A SMART Objectives exercise for appraisal training courses.
SMART Objective setting is key to any performance appraisal process. Meaningful personal work objectives should form the cornerstone for effective and continuous performance management. We find the reality to be very different though; it’s not uncommon for appraisers to focus mainly on the assessment element of the performance appraisal process at the expense of objective setting. A SMART objectives exercise can really help if you’re running appraisal training for your managers.
The truth is that most appraisers find objective setting the most challenging part of the performance appraisal process.
That’s why it’s so important to cover SMART objective setting during any training you run or source externally. We find the most effective way to train appraisers in setting and agreeing SMART objectives is firstly to explain the SMART criteria and then to involve the appraisers in a SMART objectives exercise which actually involves the delegates setting some real objectives.
SMART Objectives exercises are most effective if they are tailored to relate to the actual roles and responsibilities of employees within the business. This helps to link reality to the activity. So how do you do this?
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.
Tailoring a SMART objectives exercise to suit your organisation
You’ll need to create a scenario to base the SMART objective setting exercise on. Ask the HR team for a job description for an employee. Ideally this relates to a fairly typical role within the business. Then create an imaginary person around this job description. You’ll need to provide the delegates with some background to this person and some information about their strengths and weaknesses. In other words you’re painting a picture for the delegates to consider. The person should have some performance issues which could be addressed by developing some SMART Objectives.
Before you share the information about the imaginary employee with the class, you’ll need to explain what SMART objectives actually are.
Explain that SMART is a simple acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-based. When they come up with an objective for the imaginary person, they simply check against the SMART criteria by asking themselves the following questions;
Specific – Is the objective clearly stated? Is there any chance it could be misinterpreted?
Measurable – What criteria will be used to measure the success of the objective?
Achievable – Is the objective achievable or not? Work objectives should be a balance between achievability and challenge. Also, is the objective actually possible? – is it achievable in terms of resources, knowledge, experience and time?
Relevant – Is the objective relevant? Does it relate to the person’s role and the team objectives?
Time-based – Have you stated a time period and deadline for completion of the objective?
Once you’ve explained the SMART objectives criteria, split the class up into groups of three delegates. Then invite each group to develop just two SMART objectives for this imaginary person for the coming year. Give the group half an hour to do this. They may need longer (but they will think they won’t); this is part of the learning experience; they’ll realise it takes longer than they thought to create good SMART objectives.
When the groups have finished, one at a time, ask them to write their two SMART objectives on the flip chart. Then facilitate a discussion asking the other groups if they consider the objectives to be truly SMART. The objectives probably won’t be SMART initially so adjust and amend them on the flip chart until they are (with the help of the class).
This is a great exercise which always goes down well and is very effective. Ideally, appraisers who go through the exercise should pass on what they’ve learnt to their staff. This helps to ensure that objective setting really is a two way activity that both appraiser and employee get involved in during the performance appraisal process. Have a look at some examples of SMART objectives here.