Setting SMARTER Goals—Improving the Evaluation Process
By Peg Ayers
Congratulations! You’ve made it through year end performance evaluations, survived the challenges of January, and 2019 is starting off well for you! You may be pleased that you don’t have to think about employee reviews again for many months. But spending some time now could simplify the end of the year a great deal.
Now is the time to make sure goals are aligned between front-line employees, managers, departments and the company itself. Well written goals, revisited frequently throughout the year, are the key to true performance management.
Goals must be SMARTER:
The concept of SMART goals was first suggested by George T. Doran in the November 1981 issue of Management Review. (https://www.achieveit.com/resources/blog/history-evolution-smart-goals/. Writers in recent years have added the last two letters to the mnemonic device, indicating the need for a feedback loop where progress is evaluated and the goal may be readjusted. (https://www.wanderlustworker.com/setting-s-m-a-r-t-e-r-goals-7-steps-to-achieving-any-goal/)
Confusion about goals leads to difficult conversations between managers and front-line employees. When an employee thinks they’ve achieved a goal, and their manager doesn’t agree, both are frustrated. The solution is make the goal specific and to revisit it throughout the year.
If it can’t be measured, how can it be achieved? The goal should be quantifiable and both manager and employee should be able to see how close it is to being achieved. Good judgment is needed here. When he first proposed this system, Doran explained that not every goal would have all of the SMART elements, and some might be less quantifiable than others, especially at the middle management level. (https://rapidbi.com/why-smart-objectives-dont-work/) Progress on most goals, though, should be clearly measurable throughout the evaluation period.
Determining whether a goal is achievable requires collaboration between manager and employee. We want to stretch people, but we don’t want to be unrealistic. As Robert Heinlein advised, “Never attempt to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and annoys the pig.” (https://quoteinvestigator.com/2017/07/10/sing-pig/) Our people are not pigs, and most of us aren’t teaching singing, but we have to be cognizant of the true capabilities of our team members and realistic in the goals we are setting before them.
If it doesn’t matter to the business, why is it a goal? Each objective should be relevant to the person’s position in the company, to the department goals and to the goals of the company. Alignment here means the employee is working on goals that support the company’s mission.
What needs to be completed by when? Each goal must have a date by which it is to be achieved. Larger goals should have milestones along the way.
Goals that are written down and signed, then tossed in a drawer for the year, accomplish nothing. If goals are to be achieved, they need to be revisited regularly. What progress has been made? Should the goal be adjusted? Is it too ambitious in the current time-frame? Not ambitious enough? Has something else occurred that makes the goal irrelevant? What help can you provide the employee? What questions do each of you have?
Evaluation leads to readjustment which leads to better, more useful goals that are clearly understood, can truly be achieved, and support department and company goals.
Bringing it all together
By setting SMARTER goals and revisiting them throughout the year, you will simplify your next performance review discussions and make them truly worthwhile for you, your employees and your company.
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