How to Write SMART Employee Review Goals For The Performance Appraisal

Posted by Julie • September 18, 2018 (Last modified January 12, 2024) • 8 min read

Most organizations have some sort of performance appraisal system in place to evaluate decisions related to promotions, salary hikes and professional development. To execute that, a set of expectations is established against which employees’ performance is measured. That’s where the importance of writing SMART performance evaluation goals comes in.

What are SMART Goals?

SMART goals, which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely, are used in employee evaluations as a way to enhance performance management. SMART goals are a step-by-step process to effectively formulate and achieve goals and can be used in conjunction with evaluations and performance reviews.

Specific Employee Review Goals for The Performance Appraisal

Professional goals should have clearly defined output expectations. This can be in terms of what is to be delivered, how much is to be delivered, and what the standards are for the deliverables that are to be measured. Let’s take the example of a goal where an employee is expected to update an existing report on emerging trends in e-commerce.

The above goal lacks specificity, since there is no clear definition of what is meant by “update”. A better way to write the goal is “Update the report on emerging trends in e-commerce with at least two new trends that aren’t listed in the current report.” You can take it a step further by identifying a trend as something that has a tangible outcome on your business objectives, for instance, trends that impact the way shopping habits are changing. The goal now has performance metrics that make it more objective.

Setting SMART Goals Template


The performance goal should also include how the completion of the goal will be measured. Two common ways that a business output can be measured are quality and cost-effectiveness.


Accuracy of new information and effectiveness of new information can determine the quality of the work produced.


The efficiency of a task measures its cost-effectiveness. For instance, the cost-effectiveness of the goal in the previous example can be measured by calculating the number of hours taken when updating the report. Thus, the revised goal could read “Update the report on emerging trends in e-commerce with at least two new trends that aren’t listed in the report, and try to come up with new research methods aimed at saving time.”


The outcome of a performance goal should be under employees’ control. External factors should not play a role in whether a goal is considered successfully achieved or not. For instance, in our example of report update as a goal, it will be unfair to not consider unavailability of substantial data to evaluate trends. A fair performance goal would be “Update the report on emerging trends in e-commerce with at least two new trends that aren’t listed in the report, and try to come up with new research methods aimed at saving time. If statistically significant data is not found for compiling trends, give sources referenced for research. Sources should be reputable.”


For performance goals to be beneficial for employees and the organization, they should be relevant to employees’ job responsibilities, thus leading to their professional development, and relevant to the short- or long-term goals of the organization.

As an example, giving the responsibility of updating an existing report to a content writer in your organization makes sense. It is aligned with the work that the employee is already doing, which is mostly research-based. The goal makes even more sense if your organization has a projection of increasing its sales. By identifying new trends, you can come up with new marketing strategies or entirely new products to attract more customers.


This is to ensure that a goal is met in a timely manner. Our example performance goal can thus be updated in the following manner: “Update the report on emerging trends in e-commerce with at least two new trends that aren’t listed in the report and try to come up with new research methods aimed at saving time. If statistically significant data is not found for compiling trends, give sources referenced for research. Sources should be reputable. The first draft of the report is to be sent to Manager A by June 15.”

Other Examples of SMART Performance Goals

Example 1

Vague goal: “Learn and implement new social media tactics”

SMART goal: “Learn four new social media tactics (specific) and implement them on Facebook and Twitter (specific) by the end of this month (timely). Document the effectiveness of the tactics in terms of users reached, users engaged and new users engaged (measurable).”

It is assumed that the goal is achievable since the employee has access to the required resources, which include an Internet connection and relevant books on the topic.

Example 2

Vague goal: “Increase employee productivity”

SMART goal: “Train the team such that at least 85 percent of department goals (specific and measurable) for this fiscal year are met (timely).”

Here again, it is assumed that the manager has access to all necessary resources, which could include finances to hold regular educational seminars and approvals from relevant authorities.

Example 3

Slightly vague goal: “Create 100 new blog posts in the next four months”

This goal is not measurable in terms of effectiveness, which makes it less relevant.

SMART goal: “Create 100 new blog posts in the next four months. At least 50 blog posts should be related to current trends in the industry so as to increase chances of engagement.”

In the last example, it is very possible to make the goal unattainable by linking measurement to the amount of traffic that the blog posts fetch. Unless the employee is responsible for content marketing too, reach of content is outside the factors that the employee has control over.

Implementing SMART goals across the organization, departments, and individual team members creates alignment, boosts job performance, and improves annual reviews. It’s proven to be the most effective goal-setting approach for organizations of all sizes and across every industry.

Want some examples for your own HR SMART goals?

How to write SMART goals for employees

When setting employee goals, using the SMART framework is a highly effective approach. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. By following this method, you can ensure that your goals are clear and actionable.

Make sure your goal is specific. Avoid vague statements like “improve performance.” Instead, be precise by stating, “increase sales by 10% within the next quarter.” This way, everyone knows exactly what needs to be accomplished.

Next, include measurable criteria in your goal. Use numbers or other quantifiable metrics so progress can be tracked objectively. For instance, rather than saying “enhance customer satisfaction,” say “increase customer satisfaction ratings from 80% to 90%.”

Additionally, set achievable goals that are realistic and attainable based on the employee’s skills and resources available. It’s important not to set unrealistic expectations that will only lead to frustration and demotivation.

Furthermore, ensure that the goals you set are relevant to both the employee’s role and the overall objectives of the organization. Aligning individual goals with company objectives creates a sense of purpose and allows employees to see how their efforts contribute to larger success.

Lastly but importantly, establish a timeframe for achieving each goal. Setting deadlines helps maintain focus and encourages timely progress toward targets.

By following these guidelines when writing SMART goals for employees during performance appraisals or any other review process ensures clarity in expectations while motivating individuals towards achieving meaningful outcomes!

How to use SMART goals in the performance appraisal process

The performance appraisal process plays a crucial role in evaluating an employee’s progress and providing valuable feedback. By incorporating SMART goals into this process, organizations can enhance the effectiveness of performance appraisals and ensure that employees are working towards specific objectives.

To use SMART goals effectively in the performance appraisal process, managers should start by setting clear and specific objectives for each employee. These goals should be measurable so that progress can be tracked over time. For example, instead of simply stating “increase sales,” a more effective goal would be “increase monthly sales by 10%.”

Additionally, it is important to ensure that all goals are achievable and realistic within the given timeframe. Setting unrealistic expectations can lead to frustration and demotivation for employees. Managers should collaborate with their team members to set attainable targets based on their skills and resources.

Another key element of SMART goals is ensuring they are relevant to both individual job roles and organizational objectives. The goals should align with the overall mission of the company while also addressing specific areas where improvement or growth is needed.

Furthermore, every goal must have a defined timeline or deadline attached to it. This helps create urgency and ensures that employees stay on track towards achieving their targets. Regular check-ins throughout the year can help monitor progress towards these deadlines.

It is essential to provide ongoing support, guidance, and resources for employees as they work towards their SMART goals. Effective communication between managers and team members fosters accountability while allowing for necessary adjustments or revisions along the way.

By implementing SMART goals into the performance appraisal process, organizations can promote clarity, focus, motivation, and ultimately drive greater success among their workforce

Set Better SMART Goals

Want to learn more about setting goals for your employees and following through using automated software for performance reviews, learning and development, and more? Click here to schedule a demo of the Trakstar platform.

Setting Smart Goals Template

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