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What are SMART goals and how do they aid performance?

What are SMART goals and how can they boost workplace productivity?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Following up on our recent piece about OKRs, today, we’re discussing SMART Goals. They’re the other method of objective tracking available through the Weekly10 platform. The SMART framework helps to establish goals that are easy to understand, with a clear path to implementation. Along with some basic definitions and examples, we’ll also explore some of the benefits and share some tips for developing your own effective SMART Goal solutions.

What are SMART Goals?

SMART Goals are a method of goal setting which use the SMART acronym to ensure effectiveness. The term SMART Goal goes all the way back to 1981, when George T. Doran used it in that year’s November issue of Management Review magazine. The actual breakdown of the acronym can vary depending on your source, but for the purposes of consistency, we’ll be using the version outlined in other areas of the Weekly10 website.

  • Specific: The S in SMART Goal can also stand for simple, sensible or significant. But we prefer “specific” because it reinforces the fact that, to plan out any goal, you need to start with a basic understanding of what it is you’re trying to achieve. So for example, you might start with the specific goal of expanding your organisation’s portfolio of regular clients, or to increase the amount of web traffic on your company’s website.
  • Measurable: Knowing what you want to achieve doesn’t mean you have an effective way of measuring it. Many business goals can stem from qualitative roots, and it’s important to find qualitative measures to help give you some level of objectivity when it comes to assessing progress. Expanding a client-base or increasing web traffic both have obvious forms of measurement. But if your goal is to, for example, improve employee wellbeing in your workplace, then you need to find quantifiable measures. Of course, you could survey your staff, but that can be expensive and you don’t know how reliable its results might be. It might help to look at the number of sick days being taken, or the number of employees observing or displaying presenteeism in the workplace.
  • Achievable: There’s no sense having a goal if it’s completely unattainable. Unrealistic goals can spill over past their assigned deadlines, or even just go nowhere at all. So it’s important to create objectives that can realistically be accomplished in a reasonable amount of time. So while increasing web traffic by 30% might be a bit steep in the short term, you can easily break it down into more achievable objectives. You can establish quotas for new articles and videos to get people visiting your site, or try to achieve top SEO rankings for specific keywords so that people searching them are directed to you. These sub-goals can boost web traffic over time, making that 30% increase more realistic in the long run.
  • Relevant: This can have some overlap with A, as some alternate acronyms include “realistic” or “reasonable.” But since that’s taken care of, we use this part of the acronym to address relevancy. After all, it’s an admirable goal to want to serve the best cup of coffee in town, but not exactly as important for an accountancy firm as it is for a high-street café.
  • Time-based: Last but not least, effective SMART Goal solutions require you to have a realistic understanding of how long your objectives will actually take. If your only goal is something that will take months or even years to achieve, there’s a good chance that anyone working towards it might burn out or get lost in the weeds. Long term goals can be incredibly useful, but breaking them down into short term sub-goals can keep everyone engaged, and even help you to reach your long term objectives more quickly. When setting a SMART Goal, you should generally have a solid expectation of how long it will take to achieve.
What are SMART goals?

How SMART Goals actually work

SMART Goals are easy to understand, in that the acronym forms the actual framework you’ll use for setting objectives. Effective SMART Goal solutions require you to work through each aspect to ensure that your goal is actually functional. If it isn’t specific, it can be difficult to know what you’re working towards. If it’s not measurable, you can’t tell if you’re making progress. If it’s not achievable or doesn’t work in the time constraints you have, then it needs to be broken down into more realistic sub-goals. And if it’s irrelevant, then why are you even focusing on it to begin with?

Effective SMART Goal solutions give you manageable targets to work towards every day, helping you achieve your long term objectives while staying engaged. Just like with OKRs, employees on different levels can contribute to SMART Goals, provided there’s a measurable way for them to do so. If, for example, you wanted to increase customer uptake of your business’s loyalty card scheme, then you can set different sub-goals for different types of employee. Retail workers can track the number of loyalty card sign-ups, while PR workers could create advertisements for the scheme, and track the number of clicks and page-views they receive. 

How to get the most out of your SMART Goals

Whether you’re using SMART Goals for a business objective or for personal development, the way you’ll implement them is essentially the same. So with that in mind, here are some tips for using effective SMART Goal solutions that don’t necessarily fit into the acronym:

  • Proper scheduling makes sub-goals more manageable: One of the main reasons it’s important to set achievable goals is so that you can consistently move forward. So for example, if you’re focusing on your workplace education by learning a new computer application or gaining a new certification, try to tick off at least one exercise or set of tasks a day.
  • Share your SMART Goals with a support network: Whether it’s your manager, an officially assigned mentor, or other people on your team, it’s worth discussing your SMART Goals with others. Aside from offering moral support, these people may have advice that can help you manage your goals more efficiently. If it’s a business objective, they might be able to collaborate to help get it done. If it’s a personal development goal, you might get pearls of wisdom from others who have already been there and done that.
  • If your SMART Goals aren’t working out, reorganise them: If your goals aren’t manageable in the time constraints of the working day, try breaking them down further. Maybe your goal isn’t as relevant to the aims of the organisation as you thought, or perhaps you’ve found a better way of measuring progress. There’s no shame in revisiting your SMART Goals, especially when you’re first getting to grips with them. 
What are SMART goals and how can you use them to increase productivity?

Weekly10 makes it a synch to set up effective SMART Goal solutions

SMART Goals are one of two objective tracking methods we offer through the Weekly10 platform, along with OKRs. Just like with our OKRs, employees can set SMART Goals for themselves, while managers can set them for everyone in their downstream.

Our weekly check-in consists of two sections. The first is a personalised selection of qualitative and quantitative questions, while the second is their SMART Goals section. When an employee submits an update, their manager can review it and respond to individual sections, ensuring that there’s always a consistent line of asynchronous communication keeping everyone on the same page. Weekly10 even has a section for employees to track workplace education and certification, so using SMART Goals for personal development is absolutely encouraged.

To learn more about SMART Goals, OKRs and the Weekly10 platform as a whole, head on over to our blog!

Weekly10 utilises SMART goals to help managers and business leaders boost productivity across any organisation. Come have a look…

Research Associate