Setting SMART Objectives to drive performance.
Setting SMART objectives should be an essential element of any performance management process. An employee’s work objectives should always conform to the SMART criteria in order to be effective.
SMART objectives help to maximise employee effectiveness and develop potential. Agreeing and recording personal work objectives should be a key element of any performance management process. In fact many see it as the cornerstone on which to build for the future.
An effective performance appraisal process ensures that an employee’s work objectives link to their personal development and relate to the effective achievement of their role.
The appraisal process is most effective if the personal work objectives agreed with employees align with and support the more strategic objectives of the team, and ultimately the corporate goals of the business.
Download this essential Performance Appraisal Guide. A handy list of the key actions to take when preparing for the appraisal, during the appraisal meeting and throughout the year.
Setting SMART Objectives as part of the appraisal process
Setting objectives should be a two way process between appraiser and employee. Although the appraiser might lead the process, the employee should also be empowered to get involved. Sharing the responsibility for setting SMART objectives increases an employee’s commitment to achieve them.
It’s important that managers explain the SMART objectives concept to employees to help them during the objective setting process. Involving the employee in objective setting should also help to clarify their expectations.
What do we mean by SMART Objectives?
The SMART objectives concept helps to ensure an employee’s work objectives are recorded effectively and understood clearly. SMART is simply a mnemonic containing key words to be aware of when setting objectives. The process is simple; when you create an objective, you check it and make sure it satisfies the SMART criteria –
SMART normally stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-based.
There are different variations of the SMART objectives mnemonic; for example, the ’R’ is sometimes written as Realistic, but the meaning of SMART and the messages the mnemonic communicates tend to remain the same.
Specific – Is the work objective clearly stated? Is there any chance it could be misinterpreted?
Measurable – What criteria will you use to measure the success of the work objective?
Achievable – Is the objective achievable or not? Work objectives should be a balance between being achievable and being challenging. Also, is the objective fair and possible to achieve in terms of resources, knowledge and time?
Relevant – Is the objective relevant in terms of how it fits in with the person’s role and the team objectives?
Time-based – Have you agreed a time period and deadline for completion of the objective?
SMART objectives should focus on outcomes rather than activities and help employees and managers to measure success. They should also help to focus the performance appraisal discussion on measurable performance outcomes. This should help to facilitate open discussion between appraisers and employees about personal development and training requirements.
Some handy Appraisal tips to help with setting SMART Objectives
- Begin writing the work objective using the word ‘To’ – for example ‘To do something …’
- Try to make the objective ‘developmental’; it should relate in some way to the personal development of the employee.
- Check that each objective contributes to the overall team objectives.
- Ensure the objective contributes to the employee’s role and responsibilities (check job description).
- Develop the objectives face to face rather than by email.
- Each objective should have a clearly stated result; more than one result could mean more than one objective.
- Have measures or processes in place to assess the end result.
- Make the work objectives specific when referring to quality and quantity.
- Check that the objectives can be assessed against a time line.
- Each employee should be invited to propose draft work objectives for discussion while the appraiser is preparing his/her own list of objectives for that employee.
- Work objectives don’t all have to be annual, some could be set for achievement over a shorter period of time. If you’re a manager, make sure you know when each of your employee’s shorter term objectives are coming up for achievement. Keep track of them and arrange a meeting with the employee to discuss them.
It’s helpful to have the following documentation available when you review SMART work objectives
- The employee’s job description.
- The SMART objectives agreed with the employee at the last appraisal.
- The operational team’s umbrella objectives.
- Notes about the employee’s performance against personal objectives throughout the year.
- Notes on the SMART objectives concept.
You can find some examples of SMART objectives here