Are SMART Goals Still…Smart?

Posted by Trakstar • August 17, 2022 • 5 min read

We’ve all been setting SMART goals for employees for a long time, but is that still a good idea? Are SMART goals still the smart way to go? You’ll see many people saying yes and some saying no. Some people use the HARD goal methodology, and others don’t use any formal methods because they feel it confines them.

The answer is more profound than a simple yes or no regarding SMART goals.

SMART goals are still smart if you are using them effectively, but if you aren’t using them effectively, there’s a lot that can go wrong. Trakstar’s platform helps you set smarter SMART goals and ensure that your employees are given the support they need to achieve those goals and impact them. You can schedule a demo today to learn more about the Trakstar Platform.


What Are SMART Goals?

Since high school, SMART goals have been the golden standard for practical goal setting. Despite claims to the contrary, SMART goals are still the best way to go. Why? They are adaptable in ways that other goal-setting methods aren’t. 

SMART goals are based on the methodology used to set goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timebound. 

To learn more, you can read our blog all about SMART goals here:

Where Can SMART Goals Go Wrong?

If SMART goals are so common, then why can they go wrong? It’s a pretty tough question to answer without knowing what someone’s goal is, what their organizational culture is, and the support system they have. However, there are some familiar places where these goals go wrong, and people lose faith in them.

The Problem With “Specific” Goals

The first requirement of a SMART goal is that they are specific. Depending on someone’s job, it’s hard to be specific when setting goals. How specific can you get when you set goals? For some positions, it is easier than others. However, most people can get pretty specific.

The actual problem falls when we only set one SMART goal at a time. This can cause an employee to hyper-focus on that one goal and falter elsewhere. One way to make SMART goal setting more accessible is to develop multiple goals using this methodology. This prevents employees from singularly focusing on that one specific goal and spreading their focus to various goals at once, perhaps some individual goals, some department goals, and even some company-wide goals.

The Problem With “Measurable” Goals

Sometimes, goals are harder to measure on a quantitative scale. We need to set qualitative goals instead. Setting a goal with a result in mind is essential and effective for managing progress in specific roles. However, not all jobs can be measured in success and failure, nor can all goals.

When using this methodology, you must talk to your employees about what success looks like. All goals are measurable, but sometimes it requires a conversation instead of just setting a strict number. In fact, forming some sort of scale for success can encourage employees to be more effective in their roles.

The Problem With “Achievable” Goals

Sometimes, we need our employees to strive for more and reach further than they think is possible. The issue with “achievable” goals is that employees often undersell or underestimate themselves to be safe. Many of us have heard the phrase “underpromise and over perform,” and that’s what some people do when setting SMART goals.

Instead, encourage employees to sit down and think about what would make them feel like they “achieved” something. Something that is too easily achievable may look good for performance reviews, but it won’t help the workplace in the long term.

The Problem With “Relevant” Goals

Relevant seems like a place where we can’t go wrong, right? You can – setting goals that are too relevant can cause stagnation. Similar to achievable goals, relevant goals can sometimes be too relevant that they aren’t forward thinking. Goals that look towards the future are still likely relevant and fit into this methodology, but they aren’t as easy to come up with – it’s up to leaders to push their employees to think more into the future.

The Problem With “Timebound” Goals

Some of us take longer to get great results than others. When you set SMART goals, you need to think about the time it will realistically take the employee to complete their goals. You don’t want to give them all the time in the world, but you want to give them enough time to execute their work. It’s a fine line that takes some concentration and focus for everyone involved. Employees will have to be open with you about their timelines, and you have to know when to push and back off.

SMART Goals Still Work – If You Take The Time To Make Them

Business and reaching your goals, while done in sprints sometimes, isn’t something that will end. Business success is ongoing and indefinite if you are lucky. Your goals need to be a part of the bigger picture. People who aren’t able to fit SMART goals into their long-term plans are the ones who claim that the SMART goal is dead.

They aren’t dead – they need us to be better.

Managers and leaders must think through SMART goal setting and make it realistic. When doing performance reviews or creating PIPs, you need to consider each goal you set by itself and in conjunction with other goals. By taking your time and setting each aspect of the SMART goal, your employees are more likely to achieve them and stay on a pathway to success.

Be sure always to tie your goals back to the purpose of your organization, ensure that the timeliness fits into someone’s work schedule and that the specific goals are something that interest your employees. When you take your time and are purposeful in setting your goals, you are more likely to achieve them. With SMART goals, you can purposefully set goals for everyone.
If you need a talent management solution that puts goal setting and development at the forefront, learn more about the Trakstar Platform by reading more here or scheduling a demo.

Don't Miss Out on More Great HR Articles!

Subscribe to get the latest, greatest HR and Talent Development content straight to your inbox.