While SMART goals are generally recognized as a goal management best-practice, writing them is not easy. It takes some practice, but especially vigilance, to ensure that an employee's goals are effective. It's easy to get bogged down in the theories, especially since there are several different variations of what the SMART acronym stands for.
When managers and employees know how to write SMART goals, it helps take the subjectivity out of goal setting, and ensures they have a shared set of expectations. The real aim is to specify the who, what, where, when and why for the goal and ensure shared understanding and expectations. All of these elements are critical for helping align goals throughout your organization. Remember, the ultimate purpose is always to help the employee, and by extension, the organization, succeed.
Research has found that as many as half of all workers say they don't know their organization's high level goals. Further, more than half of all workers say don't clearly understand their own goals. How can an organization succeed if its workforce does not have clear, aligned goals?
The elements that make a goal SMART
Here's a practical breakdown of how to make goals SMART. Since there are several different expansions for the SMART acronym, you'll need to consider how your organization defines SMART.
Examples of SMART goals
Here are a few examples of SMART goals that give you an idea of the wording and tone that can be used:
1) Attend the "Assertive Communication" course by the end of Q4 to improve communication and negotiation skills used in team work environments.
2) Title: Manage the execution of the TSHM project.
Description: Maintain an overall plan that tracks project requirements/inputs, deliverables and milestones. Provide the client with weekly status updates, identifying work completed, plans for the coming week, and any challenges/roadblocks, and attend weekly status meetings. Work with the software development manager and QA manager to review weekly work assignments and ensure timely progress on deliverables. Track the identification and resolution of issues, bugs/errors.
Milestones: Email weekly status updates to client by 4 p.m. each Friday.
Due date: Final application files must be delivered to the client by April 30th.
3) Corporate goal: Achieve a 90% customer satisfaction rating for the MDX product by the end of the year.
Individual goal: Create the end user guide for release 10 of the MDX product.
Description: Using the product specification, design specification and user interface specification for input, update the existing MDX release 9 user guide to include all new features and functions included in release 10. Check the Problem Reporting System for any outstanding problem reports pertaining to the release 9 documents, and make updates/edits as required. Test all updated document sections, using the technical trial system to ensure accuracy and completeness. Send the tech trial draft and final documents to the product manager and design manager for review/signoff before release, and incorporate any required changes. Ensure all ISO9000 quality records are completed as required.
Milestones: Draft documents, approved by the product manager, must be available for the product technical trial scheduled to start on August 13, 2013. Final files must be shipped to the printer at least 2 weeks prior to the product release date.
Due date: Product Release, November 19, 2013
Designing your employee evaluation form to support SMART goals
When designing your employee evaluation form, you may want to include some of the following items to encourage and support managers in writing SMART goals:
- A definition or expansion of the acronym SMART
- An appropriate example of a SMART goal
- Sufficient space to provide a detailed description
- A field to list the higher level organizational goal that this goal is linked to
- An area to list any important milestones
- A separate field to capture the way success will be measured
- A separate field for the due date
- A limited number of fields to enter goals, to limit the overall number of goals assigned to each employee
Take a look at a few sample employee evaluation forms and see how they handle goals.