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How to Get your Employees to Write Clear, Motivational SMART Objectives

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Empow­er your employ­ees to take own­er­ship of their own per­son­al objectives

When attempt­ing to max­imise pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and improve over­all per­for­mance with­in a work­place, the place to start is get­ting your employ­ees to set SMART objec­tives. Objec­tives serve as a way to keep employ­ees on course and work­ing toward an over­ar­ch­ing com­pa­ny goal. They pro­vide focus, direc­tion, set expec­ta­tions and also pro­vide moti­va­tion for your work­force. Employ­ees can only achieve and exceed expec­ta­tions when they know exact­ly what is expect­ed of them.

Despite this, accord­ing to a Gallup study on world­wide com­pa­nies, only 50% of employ­ees strong­ly agree that they know exact­ly what is expect­ed of them. This is where SMART objec­tives can step in to facil­i­tate matters.

By prop­er­ly util­is­ing SMART objec­tives, employ­ees will feel bet­ter equipped to pri­ori­tise their work­load and deliv­er results. It is worth not­ing that an impor­tant part of the process of cre­at­ing SMART objec­tives is the act of putting employ­ees in the driver’s seat. We are far more like­ly — and more dri­ven — to accom­plish goals we set our­selves. Using the steps below, you can help your employ­ees devel­op the skills and con­fi­dence required to craft their own objectives.

Decide on a SMART definition

Before employ­ees can write their own SMART objec­tives, they need to be giv­en a SMART def­i­n­i­tion. Since George T. Doran coined the phrase in 1981, a num­ber of vari­a­tions have cropped up. At Clear Review, we rec­om­mend using the fol­low­ing SMART objec­tives def­i­n­i­tion:

S — Spe­cif­ic and Stretch­ing. The objec­tive needs to be as pre­cise as pos­si­ble. Avoid any ambi­gu­i­ties or con­fu­sion. An employ­ee can’t sim­ply be asked to increase sales’, but they can be asked to improve sales of a par­tic­u­lar prod­uct by a cer­tain per­cent­age in a giv­en time frame. Objec­tives should also be stretch­ing, or chal­leng­ing, so employ­ees are more moti­vat­ed to achieve their goals.

M — Mea­sur­able. A good SMART objec­tive should always set out what suc­cess will look like. This will make it eas­i­er to deter­mine whether or not it has been achieved. The mea­sure can either be quan­ti­ta­tive or qualitative.

A — Achiev­able and Agreed. Though it is impor­tant for your employ­ees to chal­lenge them­selves, objec­tives should all be real­is­ti­cal­ly achiev­able. Objec­tives should also be agreed between the employ­ee and their man­ag­er. The employ­ee needs to know they have had a say in their own objec­tives, and the man­ag­er needs to know that the objec­tives are suit­able and in line with com­pa­ny goals. Per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware can be used with great effect to ensure both par­ties are hap­py and agree to the objectives.

R — Rel­e­vant. All per­for­mance objec­tives should be rel­e­vant to what the organ­i­sa­tion is try­ing to achieve and sup­port its over­all goals. With­out con­sid­er­ing rel­e­vance, even objec­tives that are achieved may have no impact on the per­for­mance of the organ­i­sa­tion, which flies in the face of what every effec­tive per­for­mance man­age­ment sys­tem aims to accomplish.

T — Time-bound. Employ­ees should set tar­get dates for when objec­tives are to be com­plet­ed. This intro­duces a sense of urgency and it also allows man­agers to deter­mine whether or not an employ­ee is on track. Encour­age employ­ees to set near-term’ objec­tives with a one to six month time frame rather year-long objec­tives. Near-term objec­tives can be achieved more quick­ly and are there­fore more moti­vat­ing. They are also less like­ly to become irrel­e­vant as busi­ness needs change.

Explain the impor­tance of SMART objec­tives to your employees

When ask­ing your employ­ees set SMART objec­tives, let them know your com­pa­ny takes objec­tive set­ting seri­ous­ly and why. Explain how appro­pri­ate goal set­ting can impact their per­for­mance; this will ulti­mate­ly affect their career pro­gres­sion and chances for advance­ment with­in your com­pa­ny. When explain­ing the SMART objec­tives con­cept, point to the fact that they have been often cit­ed by experts in the field as the most effec­tive way of set­ting goals.

Employ­ees should chal­lenge themselves

We all get a sense of accom­plish­ment when we have com­plet­ed a task. This is why so many of us keep to-do lists and tick off activ­i­ties as they are achieved. It makes us feel organ­ised, pro­duc­tive and effi­cient. How­ev­er, stud­ies have shown this sense of accom­plish­ment is greater — and our per­for­mance is high­er — when we set our­selves par­tic­u­lar­ly chal­leng­ing goals. If the goals in ques­tion appear more dif­fi­cult, we put more effort into com­plet­ing them to stan­dard and on time. Encour­age employ­ees to chal­lenge them­selves when cre­at­ing their SMART goals. This can be an excit­ing way to get them to test their lim­its and to reach greater heights.

Con­verse­ly, employ­ees should keep in mind their own limitations

Goals that are stretch­ing and chal­leng­ing are great, but warn employ­ees of the dan­gers of set­ting goals that are com­plete­ly unre­al­is­tic giv­en the time and resources avail­able. If you have any employ­ees who have issues with per­fec­tion­ism, this is cer­tain­ly some­thing to be cau­tious of. Over time, your employ­ees will get a mea­sure of their own lim­its and their rate of progress, but in the mean­time, man­agers have to step in to ensure employ­ees aren’t over­tax­ing them­selves. This will only lead to objec­tives not being met, dis­ap­point­ment and frus­tra­tion for every­one involved.

Use per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware to track SMART objectives

Per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware makes the whole process of set­ting, agree­ing and track­ing track­ing of SMART objec­tives easy for every­one involved. Once SMART objec­tives are draft­ed by the employ­ee, the man­ag­er can indi­cate whether or not the objec­tives are appro­pri­ate and dis­cuss rel­e­vant changes. This makes the set­ting of goals a tru­ly col­lab­o­ra­tive effort and gives par­ties a shared view of what has been agreed. Once objec­tives are for­malised, every­one involved can track progress on these objec­tives and give feed­back along the way, using the per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware. This way, every­one remains up-to-date with suc­cess­es and obsta­cles and man­agers can step in where employ­ees needs extra support.

What's Next?

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