Tip sheet – developing goals

What are SMART goals?

An important part of managing employee performance is establishing goals for the upcoming year. The purpose of setting these goals is not to detail daily activities, but to help define larger challenges that the employee will work toward over the course of the year. To ensure that employees write effective goals you can use the SMART criteria:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Ambitious and achievable
  • Results-based
  • Time-bound

SMART goals help the manager and employee clearly understand what is expected in order to ensure that a proper annual evaluation takes place.

How to write SMART goals

In order to be effective, every goal written should adhere to each of the SMART criteria:

Specific – The goal should define specific results and provide concrete details on what is to be achieved. For example, “Start writing a monthly department newsletter” is more specific than “Improve inter-department communication.”

Measurable – When writing the goal, define how the success of the goal can be measured. There are several ways to measure goals:

  • Behavior: An observable change in an employee’s actions
  • Quantity: A numerical increase or decrease
  • Quality: How well the result meets the criteria set in a goal
  • Cycle time: Time from request to completion; processing time
  • Efficiency: Resources (time, budget, people) applied to achieve the result

Ambitious and achievable – Goals should be challenging and go beyond day-to-day duties while at the same time being achievable.

Results-based – When writing a goal, state the results to be achieved rather than the activity or work processes leading to those results. Focus on what needs to be accomplished.

Time-bound – Establish a time limit. State the date by which results must happen, or, for ongoing expectations, specify how often the goal or expectation must be met as well as how often it will be reviewed.

Examples of SMART goals

  • To reconcile the department financial reports by the fifteenth of every month with no increase in reconciliation errors.
  • To lead the assessment and redesign of the department’s webpage in order to create a professional and student-focused website. Develop, revise, and design by September 2017.
  • To reduce overtime in the department from 150 hours per month to 50 hours per month by the end of the fiscal year with no increase in student complaints.

Performance goals vs. development goals

Performance goals – are the “what” you are working to accomplish. They are tied to departmental and/or organizational strategic priorities. Example:

  • Billing management – Implement an enhanced billing management process through web-based technology by April 30. Develop a master design document, and create stakeholder buy-in and awareness. Ensure functionality of system and new form. Develop the communication and implementation plan for the new process by the end of September. Ready for delivery in mid-October.

Development goals – focus on areas you want to develop in order to grow in your job or advance in your career. Example:

  • Public speaking – To increase my effectiveness in giving presentations I will join Toastmasters by March 31 and attend at least 6 monthly meetings by the end of the year. I will ask Ted Thomas to provide feedback using the Toastmasters format on my presentations after each staff meeting during the year.

Being effective in your role

While SMART goals are important, remember that you are judged on both goals and competencies. Goals define what an employee is tasked with achieving throughout the performance cycle, while competencies define how an employee completes his or her goals and day-to-day activities. Goals and competencies are not mutually exclusive, but are two halves of an effective whole. Here are some tips to help ensure that you are effective in both goals and competencies:

  • Make an effort to understand the goals of your position, your department, and the organization, and draft personal objectives for the year to support those goals.
  • Seek clarification when needed to understand expectations.
  • Provide performance documentation and feedback to your manager.
  • Keep track of performance throughout the year using your calendar or a journal to record your accomplishments and challenges.
  • Act on your manager’s feedback and coaching.
  • Work with your manager to evaluate performance – both during your review and throughout the year.
  • Look for opportunities to improve your work.
  • Take advantage of professional development opportunities, including training, conferences, classes, and stretch assignments and special projects.