We’ve all heard that SMART goals are important.
If you’re in any sort of management role, you’ve probably at least heard about SMART goals. But a lot of people have never heard about them and have a lot of questions, for example:
- What exactly are they?
- How do we use them correctly?
- Are they really contributing to your success?
Here’s the deal:
If you want to have the best product you can, one of the most important steps that you can take is setting good goals.
It is also important to realize that not all goals are created equal. So how do you create a goal worthy of your attention?
What are SMART Goals?
SMART goals are defined as ‘goals with specific criteria’ – and they came up with the acronym SMART to help you remember those criteria.
In case you’re wondering:
SMART stands for “Specific”, “Measurable”, “Achievable”, “Relevant”, and “Time-Bound”.
It makes for a well-formulated goal that is easy for everyone to understand. And if a goal is easy to understand, and there’s a way to measure it for success, then it’s much more likely to be completed successfully.
A vague goal such as ‘our company wants to lower its employee turnover rate’ indicates that the current situation is not ideal and you’d prefer it change. Obviously the turnover must be lowered. But as you can see, there is not a real plan to realize this goal. So no one involved really knows what they should do. The SMART goals should therefore be created more specifically so that everyone knows what is expected of them. The goal must describe an action, behavior or result that can be observed. It helps if a measurable value is linked to a number, amount or percentage.
By answering the 5-W questions, the goal will become more concrete:
- What do we wish to accomplish? (have 40% less employee turnover than we did last year)
- What resources are involved? (make a $150,000 budget available in the coming year for raises, bonuses and employee activities)
- Who are involved? (the HR department and the accounting department)
- When is it going to happen? (from January 1 – December 31, 2018)
- What parts of the goal are essential? (HR must respond to employee feedback and the accounting department must respond to comparable salary surveys)
- Why is this goal important? (competition is increasing and in order to survive we need to cut down on time and cost of training new employees)
Each SMART goal has a beginning point as well as a ending point and they have a specific effort to be made. You need a system, method or procedure mentioned to determine if the target has been achieved.
- What was the employee turnover of the past year? (40 employees left the company in 2017.)
- How do you know whether the goal has been achieved (40% of 40 is 16)
- What efforts are required? (a good employee moral campaign must be launched from the HR department with appropriate raises and/or bonuses coming from the accounting departments)
- How can it be measured? (by comparing the number of positions empty for existing positions for the quarters and year compared to those figures of the previous year)
SMART goals must have agreement with all the stakeholders on what the goals should be, only then will the goal stand a chance of succeeding.
Let’s be realistic, shall we? A realistic goal takes into account the practical situation and the work for everyone involved. It is unrealistic that everyone’s focus will be on the same goal all the time; after all, there are always other issues requiring attention. That’s called life. Remember that the goal must be relevant to those who are going to work on it. If the HR department is instructed to increase the profits by 20% then it will probably come to nothing.
Time-bound is often confused with measurable, but there is a clear difference between the two. Time-bound is actually about the time that is allocated to reach the goal…a clear starting time and a clear end date. If you set a very tight deadline it has a good chance of just having a demotivating effect and that is something that we don’t want. Nothing will get done. So remember our example above? The question ‘when does it happen?’ We noted that it needed to be accomplished between January 1 and December 31 in 2018. One year from now is not a concrete goal. By setting a date and year for the goal, the organization can work towards this. If you can, divide the goal into sub-goals that have a monthly deadline. That way everyone can work towards milestones and get the whole goal accomplished.
Following through on the SMART goals you set will always be more challenging than setting them, but if you remain dedicated and follow a well-thought-out strategy then you can certainly achieve each and every goal that you set.
SMART Goals Worksheet
Now that you know about SMART Goals, you are ready to put your knowledge into practice.
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