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.
- 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.