Posted by Julie • September 18, 2018 (Last modified May 12, 2022) • 5 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.
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.
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.
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.”
Vague goal: “Learn and implement new social media tactics”
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.
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.
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.