The Importance of Setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals

a goal without a plan is just a wish

Goal setting is one of the biggest ways to improve the workplace—from communication across teams to more effective manager-employee relationships and increased worker efficiency. Goals also help create a sense of accountability and allow individuals to assess progress they’re making along the way. In this way, setting goals and creating performance evaluation strategies go hand in hand. To effectively evaluate an employee’s performance, you have to start by setting smarter goals.

What are S.M.A.R.T. goals?

S.M.A.R.T. goals are those that are…

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-based

With this information in mind, can you start to see the advantages of such goals? Specific goals allow the goal setter to visualize and plan for exactly what they’ll need to do to accomplish it.

A specific goal for an employee might involve creating a daily or weekly quota. The quota would be measurable, allowing everyone to see what progress has or is being made. Based on the employee’s own feelings and past performance, the quota should be one they can reasonably attain. It’s ideal to make the goal relevant to the individual and situation as to make clear why such a goal is important, and how everyone can benefit from seeing it accomplished.

Lastly, a time-based goal gives the individual a time frame to hold themselves to. This creates a sense of accountability and establishes a timeline of progress that can be evaluated later. Most importantly, it provides the individual with enough time to complete the goal.

For example, let’s say Dianna is an employee at a manufacturing plant, and her job is to manage the quality assurance personnel—to check their work. Her manager sits down with her and helps her come up with a goal. Dianna decides to check the work of one member of personnel each day, rather than all at once at the end of the week. They chose this goal in order to improve overall quality assurance, and have set a quarterly deadline. The goal is manageable and is easily measurable.

The key to setting good, actionable goals is to split individual goals between professional development—personal development—and department- or company-wide goals. This not only gives them a chance to benefit themselves personally but the company as a whole, which further reinforces both the goal’s necessity and relevance. When goals are relevant to the individual, they have a much easier time accepting them when they understand why the goal is beneficial to achieve.

How goals impact the success of performance evaluations

The only way to track or measure someone’s performance is by helping them set specific, attainable goals. If there is no goal or expectation, there’s no real way to see how someone has improved—or how they might be falling short.

When you’re doing a performance evaluation or developing a strategy for them, goals should be at the forefront. Goals can provide a metric by which you can track an employee’s performance and progress, making it easier for you to…

  • Recognize accomplishments
  • Guide progress
  • Improve and review performance
  • Identify any problems
  • And discuss career advancement opportunities

There are a number of benefits for both the employee and employer for doing performance evaluations. For employers, you have documentation to support any promotions or layoffs; you’ll be helping an employee’s development through feedback and motivation. You’ll also have the added benefit of legal protection against any complaints made by an employee.

For employees, the advantage of having an evaluation is all about receiving input, feedback, and direction on your performance, with the added bonus of being motivated to continue the work you’ve been doing or to improve and surpass any struggles you may be facing.

Understanding how to introduce and develop goals can fundamentally alter the way employees view their work and their position within any given company. As the employer, it’s your responsibility to document, track, and measure individual successes against the business’s overarching goals—and not just once a year. The review process should occur throughout the year as to keep everyone involved up to date and current with any goals in progress, and to give employees ample time to adjust their progress or to take advantage of any new feedback you may have for them.

If you find yourself having difficulty setting S.M.A.R.T. goals for yourself, your employees, or can’t quite figure out the best process for performance reviews, call us to schedule a meeting. We can talk you through the strategies and practices you’ll need to succeed.

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