Putting the ‘A’ in SMART – Tips for Keeping Employee Goals High But Attainable


Looking to set the best goals possible for employees? Make sure that your goals are high but achievable. Here is how to strike a good balance!

How can you tell if an employee’s goals are aggressive, but still attainable? How do you keep things fair while still pushing your team to perform better?

Finding the right balance between ambition and realism is a constant challenge for HR specialists and managers. However, not finding the right balance can undermine an employee’s performance. If you find yourself struggling to find a balance when it comes time in your employee evaluations to set goals, then here are a few things you should consider.

Start with SMART Goals

If you’re in the HR space, then chances are good that you have heard of SMART goals. If you aren’t 100% sure what a SMART goal is, then here is a breakdown:

S = Specific

M = Measurable

A = Attainable

R = Relevant

T = Time-bounded

You may have noticed that “Attainable” is (literally) at the center of a SMART goal. Another way to think of it, however, is that in order to be attainable, a goal also needs to be specific, measurable, relevant and time bound. In other words, don’t set a goal that is ambiguous, like “be one of the top salespeople.” Instead, say something along the lines of “you need to sell x amount this product by the end of the month.”

Factor in Past Performance

Sticking with the example of the salesperson, if your business has been around for 20 years and you have never had a salesperson increase their sales by more than 10% in one year, then why would you goal someone at a 25% increase year over year? While there are certainly some scenarios in which this may make sense, they would be the exception to the rule. Take a look at past employee evaluations and make sure to factor in an employee’s historical performance along with what other, top performing employees have done in the past, and set your goals accordingly.

Give Them the Tools They Need to Succeed

Goals are only attainable if an employee has the tools and resources needed to achieve them. Does the employee need to take additional training in order to meet a goal, for example? If you are setting ambitious goals, then make sure that you can provide the following:

1.            Regular communication

2.            Milestones and deadlines

3.            Making resources available (human, equipment, and materials)

4.            Periodically review the process as well as the progress

5.            Willingly revise and improve the process when necessary

Final Thoughts

Setting ambitious goals is important for an employee’s performance. After all, if they aren’t constantly challenged, then chances are good that the quality of their work will decline. Both the performance evaluator and employee must fully understand, agree, and sign-off on the goals set down.

If you would like to give managers and employees the tools they need to create and track SMART goals, explore emPerform’s easy-to-use online performance management software suite.

Other great Goal management resources to explore:

Video: SMART Goal Management  

Article: Realistic Goal Setting