Performance management (PM) has many forms. It can look different depending on your organization’s processes. The three main components to most PM processes are: setting performance goals, monitoring progress, and evaluating results. Setting goals is an important driver for employee performance. Having goals in place directs energy and focus.
However, it’s important that the goals you set are relevant and reasonable. That’s why many organizations focus on the idea of SMART goals.
SMART goals are:
Specific, clear and understandable.
Measurable, verifiable and results-oriented.
Attainable, yet sufficiently challenging.
Relevant to the mission of the department or organization.
Time-bound with a schedule and specific milestones.
Many organizations use SMART goals as the basis of annual performance reviews. However, there are challenges to setting these SMART goals. As explained by Mueller-Hanson & Pulakos (2015), “the work environment today changes too rapidly to set goals only once per year. To remain current, relevant and impactful, goals need to be updated as situations change, which almost never occurs in practice and can render goals outdated soon after they are set.”
What can you do instead? Use SMART goals as a model for framing goals for employees in your organization. Check in with employees on the accomplishment of their goals on a quarterly or semi-annual basis with informal conversations and check-ins. Look for teachable moments and address incidents as they occur. Don’t wait until a performance review to talk about the SMART goals and their progress.
Using SMART goals while maintaining an aligned vision, reminding employees of the reason for the goals, and being flexible on changing conditions can have a positive impact on employee performance and benefit the organization.
How to Set SMART Goals
Setting SMART goals with employees starts with deciding which outcomes are most important, and how you can ensure your employees deliver on the outcomes. It’s important to collaborate with your employees to set between three and five attainable SMART goals that directly relate to your organization’s priorities. The goals should clearly outline what the employee is expected to achieve. Meeting the goal should be a significant and meaningful accomplishment for the employee and the manager. Goals should always be challenging, but attainable. You may want to include rewards, or incentives, for reaching goals. If you do so, make sure that rewards are equitable across job categories and that the link between goals and rewards make sense.
It’s important to have periodic and informal check ins with employees about the goals you set together. This helps make sure expectations are clear for both the employee and manager. Acknowledging and praising what is going well helps motivate the employee’s performance and reinforces behaviors. If an employee falls short, provide coaching in the moment or as soon as possible after the event. Treat the event as a teachable moment and realign the focus back to the SMART goals you set together. Remember, the goal is to promote learning and awareness of how to improve for the organization, not necessarily getting fixated on following the SMART outline.
Goal setting doesn’t have to be painful. It can be a creative visioning process in which supervisors and staff work together to articulate goals that add value, not just to the organization but also to the development of the individual. The trick is to co-create a vivid and desirable image of your destination. Strong goals aren’t simply pie-in-the-sky statements but include specific plans for action and measures for accountability.
The power of two is greater than the power of one. And the power of “more than two” is limitless. Brighter Strategies offers a fresh perspective on how to create a “power team”—a group of two or more people who come together to work toward a common goal.
After reading and completing this workbook, you will understand team basics, including the definition, types, and natural development. You will complete a simple five-step team-building process, which includes creating the team, clarifying roles, communicating well, collaborating to meet goals, and celebrating team success. If you want to maximize your organization’s effectiveness, choosing to form a team to complete a task is the first step in the right direction.