Goal setting needs to be done right so organizations can succeed while employees are motivated to perform and be aligned with organizational objectives. This is why it is necessary to make one’s goal setting follow the SMART way, where S.M.A.R.T is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.
Goal setting provides direction, guidance and helps organizations and teams to perform towards achieving them. Goals help to motivate and inspire action and ultimately achievement and success, both in one’s personal and professional lives.
If you are a people manager, it is important for you to set the right goals for your teams. Goal setting can have many approaches. They may be well-planned or challenging, they may aim too low or so high that they prove unattainable. All these aspects of goal setting affect the engagement as well as the performance of employees, making it essential for managers to not just do it but to do it right.
A S.M.A.R.T goal can be defined as a carefully designed target, that enables managers and employees to develop, track and achieve short & long-term objectives. The word SMART here is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. They help provide the necessary clarity and direction needed to make any work environment function effectively and efficiently. Effective goal setting help improves performance and productivity to achieve business objectives. What’s more, the results prove amenable to tracking and measurement.
Goal setting needs to acknowledge the fact that broad, non-specific goals are pointless. To ensure high performance, we need challenging and specific goals which are in consonance with organizational priorities. Having particular goals which are defined well offers clarity and specificity. Follow the 5 W’s on how to set specific goals, and ask Who, What, Why, Where, When, and How. Answer everything according to your strategic goals and set about achieving them.
Goal setting needs to be practical and also measurable to the extent possible. The measurement need not always be a number or a statistic. Where possible, we can keep a count and measure a goal, like improving one’s positive or negative reviews, NPS, followers on LinkedIn or Twitter, or the number of items sold. When your progress cannot be measured, it cannot be tracked either. If necessary, you can break down the main goal into sub-goals and make it easier for them to be tracked and measured in a practical way. This approach makes it possible to quantify and analyze the outcomes of a team’s performance or one’s own success in a tangible manner. It can facilitate the formulation of strategic approaches to resolve the challenges being faced, motivate teams to achieve their goals through better performance. Goals can also be set using the OKR methodology (Objectives and Key Results) for agility and attain much higher growth and success in the longer term.
While simplistic, easy goals never motivate anyone, achievable goals matter even if they’re achievable only by about 50% and not more. Difficult and impossible goals usually remain unattained.
Some interpretations look at “A” as assignable, whether it is to an individual or a group. It is also important to be able to track one’s progress on a given task. One needs to ensure that the task is assigned to people who have the relevant skills to deliver on it. Unachievable goals demotivate teams and make them give up their efforts and focus. That does not mean that teams would like easily attainable goals either. Not only will their motivation levels skydive, but they would also be forever unable or unwilling to strive to reach tougher goals or attempt harder tasks. It’s important to ensure a balanced approach to achievable goals.
Nothing could be more obvious than to say that any goals set need to be relevant to the overall goals of an organization. This makes it very important for any organization to make sure that their goal setting is focused exclusively on their strategy to achieve productivity, growth, and overall success. When the goal setting for the whole organization is broken down to bite-sized targets for the individuals and teams,. this method of goal setting helps every contributor to also be aware of what they need to contribute and how that contribution translates to the overall results achieved and the success attained. Some would also read the “R” as Realistic and ask for the goal-setting to be realistic while being strategic and result-oriented, with reference to the capabilities as well as resources available.
Goal setting cannot be unrelated to the time frame in which the goals set need to be achieved. The importance of deadlines is something that needs no reiteration for anyone today. The time set for achievement needs to be cognizant of and commensurate with the time needed to achieve a given goal. Having too much time for a simple task or too little time to achieve a tough task could prove extremely demotivating, making people feel either discouraged or put upon and upset about failing, for no fault of theirs other than lack of time. It helps to set a start and an end time to many tasks which need to be achieved in a timely manner.
Goal setting can be a challenging task for organizations and following a strategy like adopting SMART goals makes it easier to set goals right so as to have employees or teams to follow them, increasing their alignment with business objectives. Goal setting also helps to identify any lack of resources or training needed by the employees or teams. It also facilitates the evaluation of performance along with rewards and recognition for the star performers.
Read the following blog posts to learn more about how to increase employee engagement with performance management and KPI vs OKR Frameworks