HR departments are great at helping other departments set goals for their teams — in fact, sometimes they’re so busy helping others that they forget to set their own goals. Just as the cobbler’s children go without shoes, so too do HR teams put others first when it comes to professional development.

This doesn’t have to be the case for your HR department as you move into 2019. You can ensure a productive year for your own team, as well as the other teams at your company, by setting performance goals for your HR department.

Whether it’s the first time you’ve ever set performance goals for HR or you’re already in the habit, you need to make sure your plan supports the team and the company’s broader strategic plan. Read on to find out how you can put your HR department on the path to success in the new year.

How Do You Set Your 2019 Goals?

Goal-setting for your HR department is a collaborative process that should involve your executives. Not only will this help you align HR goals with company-wide goals, but you’ll also demonstrate to executives how HR plays an important role in the company’s overall strategy.

Here are some ways to ensure you create big-picture goals you can stick to.

Assess Your Company’s Priorities

Your HR plan should complement and support the company’s broader priorities. If your company has a strategic plan, start there. Ask yourself and your executives: what are the company’s priorities for 2019? What are the main business challenges we’re facing?

The answers to these questions have implications for your HR department and for your company’s culture as a whole. Your company will be in need of certain capacities and skills to overcome current obstacles, elevate the production of various teams, and create the ideal culture. Assess which gaps your HR department will need to fill, so you understand how you can help make your company’s goals a reality.

Zoom Out and Look at Broader Trends

Your HR department is influenced as much by trends outside your company as the priorities within it. Give some thought to how broader societal trends, a changing legal environment, and new demographics may affect the HR landscape. In particular, consider how your HR department’s work may be influenced by:

  • A skills gap
  • The rise of the contingent workforce and the gig economy
  • Artificial intelligence and other technological advances
  • Frustration with how sexual harassment allegations are being handled

Don’t skip this step. If you focus only on what is happening internally at your company, you risk being caught off guard by important trends that are bound to make an impact on your department at one point or another.

Pick Your HR Goals

With your company’s goals and broader trends in mind, you can probably start to identify some areas that your HR department needs to prioritize. Broaden the list by asking yourself what you, the HR professional, consider to be the most important HR issues facing your company.

From here, develop a list of potential HR goals. This could include everything from:

  • Updating the performance management process
  • Collecting better recruitment, performance, and employee satisfaction data
  • Improving employee engagement
  • Developing a stronger talent pipeline
  • Auditing and updating HR policies and training related to sexual harassment

In consultation with your company executives, pick three goals. You can’t do it all. Pursuing three goals with the attention and energy they require will be more effective than half-heartedly trying to do everything. Your next step will be to refine these three goals.

Set Clear, Quantifiable Targets — And Revisit Them

Your three goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. Rewrite your goals to be as specific as possible. Then, for each goal, write down the specific actions you will take, when you will take them, and how you will evaluate whether you have been successful in meeting that goal.

Now that you’ve set your goals, you need a roadmap that shows you where and how to focus your attention throughout the year. Annual performance reviews are becoming a practice of the past, as companies realize how important it is to regularly check up on employee progress. In the same way, your HR department needs to pay attention to performance goals to make sure they’re still appropriate — or even possible — for the team to achieve.

How Can You Make Sure You Meet Your Goals?

You should assess whether your HR team has the ability to meet your goals — not just at the time that you set them, but also continually over the course of the year. You may find that at some point you need more or different resources to be able to deliver on your plan. Take the following considerations into account.

More Isn’t Always More

While adding bodies to the team is the most straightforward way of growing HR capacity, your team can also find more time by removing functions. If HR is responsible for planning employee social activities, consider whether a committee of volunteers could be formed to do this instead. Look into outsourcing administrative functions, such as payroll processing or benefit plan management, to give your HR team more time to focus on strategic elements.

If your 2019 plan includes better analytics to drive efficiency in recruitment and hiring, your company may need to implement a recruitment software system. This will also help ease the burden of administrative tasks on your HR team.

Think Outside the Department

Don’t miss this opportunity to consider what professional development your team could benefit from — especially if you’re radically rethinking the way your company conducts performance management. Your HR team can attend training on employee motivation, performance, and evaluation to get more ideas.   

It’s essential to have ongoing executive buy-in as you work toward your 2019 goals. Have regular and honest discussions with your executives about your plan and what your team needs to be successful. While certain goals — such as improving employee data, for instance — may lie firmly in your hands, other goals may require executive leadership.

When HR meets its goals, it can better help other departments meet their goals; by emphasizing this fact, you greatly improve your chances of earning company-wide support. With a clear mapping of strong performance goals and support from leadership, you’ll have everything you need to start 2019 on the right foot.


Chris Lennon is Vice President of Product Management at BirdDogHR. Chris is an active participant in the talent management community bringing over 18 years of experience to BirdDogHR. He has presented at numerous industry events and has been quoted as an industry expert in leading publications like SHRM, TLNT, L&D Daily Advisor and more.