I recently read a World at Work magazine, a trade publication for compensation professionals, and ran across an article about goal setting. While the articles in this publication usually deal with the complex issues of compensation and benefits, it was refreshing to see an article on such a back-to-basics topic. Setting goals is a rudimentary task; however, it’s helpful to brush up on the basics of goal setting because it reinforces the idea that we should all be doing it—both for professional and personal purposes.
So, when was the last time you actually took the time to write business, professional, or personal goals? Do you know how to write a “good” goal? What goes into creating a goal aligned with the organizational strategy? How does a person write goals that challenge employees yet are realistic? The answer to writing effective goals is to ensure they meet SMART criteria: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
• Specific. Ensure that each goal is specific. They key to a specific goal is to clarify the verbiage to ensure the exact result is defined. For example, instead of stating a revenue goal simply as “increase revenue,” be specific about how much of an increase is expected: “increase revenue by 10 percent over last year.”
• Measurable. A measurable goal is one that can be measured quantitatively or qualitatively. For example, instead of “increase customer satisfaction,” a measurable goal would be “attain a customer satisfaction rate of 97.” By adding the measurable component, employees understand exactly what they need to obtain to ensure the goal is met.
• Attainable. Effective goals are attainable, which doesn’t always mean “easy to obtain.” But it does mean employees need to have the basic abilities and resources required for goal attainment. Expecting a revenue increase of 10 percent in the face of a 50 percent reduction in sales force would be a nearly impossible task. Goals that aren’t realistic do more harm than good.
• Relevant. Effective goals need to be relevant to the business. If the organization is concerned with customer satisfaction ratings, measuring the number of diversity training hours isn’t relevant. A relevant goal would be to “improve customer satisfaction ratings from 87 to 92 in the upcoming year.”
• Time-bound. Time-bound goals are particularly important when the time of completing a goal affects the result. For example, the goal to develop a marketing plan for a new product wouldn’t provide much value if the plan wasn’t complete prior to the launch of the product itself. In this case, incorporating a requirement that the plan be completed at least 60 days prior to product launch clearly articulates a concrete timeline.
There are many ways to write a goal and many ways to go through the process of goal setting. The SMART method ensures employees and employers both understand goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. IBI