Sept. 1 to collect survey data with event through the fall and spring semesters

Goals in Carolina Talent

Managers and/or employees can enter an employee’s goals. Entering goals is part of the Performance Plan task in Carolina Talent Performance.

Employees who have fewer or more than the recommended number of goals will be notified, along with the managers, to advise them of their goal status and to address this discrepancy prior to the launch of the performance season.
Managers should collaborate with their employees to define individual performance goals in Carolina Talent. Goals that were defined and documented elsewhere need to be created in Carolina Talent. Visit the Performance Hub ‘How to Create Goals’ for help.

If you or your employee have not defined goals for the cycle that is being reviewed, please email the Employee and Manager Relations team at for guidance.

See instructions in Carolina Talent Performance Hub for How to View My Goals/Team Goals.

For Managers

Defining individual performance goals is a crucial component of performance management. Setting goals helps ensure your team members are working toward a shared vision, clarifies what success in their role looks like and contributes to greater employee engagement and improved performance. It is an expectation that every manager works collaboratively with their team members to define goals in Carolina Talent.

Weighting Goals

Managers/supervisors can determine the weight of each employee goal.

Please remember:

  • Employees must have no fewer than three individual goals and no more than five.
  • Only SHRA employees have weighted goals; goals for EHRA employees are not weighted.
Use the following guidelines when setting weights for SHRA employee goals; goals for EHRA employees are not weighted.

Institutional Goals

  • Institutional goals equal 50% of the final overall rating
  • UNC System sets weights of institutional goals, and those weights cannot be changed
  • Institutional goals are all weighted the same
  • Weights for institutional goals automatically load into an employee’s annual appraisal; managers do not set these weights

Individual Goals

  • Individual goals equal 50% of the final overall rating.
  • No single individual goal can be weighted less than 5% of the final overall rating.
  • Individual goals do not have to be equally weighted
  • Total weight of all individual goals must equal 100
Managers can weight goals for SHRA employees based on:

  • Scope or complexity of a goal
  • Priority or criticality of the goal
  • Alignment of a goal with strategic priorities (compared to other goals)
  • Time commitment for completing a goal
  • Other considerations as relevant

Peer managers of similar positions may discuss the appropriate weight of goals.

Goals for EHRA employees are not weighted.

Help & How-tos


Carolina Talent Performance

View and complete performance tasks in Carolina Talent, and
visit the Carolina Talent Performance Hub for step-by-step instructions and FAQs.