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Setting HR Goals and Objectives for 2021

Let’s face it. Your 2020 HR goals and objectives have probably been a write-off. 


COVID has taught HR professionals loads, and you’ve almost certainly done a brilliant job adapting fast and overcoming totally new challenges. But your pre-pandemic goals and objectives have probably been on the backburner for a few months now. 


So, you’re here. Wondering what HR goals to set for the year ahead. Or maybe the business didn’t set good goals last year, and you’re ready to embrace strategic human resources management moving forwards.  


We’ve got you. Read on…


What are strategic HR goals and objectives? 


Strategic HR goals and objectives are the tools of the strategic human resource management trade – strategic HRM. The CIPD define strategic HRM like this:


“Strategic human resource management (strategic HRM) is an approach to managing people that supports an organisation’s long-term goals with an overall planned and coherent framework. This helps ensure that the various aspects of people management work together to develop the behaviours and performance needed to create and distribute value. It focuses on longer-term people issues, matching resources to future needs, and large-scale concerns about structure, quality, culture, values and commitment.”


In other words, strategic HRM is about supporting the business long-term in a more focussed, targeted way. Have you ever felt like you’re constantly firefighting without much ability to look to the future? Every HR professional has – and that’s where strategic HRM is an antidote. 


By itself, setting goals isn’t strategic HRM. Plucking a goal out of thin air – “oh, it’d be nice to recruit more graduates this year” – isn’t strategic HRM. As Harvard Business Review says, “setting goals is not a strategy”. 


Rather, strategic HRM is a framework that aligns HR goals with business needs, then determines how you’ll action them. 


That looks something like this:


HR Goals and Objectives



Let’s turn to trusty HubSpot for a nice definition of the difference between goals and objectives (they’re not interchangeable!):


“A goal is a desired result you want to achieve, and is typically broad and long-term. You might use company goals to inform yearly strategies and guide the direction of all your marketing efforts. 


An objective, on the other hand, defines the specific, measurable actions each employee must take to achieve the overall goal. For instance, if your overall goal is to increase brand awareness, one objective might be to increase blog traffic by 10%.”


This definition focuses on broader business goals but the exact same’s true for HR. We’ll cover some examples of HR goals and objectives in a moment, but that’s the general idea. 



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Strategic HR objectives in action: 3 examples 


So… what do HR goals and objectives actually look like? 


Well, there are various categories covering the human resources spectrum. Goals might slot into any of these wider categories across the HR spectrum:


  • Performance and productivity
  • Engagement and retention 
  • Rewards and recognition 
  • Organisational structure
  • HR visibility and collaboration
  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
  • Talent acquisition
  • Learning and Development 
  • Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
  • Employer branding 


Different goals – and categories – will apply depending on your company. For instance, increasing HR visibility and collaboration is likely more relevant at enterprise level than for SMEs. 


As we’ve said, strategic HRM is about creating a framework that tethers HR to your overarching business goals – where you become a true, value-add partner. So naturally, your goals will depend on your unique business context and can’t be templated.



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BUT that said, let’s look at some examples of HR objectives that might look something like yours. Remember these should be deeply informed by your business’ overarching goals rather than generic. That is, start from the business’ goals and map backwards, to outline how HR can help achieve them. 


1. Performance and productivity 


Business Goal: Increase revenue by 5%


HR Goal: Improve productivity across the business


HR Objectives: 


  • Increase percentage of employees who achieve top quartile performance ratings from 55% average across 2020 to 75% by Q4 2021.
  • Deliver productivity pulse survey to 100% of employees and achieve 80% completion rate by Q2 2021.
  • Achieve an average 90% ‘strongly agree’ or ‘agree’ results against productivity-enablement survey questions – ‘I have the tools and technology to succeed’.


And here’s another…


2. Employer branding  


Business Goal: Open three new offices globally 


HR Goal: Improve employer brand 


HR Objectives:


  • Increase number of qualified applicants per open role by 30% by Q4 2021.
  • Deliver candidate experience survey to 100% of candidates and secure a 70% positive feedback rate by Q4 2021.   
  • Increase careers site web traffic by 20% by Q4 2021. 


And a third…


3. Engagement and retention 


Business Goal: Develop and launch two new products 


HR Goal: Reduce engineering churn rate


HR Objectives:


  • Increase percentage of engineering department employees who give top quartile employee satisfaction scores to 80% by Q4 2021.
  • Secure 15% of new engineering hires through referrals by Q4 2021.
  • Increase manager check-ins from monthly to weekly for 100% engineering employees.


These aren’t prescriptive – for each business goal, you could have multiple HR goals depending on your business challenges. 


For example, if the business wants to develop and launch two new products, the main hurdle to doing so might be churn amongst engineers to build those products. But it might also be that you’re losing new talent to top competitors, so your goal might be around employer brand.  



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Next steps: how to successfully deliver HR objectives 


As we’ve said, setting goals isn’t a strategy. Once you’ve got your list of goals and objectives, you then need to turn those into a strategy to ensure you meet them. 


The stats suggest that’s something we’re often not so good at – especially SMEs. For instance, a recent survey found only 5% of small businesses achieve all their annual goals.


The next step’s critical. That is, defining the series of actions that need to happen to successfully realise your objectives (…to successfully realise your HR goals, and successfully realise the business goals).


Let’s take the example of the second objective on our third goal above – “Secure 15% of new engineering hires through referrals by Q4 2021.”


So – how will you do that? Here’re some ideas you’d probably bandy about:


  • Build referral incentive program 
  • Develop internal comms plan to market referral program internally
  • Prioritise referral-sourced candidates in your ATS for first interviews
  • Introduce internal hiring board to advertise roles internally first
  • Ensure recruiters respond to 100% of employee referrals within one week
  • Ask senior leadership team to promote referrals in all-hands meetings


That’s a concrete plan of action, right? And you’d do the same for every objective against every goal. Then you have a series of tangible steps your team needs to take to achieve the goals and objectives you’ve outlined.


And you can go even further, breaking each of those action points into steps too. 


Take “build referral incentive program.”


Ask yourself:


  • Who’ll own this project?
  • Who’ll be involved?
  • Which stakeholders need to buy-in?
  • Who needs to sign-off? 
  • What possible challenges could there be?
  • What supporting tools and technology will we need?
  • What’s a realistic timeframe?
  • What does success look like?
  • How will we measure our success? 


Then you have a concrete plan that ladders right back up to overarching business goals. And now, you’re ensuring your day-to-day HR activities relate back to something productive and meaningful for the wider business. That’s strategic HRM. 


Plus also, there’s the added benefit of your people knowing exactly how their work has an impact for the wider business. So there’s an employee engagement angle here too. Win, win.


HR can feel like firefighting; like endlessly playing catch-up as new crises emerge. And 2020’s only exacerbated that. Taking a more strategic approach by setting business-aligned HR goals and objectives creates space for HR to add more value as a business partner. It proves HR plays an instrumental role in helping the business succeed – and deserves a seat at the table. 


We’re Kenjo. We’re big believers in the amazing things HR can achieve when you stop firefighting and create space to be strategic. Learn more about our all-in-one HR software. 

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