The two most popular frameworks for corporate goal setting are SMART goals and OKRs. We’ve written about both, and more extensively about OKRs, but we wanted to give you more information on SMART goals.
The S.M.A.R.T. goals formula is commonly associated with Peter Drucker’s Management By Objectives concepts. SMART goals encourage the employee to use SMART objectives to detail how a goal will be accomplished -- basically a reality check for your goals. Set SMART goals by writing them in a way that answers the following SMART criteria:
- Specific: Does the goal have specific means and ends?
- Measurable: Can the goal be measured, and how?
- Actionable/Achievable: What are the specific actions that will lead to this goal? What do you need to do in order to accomplish this goal?
- Relevant/Realistic: Is this goal relevant to your job duties, team, and company? Is it based on factors that are under your control?
- Time-bound: What is the time period? Is it a deadline or target date or time limit, or is it on a regular schedule?
The best way to use the SMART acronym is less as a template for setting goals, and more like smart criteria to check your goal against during your goal setting process. This will help you build a workable action plan with a target date (or that is time-bound in some way) that will stand up to management review. Diving deep into the details also builds a sense of urgency -- goal-setters feel they can start right away. This is much more motivating and realistic than having a vague future plan for what they want to try to achieve, which is more of an intention than a goal. While it's great for an employee to have a personal mission statement, the lack of specificity means there’s no way of making sure their goal aligns with broader business goals. The SMART goal setting system helps everyone from project managers to team members ask specific questions when setting goals.
We have examples of initial goals to show you how the SMART criteria can check your goals to make sure you can actually accomplish them. We also wanted to give you some less work-specific goals that could help everyone understand how the SMART goals process works. (Yes, they are based on on some of this writer's actual personal goals this year.) SMART goals can work for individual as well as group projects, for a project manager to a whole team of direct reports, for shipping features for the mobile app or current site, for software development, for encouraging the design team to make goals around customer experience, for the sales team landing new clients, or in helping the marketing team improve their powerpoint skills.
Example of a not-SMART goal: Get your whole company to set SMART goals.
Specific: Teach managers how to make SMART goals, and get them to encourage their employees to do the same. Managers and employees can set goals in a collaborative process so that both have clear expectations regarding what success for a specific goal looks like. This will also help your employee understand their performance plan goals -- that is, goals they need to have to improve their performance beyond their last performance review. SMART goals aren't simply assignable, because building these goals out is part of your employee's career and personal development. Set up this process specifically after an employee review so that these goals can be beneficial for managers and employees in terms of building out performance goals.
Measurable: Use a performance and goal management system like Lattice where you can see goals being made (either in the software or through Slack). This will also help your managers make sure they and their direct reports are on the same page, as both can wait until a goal has gone through management review to post them. Lattice has automated systems to encourage you and your direct reports to update your goals, so employees can own goals, whether they're increasing sales, improving customer relationships, or updating the company website.
Attainable: Doing this after a review and teaching your managers to teach their employees will help you build a workable action plan with a target date. Encouraging your employees to dive deep into the details also builds a sense of urgency -- goal-setters feel they can start right away. This is much more motivating and realistic than having a vague future plan for what they want to try to achieve, which is more of an intention than a goal.
Relevant: Setting these type of goals will hopefully make your company more productive, more motivated, and more engaged overall. As HR, employee engagement is incredibly important to your own goals at the company.
Time-bound: Since you’re setting this up after an employee review, tell your managers to plan to check in and renew their direct reports’ performance goals by the end of the quarter, or during the mid-year review. Whether you have a startup or small business, or an established company, we suggest ongoing goal setting throughout the year as a means to encourage employee engagement and effective project management.
SMART goal example: For the next performance review, teach each your managers how to make SMART goals and encourage them to pass on this information to their direct reports. Use a software such as Lattice to keep track of goal setting and help your managers and employees own their performance goals. Encourage each manager to check in with their employees at the end of the quarter, and/or by the next review.
Example of a not-SMART goal: Read more in the new year.
Specific: Read novels every month.
Measurable: Read at least two per month, and keep track of these books in a journal.
Attainable: You can watch less TV and use less social media to have more time for book-reading. You can put more books on hold at the library, including ebooks (which you can read on your phone during your commute). Can also dive into your bookshelf of unread books.
Relevant: Reading more books will contribute to my long term goals of happiness and my insatiable need for knowledge (without being as upsetting as reading news all day).
Time-bound: This personal goal ends at the end of the year.
SMART goal example: Read two novels every month. Borrow books (both physical and ebooks) from the library and/or your friends and/or tapping into the unread books on your bookshelf. Watch less TV and use less social media, turning to books instead. And keep track of the books you read in a journal so you can review it at the end of the year.
Example of a not-SMART goal: Work on time management.
Specific: Set achievable goals and make deadlines with realistic time frames that you can deliver on for your projects.
Measurable: Beef up project planning: set a date for a project, and identify all the things that keep you from hitting that deadline. What (or who!) are your roadblocks? What (or who) are available resources that you're not tapping into? Are you spending too much time on Slack? Are you talking to the right people about the project, or are team members coming by your desk and dropping too many things on your lap for you to finish your own projects? Examine that period of time and see what's getting in the way of your project progress.
Attainable: There's flexibility to the date on your project, so you can adjust it based on what you learn. You might learn that it's better or more realistic to accomplish it if give yourself at least an extra day/week/hour/etc. Or you might learn that you're being pulled into projects that are actually a waste of your time, and get in the way of your personal project goals.
Relevant: Knowing how you use your time and how to be smarter about it will help you use your and your team members' time better, and help you achieve your business goals with less stress and more follow-through. This is also related to my business-related performance goals because I want to take my content production output to a higher level and keep track of changes to my work style, which will help prepare me for my next review.
Time-bound: When you make time-related target dates, how do you use that time period? Check in after the project ends to see how you managed your time, and use that data to inform your goal setting for your next project.
SMART goal example: Improve time management by experimenting with your deadlines and incorporating strategic planning into creating timelines for work projects. Take note of what gets in your way and what helps you finish your work on time. Figure out how this new information can help you determine what deadlines are realistic for your next projects.