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As IT manager what goals would you set for your programmers in your team. These goals would be used in the annual performance review. Any recommendations?

How would you create goals that actually measure programmers technical abilities.

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I'd try to dovetail this with the technical diretion of the company - are you trying to move all your GUI to WPF? Then learning WPF would be a good goal. I'd always emphasize learning the business - the more the programmers know about the business the better they can help automate.

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This can be really difficult, because good goals for employees should be specific and quantifiable. As we know, quantifying a programmer's productivity is definitely a conundrum.

In my experience managing programmers, I try to create goals based on the long term goals of the individual employee. For example, if the programmer aspires to move into management I'll set a goal for them to seek out and take on leadership roles on teams or projects to help them build some informal authority that will be necessary for the transition.

Usually, however, to create measurable goals they tend to be fairly task oriented. For example getting a MCDBA certification for someone who wants to move into a DBA role. For someone who claims they want to improve/learn on a particular technology I'll usually pick a goal like reading x books on the topic or teaching a brown-bag class to the other developers on the technology.

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If the goals that are set can be objectively measured (e.g., successfully passing the MCDBA exams, completing a particular course, having less than X% of your code returned for rework) it is even better because it takes out the room for opinion and argument. You made it or you didn't. –  Todd Williamson Oct 21 '10 at 21:27
    
Certifications as goals is something we're doing where I work: it's objective, it benefits the employees, and it benefits the company too (since Microsoft partnership levels have requirements around numbers of employees with certain certifications). –  Carson63000 Oct 21 '10 at 22:06
    
I'm conflicted on certifications as goals. They are measurable and objective, but somewhat dubious as to how much value they add to the company unless it is a consulting firm. –  JohnFx Oct 21 '10 at 22:35
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I generally set goals that are product oriented so it's clear what we're working on. However, I realize that those may change so I usually include goals that help the team while working on what I believe is a weakness of the team member. For example, if the team member struggles writing English, I create a goal that requires them to write (they can't get better if they avoid doing it).

I also like to include goals that help them achieve their personal goals. If they indicate they want to move from code-monkey to developer, then I'll set a goal or two that requires them to help write a spec document.

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