Goal setting is an undeniably important step on the road to achievement, be it personal, or in the workplace. Research indicates that goals serve four basic functions: providing guidance and direction, facilitating planning, motivating and inspiring employees, and helping evaluate and control performance. As a manager, it’s vital to set goals for your team or make sure that they have their own goals to strive towards. This is not only to ensure they’re working towards company success but also that they are motivated and committed in terms of the tasks they’re completing.
It can, however, be questionable how useful and well thought-out some goals can be. If goals set are either too challenging, or not enough so, this can cause numerous issues amongst team members in terms of their motivation and drive. It can be incredibly demotivating if your goals are set unrealistically high and become equally problematic when they’re aimed too low and people feel they have nothing to strive for. Having useful, productive goals in place can make all the difference when creating a team which works both as individuals and together towards clear, established aims. Those without clearly outlined goals can encounter problems when setting them into action. That’s where you, as their manager, can step in and help your employees set attainable, yet challenging goals to strive towards.
With SMART goals, you can be sure that you’re setting yourself attainable and achievable benchmarks that can lead to your development and success, or that of those around you. SMART goals should conform to the following criteria: Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Relevant, and Timely. Outside of that, the goals can be made to suit your own needs and expectations, depending on what you want to gain from them. They should both help provide you with a clear purpose and lead to successful goal completion that feels straightforward and stress-free. Whilst SMART goal criteria are a great basis for goal setting, of course, there are more factors involved. Besides SMART goal criteria, it is also important that goals are realistic and attainable without being too simplistic or easily achieved. Set goals that are too easily completed and risk them being pointless and not motivating enough, set them too difficult and they’ll never be within reach. Research indicates that employees are most highly motivated when there is a 50% chance of achieving a goal. Stretch yourself and your team with something to aim towards, but also make sure it’s something that can reasonably be worked towards, if not completed, within a realistic time frame with the resources and capabilities available.
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Here are the criteria for setting SMART goals:
There’s no point setting vague goals that don’t achieve anything specific. Research by the creators of goal setting theory, Locke & Latham, found that in 90% of studies conducted, specific and challenging goals lead to higher performance than when people were set either easy goals, “do your best” goals or no goals at all. It’s important for both you and your employees to have clear and established aims, to avoid potentially setting goals so broad that they are overwhelming and therefore too difficult to set into action.
Once you have a specific goal pinned down, it’s important to be able to measure the success or completion of the goal. This doesn’t have to be in the traditional sense, like on a numeric scale or a statistic, it just has to be measurable in some sense, so that it is clear when you have reached or are close to reaching your goal. This is a great way to keep track of progress in the workplace, for both you as a manager and your team members: if the goal is to reach a certain number of followers on Twitter, for example, having a measurable goal in the form of a number is a sure-fire way of measuring and independently keeping track of progress.
A SMART goal must be assignable to someone be it yourself, your team, or individual team members. If you decide you want to achieve something as a team it is important that someone is responsible for tracking progress, implementing action steps and keeping the team motivated towards reaching this goal.
It is essential that any goals set for teams or individuals are relevant to company-wide aims. Of course, goal-completion is important and having goals met or worked towards is the overall idea when setting them, but this is only really beneficial when the goals are productive in the workplace environment and will contribute to company success in some way. As a manager, it is particularly important that you help your employees link their goals back to the wider team and company-wide goals. One of the best ways to motivate your employees is to make sure they know how their work is contributing to the bigger picture.
Goals must be time-related. It’s not productive to set a deadline too far in the future for a simple task, or an unrealistically short deadline for something complex and time-consuming. This common pitfall can be incredibly demotivating for staff. They’re either left with an abundance of time in which they are not pushing themselves, or left feeling stressed and demotivated when they fail to complete goals in the time-frame provided. The same applies in a management position. Ensure that, whether goals are for yourself, or involve others, the appropriate time frame is provided so that neither you or your team members are left feeling discouraged.
The following are a few examples of some SMART goals you can set in the workplace, outlining how they meet the above criteria.
S provide more growth and learning opportunities to each employee
M give feedback to each employee at least 2 times per month
A manager expected to provide the feedback
R improves company-wide communication and feedback culture
T provided before the end of the next quarter
S have customers complete satisfaction rating surveys at start and again after the 2 quarters
M Increase customer satisfaction by x% over the next 2 quarters
A customer service team to analyze and report improvements every 2 weeks
R Become well-known as a company for our focus on customer satisfaction
T the following 2 quarters
S begin new social media campaign
M reach % downloads
A marketing/PR team responsible for running campaign
R promote our new feature
T in the next two months
S add a new feature to the app
M have it ready to deploy to the app store
A development team assigned responsibilities
R improves current product and makes things more accessible for users
T 2 months
Some companies replace ‘Relevant’ with ’Realistic’ in their SMART criteria to emphasize this point. Although we place emphasis on relevance in our outline, the importance of setting realistic goals set at the right level for your team members and their capabilities and resources should not be ignored or underestimated. The five SMART goal criteria discussed above are however a great basis and will change the way tasks and milestones are completed by you and your team: having clear, concise and relevant goals makes any work environment more communicative, motivating and effective.
Setting great SMART goals for you and your team all begins with feedback. Sharing and receiving 360 feedback is essential so that you can respond by setting beneficial goals for improvement, both as individuals and as a team.