How to set SMART goals

The New Year is a great time to sit down and start planning out your businesses goals.

There’s something about seeing the calendar hit January 1 that sparks energy in people to make change and do positive things.  That’s why so many people create New Year’s resolutions and decide to start new projects.

As an employer, you can use that untapped energy to help drive your business forward.  Use this time to develop goals for your business, both short- and long-term.  To make sure the goals you set don’t fall to the wayside like most New Year’s resolutions, make them SMART.

When doing goal setting, many big businesses use a system called SMART. It stands for:

By making sure your goals hit each of these points, you will be more likely to reach your goal.  Your business should have company-wide goals to satisfy.  Each of your employees should then have their own individual goals which you should feed into attaining the company-wide goals.  All of these goals should try to emulate the SMART criteria.

Creating a SMART goal, though, is not always easy, so here are some guidelines: 

  • Specific.  If you’re vague in what you wish to accomplish, you will never be able to attain it.  This is generally the first step in creating a goal and one of the easiest to correct.  It goes into defining what we actually wish to achieve because each of us have a different perspective of what certain words mean.  For instance, if I stated, I want to be rich, “rich” could equate to money, social status, possessions, or a multitude of other criteria.  If you can ask the question “What does _____ look like?” and answer it, then your goal is too vague.
  • Measurable.  This one is always tough for people but goals should be measurable.  That means being able to place a value on the goal.  I will achieve a 30% increase in sales.  Without having a measure for your goals, you have no way of knowing if you attained it or where you might be in relation to your goal.  It’s harder to correct the course if something has gone awry. 
  • Attainable.  While it is good to set goals that stretch us, we must keep in mind that there are real limitations in this world. Time, money, materials – just to name a few.  If we set our goals so high that there is no possible way for us to reach them, we have set ourselves and our employees up to fail.  This becomes demotivating and not conducive to what goals should try to accomplish. 
  • Relevant.  As stated previously, all employee goals must be aligned with the company-wide goals of the company.  If you cannot make that direct correlation between what the employee places as his/her goal and a company goal, then it does not move the company or the employee in the right direction. 
  • Time-bound. The ‘some days’ of the world kill businesses.  By ensuring there is an actual conclusion date for the goal helps to ensure it will happen.  It also helps with evaluating all the other criteria above.

Example of a SMART goal:

By the end of the second quarter of 2012, I will sign 20 new clients by building my client relationship through luncheons, site visits, and a monthly telephone conference.

Having SMART goals is just first step in the process.  Now that you’ve established your company’s and your employee’s SMART goals, make sure to follow-through. 

  • Be creative when considering personal goals.  If you can align a personal goal with the company’s goal, you create a win-win situation with the employee and build employee loyalty.
  • Publicize the goals and share them with other employees.  By sharing, you strengthen the intent behind the goals and your employees can help one another achieve them.
  • Set some milestones on long-term goals to make it easier to track and see the progress.
  • Regularly check the progress of the goal with your employee.
  • Adjust the goal and strategy as needed.  Remember, a goal should be a living document, not something set in stone and unable to change should crisis occur.
  • Celebrate!  When you’ve reached a milestone or goal, don’t forget to celebrate your accomplishments with your employees

Don’t forget to also store your goals and your employee’s goals into your HR Database as it becomes a part of your employee’s record and can help in Steps 2-6 of the Six Steps to Successful Management.