Examples of smart goals for employees
— August 12th, 2021
Why SMART goals are important for a business
There are a number of reasons why organizations should set goals for employees, chief among them is to evaluate an employee's performance and to establish a definite roadmap for their progression. But vague, generalized goals will not have the desired impact on an employee's performance, for that you're going to need SMART goals.
By their nature, SMART goals are: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and have a set time frame. Let's break down each element.
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- Specific: you need to get really explicit about the goals you set. Ambiguous objectives such as "boost customer satisfaction" will not inspire your employees. You will need details, give them something to work towards. So be specific. Instead of "boost customer satisfaction", set a goal to "increase customer satisfaction from 55% to 70% by the end of the financial year".
- Measurable: when setting goals, you will need to make sure you can measure an employee's performance against those goals. A good rule of thumb is to include specific figures in your goals, such as "increase sales in region X by 3% during the first quarter". By including figures you can more easily measure how an employee's work stacks up against the goal.
- Attainable: be sensible with the goals you set, make them possible. By setting goals that are simply not achievable you risk de-motivating your employees who know they will never be able to reach the lofty goals you've outlined. This could have a detrimental effect on staff morale and could lead to high churn rates. So stick with the possible – create goals that challenge your employees but also give them an opportunity to excel.
- Realistic: don't just pluck goals out of the air, really think about goals that are relevant to specific employees and realistic within their role. For this, you will need to understand your employees' day-to-day job, and the areas of the business they can impact. It's ok to be creative with goal setting, but SMART goals are all about establishing goals that make sense to your employees.
- Timeframe: you will need to detail a time frame within which each goal needs to be achieved. Not including a timeline risks the goal becoming an ongoing task that can't be measured correctly and could end up not having any impact at all. This, of course, fits in with setting attainable goals too as you will need to consider what exactly can be achieved within a specific time frame.
Goals are a vital part of assessing employees' performance, but SMART goals are also best aligned with the overall business objectives. When establishing goals, review your business objectives: are you expanding into a new market, do you need to satisfy increased demands for popular products, are you opening a new office, has a competitor edged ahead of you?
Understand the wider organizational goals so that you can set professional SMART goals that will have a significant impact on where the business is going.
Goals should also be reviewed at the end of each time period. Evaluate how employees performed within each objective, and refresh the goals for the next time period. Don't simply re-hash the same goals each quarter. Use the information you have to create new goals or even just slightly modified objectives.
If you notice that none of your sales team hit your target of hitting a sales increase of 5%, then perhaps this was an unattainable goal. Review each goal on an ongoing basis to get the most out of your employees.
Make sure you communicate with your employees on how they feel about their performance and the goals they've been set. Encourage them to be open about the targets you've set. Ask them for feedback; it might be worth sending regular Pulse surveys to get a sense of how they feel about the goals that have been set.
It's worth taking the time to finesse your employee objectives and to make sure they hit the mark. Ultimately, SMART goals will help boost employee performance and drive, while at the same time helping your department to have a tangible impact on the organization as a whole.
Important questions to ask when setting goals for employees
Statistics show that 29% of millennials, the largest generational cohort in the workforce, attribute their lack of engagement to a lack of career and professional development opportunities. In this way, it's easy to see why professional development opportunities benefit
both individual employees and the organization itself. It’s important to understand what employees need in order to feel their work is worthwhile and that they are increasing their skills level. Important questions to ask employees are the following:
- Do you feel you are growing professionally in your job?
- Do you have the opportunity to do challenging things at work?
- Do you see a path to advance in your career in the organization?
- What are your career goals within the company?
- Do you feel a sense of accomplishment from what you do?
- Is your role an excellent fit with your strengths?
- Does the organization offer enough training opportunities to keep your knowledge and skills up to date?
- Does your job enable you to learn and develop new skills?
- What specific job skills would you like to develop?
- In the last month, have you had opportunities to learn and grow?
- Does my manager or a mentor encourage and support your development?
- Does the feedback you receive help you grow and develop?
- Does your direct manager give fair and practical feedback to help you improve your work?
Alignment between the goals of an organization, its teams, and individual employees is essential. According to Salesforce, 86% of employees and executives cite lack of teamwork or ineffective communication for workplace failures. Incorporating everyone’s individual goals into team goals means one person’s success is everyone’s success.
Team members are ultimately working towards the same outcome and should be encouraged to understand how their personal strengths and individual goals are contributing to a bigger picture. Employees will also know what the rest of the team is working on alongside them and will never feel unfairly burdened to take on too many tasks. Questions to ask include:
- Does your team have a shared purpose and mission?
- Do members of the team clearly understand their role in achieving this purpose?
- Does team problem-solving result ineffective solutions?
- Are members of the team rewarded for their unique contributions and efforts?
- Does the team appreciate one another's unique capabilities?
- Are conflicts within the team resolved collaboratively?
- Do team members take responsibility for their performance and effectiveness?
- Does the team have the necessary skills to meet shared goals?
- Are any issues dealt with quickly?
- Does the team have a can-do approach?
When it comes to an employee looking to reach a specific goal it’s important to ensure that a solid plan is in place that will make the process much more likely to succeed. Employees should be encouraged to consider what it is they wish to achieve, and then commit to it whole-heartedly.
Thankfully, there are some very well-defined steps that will allow employees to formulate goals that they can accomplish.
These steps can be as simple as writing out a to-do list of the actions needed and crossing them out as soon as they are completed.
When workers can understand what exactly the goal is and why it's important for them to reach it, their motivation and drive to get there will increase significantly. Ask questions such as:
- Do you have the tools and skills needed to reach your goals?
- Is your goal clear and well-defined?
- Is your goal attainable?
- Is the goal relevant to the direction you want your career to take?
- Have you made an action plan?
- How will your goal fit into the rest of your workload?
- What is the time frame for reaching the desired target?
- How have others been able to achieve similar goals?
- Are other relevant team members available to help if you need it?
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Goals-based evaluation is used to determine the outcome of a project when compared to the goals of the original plan. To be successful in reaching targets, consistent evaluation is necessary to help decide if the goals are worthwhile and if there is, in fact, progress being made in the time and effort it takes to achieve them.
This evaluation also helps organizations to measure employees’ professional development and success. Apart from this it offers businesses the opportunity to further develop successful processes and either discard or reconfigure unsuccessful ones.
- What accomplishments this quarter are you most proud of?
- Which goals did you meet? Which goals fell short?
- What motivates you to get your job done?
- What can I do to make your job more rewarding?
- What are your ideal working conditions to be the most productive?
- How would you rate your performance this quarter?
- Are you happy with your current role?
It’s important for every organization to understand the importance of goal setting when it comes not just to their employees' sense of engagement but ultimately to the success of the company itself. Implementing the SMART goal concept allows employees to develop clear and focused objectives that can be achieved within a given timeframe.
Goal setting is much more than a person simply saying that they want something to happen. They must clearly define exactly what they want and understand why they want it in the first place.
Goal setting at any organization can be viewed as a key ingredient in possessing a focused and driven workforce. The setting of these goals will have a host of benefits including performance motivation, thoughtful planning, clear direction, increased alignment, and effective evaluation, which are all key ingredients to the running of a successful organization.