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How to Set Goals for Engineers: Guide for Team Managers

CEO Alcor
How to Set Goals for Engineers: Guide for Team Managers - Alcor BPO profile
Professional areas include business structuring of tech companies in Eastern Europe, business & team management, and leadership practices.
6 August 2022
9 min

Methods of organizing business processes help to achieve the planned results; however and foremost, this happens due to a motivating environment, correctly set objectives, and the impact of relationships in the team. Often, team leads understand what goals will lead the company to success but not how to set them correctly for technical employees, as well as tech leads can understand how to develop a plan for the team but may lose the goals for the product. Therefore, the most important duty and an essential aspect of the manager’s development is the ability to create and develop such an environment. 


This correct goals definition plays a significant role here. The general availability and transparency of the goals help each employee realize how vital his/her work is and how it affects the achievement of the team and business as a whole. In this article, I’d like to discuss popular methods and frameworks for setting measurable goals for engineers and their advantages.


Setting Goals for Engineers: Main Approaches


There are various techniques and frameworks for setting and planning team goals. For example, the well-known Key Performance Indicator (KPI) helps teams track their results and task feasibility. This indicator works well when a company needs to evaluate its condition and assess the strategy’s overall performance. However, solely KPI usage for team evaluation can distort the actual situation and create an unhealthy atmosphere in the company. The reasons for this can differ – from incorrectly set indicators to uneven loading in the team. Still, the main one is a poorly chosen indicator for evaluating teamwork.


To ensure that such situations occur as rarely as possible, or not at all, engineering team managers recommend using the Objectives and Key Results method. It allows you to link goals for engineers with business goals; in this way, each employee makes every effort to implement the company’s strategy. Nowadays, OKRs are used by industry leaders, multinational corporations, and global brands such as Intel, Google, Linkedin, Zynga, Twitter, Oracle, Netflix, BMW, Disney, Salesforce, and Samsung. Let’s see what it consists of and how it differs from the well-known KPI.


Key results and key indicators: what is the difference?


The main difference between OKR and KPI is the scope of the metric.


KPI is a quantitative index for evaluating the company’s strategic and tactical goals. As a rule, KPI for an employee consists of 3-5 indicators, and each shows different vital characteristics of the product or company. The index’s evaluation method compares the factual, minimum, and maximum target values. 


OKR is a quality indicator for project management. It consists of an objective that indicates what needs achieving, and key results which reflect precisely how to achieve the goal. Moreover, each software engineer can have 3-4 objectives, and each goal can have 2-5 results.


Here are some engineering performance goals examples.




How to Set Up Goals for Engineers?


It might seem complicated to set goals for the engineering team. However, several principles facilitate this process.


Set goals from top to bottom


For the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities of employees to align with the business goals, they must flow from the key goals of the entire company. This allows you to bring all the objectives to one dashboard and increases the team’s overall productivity. Therefore, the implementation of the OKR system is better to be carried out from top to bottom: from company managers to department heads, from heads to performers.



Use a SMART approach


SMART is an acronym for a set of characteristics needed to contrive a clear goal. Such an approach helps define the desired outcome statement and provides a sense of direction. According to this approach, the SMART goals for engineers should be:

  • Specific. The objective should be formulated clearly and specifically and set the work direction. Otherwise, the team will not be able to focus on achieving it.
  • Measurable. It is necessary to establish specific criteria for measuring progress towards achieving the goal. Participants should stay focused, meet deadlines, and be able to track their progress.
  • Achievable. The goal should be ambitious but realistic and achievable simultaneously. Goal attainability is determined based on experience, resources, and constraints. If the goal seems unattainable or its performance is not alright, it’s better to step back to make an objective review and choose a more doable one.
  • Relevant. The engineering goals must be meaningful and consistent with the company’s major goals. If a goal seems hard to achieve, and you are not confident it fits the company objectives, you can set an intermediate short-term to test the waters.
  • Time-bound. The goal should be limited in time. Establishing time frames and boundaries for achieving the goal allows you to make the management process controllable.

Here are a few examples of smart goals for engineers:



Objective: Resolve problems in UX


Key results:

  • Fixed critical bugs affecting the software by the end of this quarter; 
  • Successful program testing after each partial completion.




Objective: Increase traffic to the website


Key results:

  • Automated the crash report trigger within 4 months;
  • Reduced recovery time after a failure by 40%.



These objectives are SMART as they are:


  • Specific (to increase traffic to the website);
  • Measurable (to reduce recovery time by 40%); 
  • Attainable; 
  • Relevant for business development;  
  • Limited in time (within 4 months, by the end of the quarter, etc.).



Collect feedback


Conduct brainstormings with your team on professional goals for engineers to collect feedback and use it to adjust the objective. That will help you avoid common mistakes and misconceptions. If the team thinks a particular goal is unachievable, it’s best to know about that before setting it as an objective. When you are open to new ideas, perspectives, and dialogue, you’re rewarded with valuable information.


Hold one-on-one meetings


It’s essential to have regular one-on-one conversations with your colleagues about their goals, provide training, acknowledge success, and identify any obstacles along the way. That can help avoid conflicts of interest between personal and team goals. Resolving issues regularly with your team will also ensure they don’t get lost in the daily workflow.



The Principles to Build Development Goals for Software Engineers


Each team member has an individual attitude towards professional goals: some strive for leadership, while others feel comfortable as specialists and get stressed in a manager role. That’s why every talent in your team needs an individual approach. Understanding your tech talents’ career goals and plans will help you connect with them and not just set long-term goals for the engineers on your team. Also, it creates a growth environment where each member develops and seeks their professional aspirations. Here are some development goals examples for engineers and several principles that help determine whether your goal is good.



Objective: Progressing towards a Senior Software Developer role


Key results:

  • Complete 3 projects as the lead engineer;
  • Successfully mentor 1 intern (or new hire) this quarter;
  • Get positive feedback from 2 people on technical communication skills;




Objective: Improve code quality


Key results:

  • Fix 4 medium level bugs this quarter;
  • Increase the code coverage to 85% on Product X by the end of the year;
  • Refactor 1 area of code you did not initially create;
  • Create and revise documentation for each feature worked on this quarter.



A good goal is ambitious and requires synergy


First, the engineering manager needs to set ambitious goals for each team member, designed individually but considering the entire team’s capabilities – to force everyone to focus on the objective. With this approach, your team will grow beyond the specific boundaries you set for them.


The goal set for an individual employee should develop the entire team


For example, the goal “read a book” is too personal – it does not bring value to your team. It can only help grow an individual junior employee. And at the same time, the goal of “conducting training for colleagues” is successful both for the performer (it is necessary to prepare a lecture) and for employees (acquaintance with new material).


The goal is not KPI


It is important not to misunderstand that the goal is not a performance metric for a working project but a direction for its development. KPI is an instrument, whereas a goal is a final point you want to reach in the end.


All in all, proper goal setting is the key to the engineering team and organization. This complex process includes many components, such as each participant’s potential, company goals, and the team’s interaction.


Consider Alcor BPO Your Trusted Partner


Alcor is an international IT recruitment services company that focuses on finding exceptional IT specialists, headhunting technical managers, and creating a software research and development center in Poland, Romania, and all Eastern Europe! 


eastern europe developers - Alcor BPO


Acting like an entire IT recruiting company, our researchers explore the market and create a candidate profile, while our IT recruiters are experienced negotiators who conduct HR interviews and pre-screening for you. They know how to present the employer’s value proposition and get candidates interested in your company. With a wealth of experience in recruiting for the tech industry, we help software companies tailor job vacancies to the local IT market and reduce the cost of hiring.


Among our clients is Dotmatics (formerly Insightsoftware), which develops a unique product for biologists. The company has chosen Eastern Europe to build its software development team. Their management was concerned about rapid and high-quality recruitment of IT specialists and interested in the team’s direct control. The company needed specialists such as the Director of Engineering, Full Stack, React, QA Automation, DevOps, and Node.js. Alсor helped adjust the local tech market vacancies and assembled a strong team of more than 30 talents over a year. The client received a cohesive team they could manage directly and set individual goals for each member, which would not be possible with outsourcing and outstaffing companies.


With Alcor, you also get the full set of IT compliance managed services needed for accreditation and successful operation of an R&D office in Eastern Europe! Provide your offshore development team with transparent accounting and  qualified legal support. Stay focused on your product — we’ll take care of everything else.


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🔎 What is the difference between OKR and KPI?

The main difference between OKR and KPI is the scope of the metric. KPI is a quantitative index for assessing companies’ strategic and tactical goals. OKR is a quality indicator for project management.

🔎 How do you set goals for an engineering team?

Best to use the OKR method. Key results should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. You can also remember this by the mnemonic acronym SMART. Among SMART goals for engineers, examples are the following: improve the stability of product releases by 50% in 3 months, acquire 3 new management skills by the end of the year, etc.

🔎 What are the good career goals for engineers?

A good engineering goal allows IT specialists to develop their skills and simultaneously bring the whole team to the next level. That may include the training of junior programmers or the implementation of new technology in product development.

Contact Us

Contact us to receive a free analysis of your positions!

It includes the salary ranges and availability of the requested developers in Poland, Romania, and other countries in EE (as well as time-to-hire metrics and other KPIs for your case).

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