What are SMART goals and how can they boost workplace productivity?
Updated December 2022
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.
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 you might want to increase the amount of web traffic on your company's website.
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. It's important to find quantitative 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 your goal might be to, for example, improve employee wellbeing in your workplace. If so, 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, if people don't seem to be taking them, look at the number of employees observing or displaying presenteeism in the workplace.
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.
Increasing web traffic by 30% might be a bit steep in the short term. But 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. Another approach is to try and achieve top SEO rankings for specific keywords. That way, 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.
This can have some overlap with A. That's because 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.
Last but not least, effective SMART Goal solutions require you to not bite off more than your people can chew. You need to be realistic about how long your objectives will actually take. If your only goal will take months or even years to achieve, then the people 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. In fact, it can 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.
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.
Lack of specificity makes it difficult to know what you're working towards. If it's not measurable, you can't tell if you're making progress. When 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. That helps you and your employees to achieve your long term objectives while staying engaged. Just like with OKRs, employees on different levels can contribute to SMART Goals. They just need an accessible, measurable way for them to do so.
Say, 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. 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
It doesn't matter 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, 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. When 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
When 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.
Weekly10 makes it easy to set up effective SMART Goals
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. And 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. This ensures 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.