SMART goals make up an effective goal-setting framework that can help employees own their development, improve feedback with your team, and boost employee productivity. In this article, we explore what SMART goals are, how to write SMART goals for employees, and how you can help your workers achieve them.
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Setting goals for your employees is crucial for their personal and professional success—but it’s just as essential for the goals to be measurable, achievable, and relevant. Unrealistic, vague, and irrelevant goals can hinder progress and demotivate employees.
This is where SMART goals come in. In this article, we guide you through what SMART goals are, explain how to write SMART goals, and provide practical tips on supporting your employees to achieve their goals.
- SMART goals must be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
- Using SMART goals can increase employee productivity, encourage employee development, improve your feedback system, and boost employee productivity.
- Employees will need support to achieve their goals. Be sure to provide employees with a copy of their goals, break goals down into actionable steps, and have regular check-ins with your team.
What Are SMART Goals for Employees?
SMART goals are a framework used to set goals. George T. Doran created the acronym, which first appeared in a 1981 issue of Management Review. It originally stood for specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, and time-related.
There have been variations of the SMART acronym over the years, but today, the most commonly used variation outlines that each goal must be:
- Specific. The goal should be clear and well-defined. For example, “increased sales” is not a specific goal. However, “increase sales units from 200 to 350” is specific.
- Measurable. Goals should be quantifiable. If you can’t measure your goal, you can’t measure your success. For instance, “increase revenue by 15%” is a measurable goal.
- Achievable. The goal needs to be realistically possible to achieve. Consider the resources available, the skills of the employee(s), and the time available to reach the goal. For example, “hire and train 10 new staff members in the next 2 weeks” isn’t realistic for a small business. However, “hire and train 2 new employees in the next 6 weeks” may be more achievable.
- Relevant. The goal should be relevant to your employees’ roles and areas where they may need to improve. For example, a relevant goal for a construction worker might be to “improve safety practices by achieving zero incidents across the next 6 months.”
- Time-bound. All goals must be completed within a defined time frame. This creates a sense of urgency and accountability for the person assigned to the goal. For example, “Process 35 employee expense claims by the end of the month.”
Benefits of SMART Goals in Your Business
There are many benefits to using SMART goals in your business. They can help:
Increase employee productivity
Giving your employees measurable goals boosts productivity and keeps them engaged, as they have something to actively work toward.
On a similar note, SMART goals can have a positive impact on employee retention since they provide workers with a sense of purpose and direction in their roles. When employees know what they need to achieve and how it contributes to company success, they’re more likely to be motivated, engaged, and satisfied. And when engagement goes up, employee turnover rates go down.
Likewise, employees who are working to achieve a goal are already viewing themselves at your company in the short term—which means they’re more likely to stay in the long term.
📚 This Might Interest You:
Read our article on the most effective employee retention strategies to retain your best talent.
Encourage employee development
SMART goals can help your employees grow and develop within their roles. For example, say you set a goal for your assistant manager to take on some of your managerial duties. This will help upskill your assistant manager, exposing them to tasks and activities that will prepare them for if and when they become a manager.
Build a culture of continuous learning
Similarly, setting SMART goals helps develop a culture of continuous learning across your entire company, leading to a more knowledgeable and skilled workforce.
Improve employee onboarding
For new employees, SMART goals create a clear framework and direction for their first days and weeks. By setting and expressing expectations for new workers, you can reduce misunderstandings and confusion as new hires are finding their feet.
SMART goals also help you easily and objectively measure new workers’ performance.
💡 Pro Tip:
Use dedicated employee onboarding software to guarantee an even more seamless experience for new hires. See our review of the best onboarding software solutions of 2023 to find one that is right for your needs.
Improve your feedback system
Using SMART goals improves your feedback system and gives you a reliable way to measure employee success. For instance, you can compare an employee’s current performance to what they achieved 6 months ago and give specific feedback on how to improve. This makes the feedback more relevant to the employee and supports their continued growth.
Create a better employee experience
SMART goals help create a better experience for employees all around. They have purpose and direction as they work toward achieving goals, and when they’re successful, workers feel accomplished. SMART goals also align employees with company objectives, provide them with growth opportunities, and celebrate their achievements.
How to Write SMART Goals Effectively
A great way to write SMART goals effectively is to incorporate them into a table. Tables help you to clearly set out your employee’s goals and ensure you’re hitting every aspect of a SMART goal.
Imagine you’re a retail manager and it’s coming up to the holiday season. You know you’ll need more staff members to support the additional demand from customers. SMART goals can help you stay organized and on top of tasks.
Here’s an example of how to translate that goal into a SMART goal, written in table format:
Goal: Increase employee headcount
|Hire new employees for the holiday season.||I need 3 new employees.||This is achievable, as I already have 15 employees and I have the time and resources to dedicate to hiring 3 new employees.||This is relevant to my goal of increasing headcount and supporting customer demand during the holiday season.||I need to do this by November 15, which is 6 weeks away.|
Using the table, you can determine that your SMART goal is:
Hire 3 new employees in the next 6 weeks to increase headcount and support additional demand over the holiday season.
💡 Pro Tip:
Don’t set your employees too many SMART goals at one time, as this can overwhelm them and lower their chances of accomplishing their goals. We recommend employees pursue no more than 3 SMART goals at any given time.
5 SMART goals for new employees
During a new employee’s first month, your priority should be helping them acclimate to the workplace. It’s a good idea to set them some SMART goals to achieve during onboarding and within their first 30 days at the company. This will help them feel productive and is a good way to introduce them to all aspects of the workplace and align them with your business objectives and organizational goals.
Here are 5 examples of SMART goals for new employees:
- Complete all 5 new starter forms and return them to the payroll department by July 15.
- Read and sign the employee handbook within the next week.
- Attend 2 Lunch and Learn initiatives in your first 30 days. This will increase product knowledge and help you meet your new teammates.
- Achieve a score of 70% in customer service training in your first 30 days.
- Create and share a “First 30 Days” presentation with your new teammates. This should detail what you’ve learned in your first month and should be completed by August 15.
5 SMART goals for senior managers
A senior manager’s goals should be focused on streamlining workplace operations, mitigating business risks, and supporting the wider business. Goals should be included as part of their ongoing development.
You might consider assigning goals like:
- Host a team training night to improve product knowledge for the new launch. This should be done by the end of the month.
- Hire a replacement for your current assistant. This should be done before your current assistant leaves the company in 4 weeks.
- Write a how-to guide for the most important day-to-day tasks to support your deputy manager. This should be completed before you go on vacation on July 10.
- Attend a 2-day leadership training course within the next 3 months.
- Take the company’s 2 new stakeholders to lunch before the end of the month to strengthen stakeholder relationships.
5 SMART goals for supervisors
Setting goals for supervisors is crucial, as supervisors provide direction to employees, motivate teams, measure performance, and manage the day to day of your business. They have a direct impact on the success of your business, so it’s important you prioritize their development.
SMART goals should be focused around developing coaching skills, leading employees, and hiring new staff members. Some examples include:
- Complete company first-aid training and collect certificates. This needs to be done within the next 4 weeks, before October 1.
- Host a team training night within the next 2 weeks to enhance knowledge of current products.
- Hire and train 3 new staff members to support the upcoming holiday rush. This needs to be done within the next 8 weeks.
- Enhance coaching skills by attending 1-day online workshops. Spaces are filling fast, so your place needs to be booked by the end of the week.
- Catch up on industry trends by attending the Retail Conference on June 1.
How to Support Employees with Their SMART Goals
Supporting your employees with their SMART goals helps foster a supportive workplace culture, improves team communication, and helps employees achieve their goals.
Try some of the following methods to help your employees achieve their goals.
Treat goals as a collaboration
Involve your workers in the goal-setting process. This keeps them accountable for their development and helps them feel engaged with the process.
For instance, try setting 1 or 2 goals for employees, and then ask them to set a third goal themselves based on what they’d like to achieve in their roles at the company. You can do this as part of your quarterly or yearly performance reviews.
Provide employees with a copy of their SMART goals
Once you’ve written down the SMART goals for your employees, create 2 copies for each worker. Give one to your employee and save the other for your records. You can either share the copy physically or digitally, via email or instant message.
This will serve as a consistent reminder to employees of what they’re striving for, helping them stay on top of their goals.
🧠 Did You Know?
Connecteam offers powerful document management tools so you can securely store all employee documents. This means you don’t have to worry about losing any paper copies of employees’ SMART goals files.
Break goals down into actionable steps
By breaking down SMART goals into actionable steps, you can reduce the burden on your employees and help them achieve their goals.
For example, “Plan and present a customer service training session to new employees by the end of the month” can be broken down into:
- Organize a customer service training session that will take place for 1 hour after work
- Prepare training documents and worksheets
- Create the training presentation
- Book a conference room in the main office to hold the training session in
- Email new employees with information on the training session’s location and time, as well as what it will cover
- Buy snacks and drinks for the training session
- Set up chairs in the conference room
- Hold training session
The outcome is the same, but the steps are much more manageable now.
Provide necessary training and resources
It’s essential to provide employees with the training and resources they need to achieve their goals. Depending on the nature of the goals, training may be extensive.
For example, if an employee’s SMART goal is to increase their customer satisfaction rating by 20% within the next 3 months, you should offer the employee customer service training workshops. These might focus on improving skills like problem-solving and communication.
This helps empower the employee and sets them up for success.
🧠 Did You Know?
With Connecteam, creating customized training courses for your employees is a breeze. Workers can complete courses from anywhere, at any time, and you can track their progress every step of the way through a sleek admin dashboard.
Encourage employee reflection
Reflection is just as important as taking action. We recommend scheduling a check-in with your employee 4 weeks after your initial goal-setting conversation. Ideally, you’ll meet with them face-to-face, but video conferences or phone calls are also great options.
If they’ve achieved their goal, great! Ask them to speak about how it went, including where they struggled and where they felt they excelled. This feedback can help you adjust your approach to setting SMART goals and better understand how you can support employees in reaching their goals.
If your employee hasn’t achieved their goal, encourage an honest conversation about the situation. Ask questions like:
- How close are you to achieving your goal?
- Do you need any support or training?
- What challenges have you encountered that are preventing you from achieving your goal?
- If for whatever reason the goal is now unattainable, how can you change the goal to make it achievable?
Remember, you set these goals to support your employees’ development. Helping them achieve their goals is just as important as setting them in the first place.
SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound and provide employees with a clear roadmap to success. For managers like you, SMART goals make it easier to track workers’ progress. They’re also a great way for you to help employees own their personal development, improve your workplace feedback system, increase employee productivity, and so much more.
As employees are working to achieve their goals, you should regularly check in with and support them. This includes offering proper training and resources where needed, breaking down goals into measurable actions, and providing employees with a copy of their SMART goals for easy reference.
What are some examples of SMART goals for employees?
SMART goals should be tailored to your employees’ job roles, skills, and aspirations, as well as your organizational objectives. However, some good general examples include:
- Decrease employee turnover by 5% by the end of next year.
- Increase average customer satisfaction rating from 4.5 to 4.8 out of 5 within the next 6 months.
What are good goals to have as an employee?
As an employee, SMART goals should be based on what you hope to achieve in your job. For example, if you want to take on additional responsibilities, try setting a goal like “Work 6 opening shifts at the restaurant in the next 2 months” or “Attend a leadership course within the next 2 weeks.”
What is a realistic SMART goal example?
Realistic goals look different to everyone. Say, for instance, you want to set a goal of increasing your sales figures by an additional 20% in the next 3 months. However, if you’re a new member of staff without the experience of a senior sales professional, it might be more realistic to aim to increase your sales figures by 10% in the next 6 months.