The Website and Blog of HR Author and Speaker Lori Kleiman

SMART Goals: You Can’t Get There Without a Map!

SMART goals are great for HR pros to use to help employees produce results.

When we wake up in the morning, we have a plan of what we need to accomplish. It comes from a larger picture of knowing what you need to do, or the expectations others may have of us. Without that knowledge, we’re just going through the motions and not adding value.

I recently attended a program on goal setting, and realized that what I think is common business language, is not all that common at all. The tried and true format for setting goals with employees is still on point today. Human Resource professionals refer to setting SMART goals. In doing so, a manager and employee determine what the outcomes of successful performance will look like, and how any employee is expected to get there.

There are five steps to effective goal setting which create the SMART acronym:

Specific – Clearly state WHAT is to be accomplished and for whom. Don’t talk about better communication, identify e-mails to be clearly written, presentations to be concise, etc.

Measurable – How will the end results be measured? Use quantitative measures of cost, quality or time whenever possible. All subjectivity should be eliminated from successful completion. The employee should know whether she met the goal long before a manager tells her.

Action-oriented – Emphasize the need to take a specific action to achieve desired results. Be clear on what steps in the process may be required, including training or deliverables.

Realistic – Ask the employee to stretch his current abilities, but ensure the goal is within reach and will not be so difficult to attain that it becomes frustrating. Often this requires “mini-goals” to be completed before the large, long-term goal can be realized.

Time – When is the goal expected to be achieved? Never go more than a year out. Shorter, smaller goals provide success points that maintain employee engagement. Be sure that annual planning includes deadlines throughout the year. Having all goals due at the same time can allow for poor time management on the part of employees.

Goals are the foundation of any forward-thinking organization. To be effective, the employee should have control and accountability for the success or failure of attaining the goal. The manager should feel confident that by providing an objective measurable goal, the next performance alignment meeting will produce results.

HR Hacks contains a SMART goal template that will help you think through all the elements when creating goals with your employees.
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