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Five Steps to Success for HR Managers and Teams Using SMART Goals

hr best practices hr compliance hr department hr essentials hr for small business hr management Jul 03, 2022

If you want to be successful, you need a plan. This is true for all aspects of life and work, from the C-suite to entry level team members. Knowing you need concrete, actionable steps is fine, but you’ll also need to know how to create that plan. Being in HR for so many years, I just assume managers know how to set effective goals with employees – but that is often not the case!  One way HR managers can help their teams is to introduce them to the tried and true format of SMART goals. 

What are SMART goals?

SMART goals have been around for a long time, particularly among HR professionals.  Not everyone is familiar with the easy to use format.  Essentially, a manager and employee work together to create a roadmap that will end in the successful attainment of a particular goal.  It gives employees confirmation that the organization is behind them to make this happen.

This approach identifies five key elements and sets clear expectations for all parties.

SMART stands for:

  • S pecific
  • M easurable
  • A ttainable
  • R ealistic
  • T imebound

Each letter identifies one step in the process. Together, employees and managers discuss these steps as a precise project management tool that anyone can use.

5 Steps to Make Your Goals SMART

Ready to start using SMART Goals in your organization to bring HR leadership and employees closer together? Here’s a breakdown of each step for setting SMART goals.

Specific – Objectives should be stated regarding a specific activity or action. The employee must understand precisely what is expected of them. Outline steps in the process that are required for success, including training and deliverables. 

Consider: Instead of telling a receptionist they have to answer the phone more quickly, say that all calls must be answered on 3 rings.

Measurable – Objectives should contain clear criteria for determining if the employee achieved their desired results. Using quantitative measures such as cost, quality, or time help the employee know if they’ve met the goal.

Consider: the above 3 rings.  Be sure this is something your phone system can track!  You want to be sure at the next review you have data to back up the measure.

Attainable – Objectives should state a target that is within reach, yet not too easy to accomplish. The employee should be motivated to achieve the goal because they are confident they can.

Consider: Your receptionist must be empowered to tell those arriving in person that the call is a priority.

Realistic – This piggybacks on attainability. The employee should feel that his or her chance of success is likely. By identifying smaller goals within the larger objective, employees can see their progress along the way, which reassures them they can succeed.

Consider: Is this realistic? Or do people who approach reception expect to be helped immediately?  Consider the goal of the organization and what are realistic solutions.

Timebound – The employee should have a specific date by which to achieve the objective. Goals should be set in the short-term and never more than a year out to maintain employee engagement. Goals should be spread out as well to facilitate proper time management and prevent employees from becoming overwhelmed.

Consider:  meet monthly to review the data on calls picked up.

When employees know what the goal is and they are able to exercise control of and have accountability for attaining it, they are far more likely to succeed. Utilizing the SMART goal system also gives the manager confidence that the employee knows what to do and how to do it, allowing the employee to truly take ownership. When it’s time to review the employee’s performance, looking at whether the objective, measurable goals have been met should be a breeze.

When you’re writing goals with your team, make sure they are SMART!

Check out this quick performance minute video that explains why SMART Goals are so crucial to an HR organization:


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