9 Best Goal Setting Activities & Ideas for Work

By: | Updated: September 08, 2023

You found our list of engaging goal setting activities for work.

Goal-setting for work deals with setting clear, quantifiable, and role-specific goals for your staff as an essential part of their job at the organization. In most cases, a manager and their subordinates work together to set employee goals, which consider personal development goals, future job needs, and the availability of resources. Goal setting activities help employees track performance during their stay at your company, review development progress, and recommend any further training or education that may aid these goals.

These exercises are examples of professional development ideas and employee learning best practices. Instructions for these activities often appear in books on training and development.

This article contains:

  • goal setting icebreakers
  • goal setting games
  • goal setting activities for adults
  • goal setting workshop ideas

Let’s get started!

The importance of goal setting

Goal setting is pivotal in employees’ lives because it offers a straightforward path, motivates them to take action, holds them accountable, and fosters personal growth. Without clear and defined goals, folks often wander without a sense of purpose or drive to achieve meaningful objectives. However, when individuals establish specific, attainable, and time-bound goals, it inspires them and creates a strong sense of purpose.

In addition, achieving goals releases dopamine in the brain, a powerful incentive for positive behaviors. Further, sharing these goals with others adds an additional layer of accountability. Sharing goals creates a support system that encourages individuals to stay on course and adapt to challenges. In essence, goal setting guides workers toward success in various aspects of their lives. Goals can help folks improve in education, career, personal development, or any other pursuit they choose to undertake.

List of goal setting activities

Engaging activities help teach participants vital skills such as listening and experimentation. With these goal-setting ideas and activities, you may learn how to create attainable objectives, make amendments, prioritize, and analyze the risks of those goals. The following are goal-setting activities to consider at your workplace.

1. Accountability partnerships

Accountability partnerships involve two or more individuals working together to support each other in achieving their goals. You can create these partnerships as part of your goal setting workshop ideas. Participants regularly discuss their progress, setbacks, and challenges with their partners. In turn, partners offer encouragement, feedback, and a sense of responsibility. The partners hold each other accountable for staying on track and consistently achieving their goals.

This kind of partnership can be highly motivating and effective, as it adds an external layer of responsibility and support to the goal-setting process. Partnerships also help individuals stay committed, overcome obstacles, and celebrate successes together. Creating these teams fosters a sense of camaraderie and shared achievement as folks pursue their objectives.

2. Backward goal setting

Backward goal-setting is a workshop activity where participants begin with a large objective and gradually scale it down. First, employees will determine the vision and expected outcomes. Then, participants identify the milestones they will need to accomplish to reach the finish line.

Make sure your team is not only talking logically while creating goals for the larger picture. Humans are emotional beings, and all of our ideas and motivations stem from this emotional realm. Therefore, the goal-setting session should address both the rational and emotional reasons for desiring to accomplish the objectives. The session should also cover what succeeding would mean.

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3. Ball in the air

Ball in the air is one of the goal setting games you should consider. For this activity, you will need a beach ball or a balloon. The participants will break into two or three smaller groups. A group aims to keep the ball in the air for as long as possible without any participant touching the ball up to twice in a row.

Next, share how many hits the group can get and give them two minutes to devise a strategy to prevent the ball from falling. Then, each group will take turns to hit and note the number of hits they get. There are three attempts for each group, which gives them time to change their approach before each one. The winning team has the most hits in a single attempt.

With this activity, participants learn about the relationship between goal setting and collaboration. The details of a goal are important. Identifying what they can achieve, formulating a plan, and coming up with new ones if they fall short of their objectives are essential components of attaining team goals.

4. The ideal day

The ideal day is one of the most effective goal setting activities for adults. With this exercise, you can get participants thinking about the regular tasks and objectives they need to complete. In addition, it is possible to discover the difficulties that are stopping participants from attaining their larger objectives and results by asking them to envision an ideal day.

By discovering these issues, the participants can take steps to delegate or devise solutions by creating a method that addresses the underlying causes of those issues. The participants can identify if the problems are people-based or flaws in the system that require fixing.

The ideal day exercise may focus more on the fundamental goal-setting, but it may help uncover the negative things that appear minor but have a significant influence.

5. The winning lottery ticket

For this activity, you will ask employees what they would do if they win $20 million. For instance, you may want to know if the participants would spend or save the money and their priorities. Five minutes later, tell the employees the winning prize has dropped to $10 million. You can have the employees list the revisions they would want to make and the new priorities they would make. After that, let the participants know that the money has dropped further to $5 million and ask what changes they would make to their goals and priorities.

This activity aims to help participants identify and prioritize their core values and priorities. Having a clear understanding of the company’s core principles can help employees achieve their objectives in the workplace.

6. Personal SWOT analysis

A Personal SWOT analysis is a self-assessment tool. The tool evaluates users’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats about a specific goal or objective. In this process, individuals outline their strengths and weaknesses, such as skills, knowledge, and attributes. Participants also look into external opportunities and threats, like environmental factors or circumstances that may impact their goal. This analysis provides insights into how to use strengths, minimize weaknesses, capitalize on opportunities, and prepare for potential challenges. By conducting a personal SWOT analysis, individuals gain a clearer understanding of their current positions. With this insight, folks can make more informed decisions when setting and pursuing goals. 

7. One, some, many

You will need paper, markers, a whiteboard, and sticky notes for this activity. The organizer will hand out sticky notes and ask each participant to write down three personal objectives. Participants will form a group of two or three and discuss their personal goals. You can ask the participants to combine similar or identical objectives and create new goals.

All groups should get together to write down their common objectives on the board. Afterward, let the team members work together to sort common or relevant group objectives.

This activity is one of the best goal setting icebreakers, as students learn how to find shared objectives and work together to attain them, even if their goals are not similar.

8. Standing ovation

This activity requires each participant to think about one of their most important objectives. The host can then ask the participants to close their eyes and pretend that they have accomplished their aim. The participants can imagine themselves in front of a crowd praising them. The members can also include as many details as possible to make this scene come alive.

Participants can then open their eyes and write down their goals and the steps that they will take to achieve them. Participants should have ten minutes to jot down the processes that led up to the standing ovation and then move back to the current time.

Team members learn how to create goals backward in this goal setting activity. By beginning with the ultimate goal and then thinking about the lesser objectives leading up to the goal, participants can determine the major milestones to aim for initially. Setting goals backward makes it easier to follow the process and eliminates any ambiguity from using the conventional goal-setting approach.

9. Setting legacy

Legacy is a great goal-setting workshop exercise. Humans are emotional beings, and it is easier to get them to set goals when there is an emotional explanation. Asking participants what legacy they want to set allows them to jot down important tasks that are what to accomplish to feel like they have lived a life worth living. This remarkable exercise will have participants sticking to their objectives even when they lack the motivation to do so.

Goal-setting may help your company’s employees become more invested in their work. You can increase employee engagement, participation, and motivation on the job.

The advantages of goal-setting at work

There are many advantages to implementing goal setting ideas to foster employees’ professional growth. These include:

1. Better retention rate

According to an InStride survey, 94 percent of workers who leave their jobs think they would have stayed if their employer had invested more in employee education. Therefore, a goal-setting approach that promotes skill-building and lifelong learning has the potential to lower employee turnover.

Here are more employee retention techniques.

2. Better employee engagement

Goal setting at work can increase daily work engagement and prompt an improvement in motivation and performance. Talent development can also equip employees to achieve their objectives. Employees who believe they have a purpose in a company are often more committed to their jobs.

Here is a list of employee engagement best practices.

3. An edge over the competition

More than 96 percent of business executives that participated in a poll by InStride feel that investing in employee training provides a competitive advantage. An organization will grow if its goals align with employee goals and skill-building.

You will get greater outcomes and more efficiency out of your efforts if you engage in goal-setting activities. You will be able to spend less time on things that do not work and more time on those that do.

Tips for goal setting activities

You can achieve success with goal setting activities and workshops by considering the following tips.

1. Break down goals

Breaking down goals involves splitting larger objectives into smaller, more manageable tasks or milestones. By breaking down goals, individuals can understand a clear roadmap for their journey. This map allows folks to focus on specific actions, measure progress, and maintain motivation. This strategy prevents feeling overwhelmed and offers a sense of achievement as individuals complete each smaller task. These feelings contribute to the overall accomplishment of the larger goal.

2. Set deadlines

Setting deadlines is a crucial part of effective goal setting. Deadlines create a sense of urgency and structure in the goal-setting process. These goalposts create a timeframe within which individuals aim to achieve their objectives. These time constraints can prevent procrastination, encourage productivity, and help with time management. When setting deadlines, it is essential to be realistic and consider the complexity of the goal and other commitments. Deadlines can be daily, weekly, monthly, or long-term, depending on the nature of the goal. Deadlines help prioritize and ensure that progress is steady and measurable as individuals work toward their goals.

3. Aim for SMART Goals

Consider starting with a SMART project goal and target outline. During this process, involve all team members for clear understanding. Be sure to include the project’s name, creation date, objective, and success milestones.

SMART goals have five key components:

  • Specific: Clearly define your goals and responsibilities.
  • Measurable: Determine success metrics, like work completed, project count, and product quality.
  • Achievable: Identify needed skills and resources, ensuring alignment with team members.
  • Relevance: Understand how goals fit into the bigger picture.
  • Time-bound: Set deadlines for goal completion.

SMART goals help set boundaries, allocate resources, and identify success indicators for your project.

4. Prepare for the project’s obstacles

For this assignment, you will be looking at the objective from a larger viewpoint that focuses on preparing your approach to possible hurdles and planning success around them.

The first step is to get every employee on the same page and agree on a goal. The next step is to develop an action plan that identifies each team member’s tasks and assigns them according to their strengths. Next, list all the tools and resources you will need and the ones you already have at your fingertips.

After that, list all the advantages of reaching your objectives. You should consider why the objective is essential and how it relates to the company’s core values before deciding how to attain it. As the last step, think about any potential roadblocks that may occur throughout the project. To overcome each obstacle, you should devise a detailed plan of action.

5. Consider mutual goals when building a team

This idea is similar to creating an emotional connection to the team’s goals. It is vital to make sure that all team members are on the same page for their professional growth. This step will benefit both individual projects and team projects in the long run. Having a team that understands each other and is working toward the same objectives may help everyone learn from each other and assist each other achieve greater levels of success.


Finally, you can expect significant success rates by clearly stating business and project objectives. Team members also need a chance to establish a clear strategy. By giving your team the necessary resources and working with them to design a personalized action plan, each member will feel included and heard. Employees will also establish a greater connection to the project, encouraging them to face difficulties and surpass expectations.

There are several advantages to emphasizing employee goal setting in your company, from increased employee engagement to greater retention. It is also a great way to show your employees that management cares about their development and commits to helping them enhance their careers.

For more guidance, check out this guide on giving employee feedback and these examples of effective employee coaching.

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FAQ: Goal setting activities

Here are some frequently asked questions about goal setting activities.

What are some good goal setting activities for adults?

Some goal setting activities include the ideal day, success definition, and backward goal-setting.

How do you do a goal setting event in the office?

You can plan a goal setting event in the office by setting SMART goals, defining the company’s goals, and planning for potential obstacles.

Author avatar


People & Culture Director at teambuilding.com.
Grace is the Director of People & Culture at teambuilding.com. She studied Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, Information Science at East China Normal University and earned an MBA at Washington State University.


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