When attempting to maximise productivity, improve performance and deliver business value, the place to start is getting your employees to set clear SMART objectives. Objectives serve as a way to keep employees on course and working toward an overarching company goal. They provide focus, direction, set expectations and also provide motivation for your workforce. Employees can only achieve and exceed expectations when they know exactly what is expected of them. What’s more, when employees are confident of what is expected of them, they won’t waste business time or energy worrying — allowing them to make most of their time and skills.
Despite this, according to a Gallup study on worldwide companies, only half of employees strongly agree that they know exactly what is expected of them at work. This is where SMART objectives can step in.
By properly utilising SMART, clear objectives, employees will feel better equipped to prioritise their workload and deliver results. This will help to deliver business value and improve performance overall. It is worth noting that an important part of the process of creating SMART objectives is the act of putting employees in the driver’s seat. We are far more likely — and more driven — to accomplish goals we set ourselves. Mckinsey recommends involving your employees in the goal-setting process from start to finish. This helps to secure employee buy-in and motivates ongoing development.
Using the steps below, you can help your employees to develop the skills and confidence required to write effective personal objectives. These easy-to-implement tips will ensure you create SMART objectives that will improve performance in the long-term.
Conversely, Employees Should Keep in Mind Their Limitations
Goals that are stretching and challenging are great but warn employees of the dangers of setting goals that are completely unrealistic given the time and resources available. If you have any employees who have issues with perfectionism, this is certainly something to be cautious of. Over time, your employees will get a measure of their own limits and their rate of progress, but in the meantime, managers have to step in to ensure employees aren’t overtaxing themselves. This will only lead to objectives not being met, disappointment and frustration for everyone involved.
Make Some Room and Allowances for Flexibility
As with any agile organisation, organisational needs and requirements can change regularly. What was pressing three months ago might now seem unimportant or unsupportive of your organisations objectives. If this is the case, employees should feel empowered to make adaptations to their established objectives. However, these changes should be meaningful and helpful — these changes can be discussed during your regular one-to-ones. This is a great time for manager and employee to exchange thoughts and feedback on objectives.
Use performance Management Software to Track SMART Objectives
Performance management software makes the whole process of setting, agreeing and tracking SMART objectives easy for everyone involved. Once SMART objectives are drafted by the employee, the manager can indicate whether or not the objectives are appropriate and discuss relevant changes. This makes the setting of goals a truly collaborative effort and gives parties a shared view of what has been agreed. Once objectives are formalised, everyone involved can track progress on these objectives and give feedback along the way, using the performance management software. This way, everybody remains up-to-date with successes and obstacles and managers can step in if employees need extra support.
Decide on a SMART Definition
Before employees can write their own SMART objectives, they need to be given a SMART definition. Since George T. Doran coined the phrase in 1981, a number of variations have cropped up. At Advanced, we recommend using the following SMART objectives definition:
S — Specific and Stretching. The clear objective needs to be as precise as possible. Avoid any ambiguities or confusion. For example, an employee can’t (and shouldn’t) simply be asked to ”increase sales”. Rather, a more helpful objective would be to improve sales of a particular product by a certain percentage in a given time frame. Objectives should also be stretching, or challenging, so employees are more motivated to achieve their goals.
M — Measurable. A good SMART objective should always set out what success will look like. Measurable goals give you something to measure your progress against. This will make it easier to determine whether or not it has been achieved. The measure can either be quantitative or qualitative.
A — Achievable and Agreed. Though it is important for your employees to challenge themselves, objectives should all be realistically achievable. Unrealistic and seemingly impossible goals only serve to create a culture of failure in your company — this is far from the motivational environment you’re looking to cultivate.
Objectives should also be agreed between the employee and their manager. This autonomy will help employees to take real ownership over their roles. The employee needs to know they have had a say in their objectives and the manager needs to know that the objectives are suitable and in line with company goals. Performance management software can be used with great effect to ensure both parties are happy and agree to the objectives. This same software can also be used to set and track objectives.
R — Relevant. All performance objectives should be relevant to what the organisation is trying to achieve and support its overall goals. Without considering relevance, even objectives that are achieved may have no impact on the performance of the organisation, which flies in the face of what every effective performance management system aims to accomplish.
T — Time-Bound. Employees and managers should agree on set target dates for when objectives are to be completed. This introduces a sense of urgency and it also allows managers to determine whether or not an employee is on track to accomplish their personal objectives. Encourage employees to set ”near-term” objectives with a one-to-six month time frame, rather year-long objectives. Near-term objectives can be achieved more quickly and are therefore more motivating. They are also less likely to become irrelevant as business needs change. Of course, short-term goals can also be used as “mini-milestones” to accomplish bigger goals.
Explain the Importance of SMART Objectives to Your Employees
Whether you are creating general SMART objectives or personal development objectives, your employees need to know that your company takes objective setting seriously — and why goals matter.
During one of your regular performance coaching conversations, explain how effective goal setting can impact their performance; this will ultimately affect their career progression and chances for advancement within your company. When explaining the SMART objectives concept, point to the fact that they have often been cited by experts in the field as the most effective way of setting goals.
You should also take this opportunity to illustrate to employees just how important they and their role are to your business. Without them, you wouldn’t be able to accomplish your organisational objectives. This transparency and authenticity will show your employees that you value them and that they are an integral part of a dedicated team.
Be Transparent with Organisational Objectives — and Encourage Employees to Align Their Goals Upward
Organisational transparency is an increasing concern in the business world. Employees are demanding ever-greater degrees of openness and forward-thinking companies are delivering. After all, transparency is positively correlated to levels of trust, employee engagement and organisational performance.
During the goal-setting process, context is important. Discuss overarching company goals with your employees. Explain to them any pressing concerns or obstacles that are impeding progress. If you are clear and forthright with regards to organisational objectives, employees will be able to keep them in mind when creating their own objectives. They will also be able to align their objectives upwards, to support long-term company goals.
Employees Should Challenge Themselves
We all get a sense of accomplishment when we have completed a task. This is why so many of us keep to-do lists and tick off activities as they are achieved. It makes us feel organised, productive and efficient. However, studies have shown this sense of accomplishment is greater — and our performance is higher — when we set ourselves particularly challenging goals. “Easy wins” simply aren’t as effective as a motivator. If the goals in question appear more difficult, we put more effort into completing them to standard and on time. Encourage employees to challenge themselves when creating their SMART goals. This can be an exciting way to get them to test their limits and to reach greater heights.
To find out how Advanced Clear Review performance review software can help you and your employees write personal objectives that will improve performance and deliver business value, book a free personal performance management demo right now via our online booking system.