How to Set SMART Performance Goals for Your Team

manager and employee
Guest Author
April 4 2023

Most managers today recognize the role that employee development and teamwork play in a company’s success. As workplaces continue to evolve, managers are adopting better ways to support the growth of their employees so that they can become better integrated into the company’s journey. These strategies include the implementation of performance goals, which are meant to instigate individual development in line with the company’s vision of growth and success.

One of the most popular strategies for team goal-setting is the “SMART” method, which is an acronym for “specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound”. These characteristics refer to the goals likely to yield great results in a team, and they primarily touch on aspects such as productivity, purpose and accountability.

Overall, SMART goals are an innovative way to mold a well-integrated team of enthusiastic professionals. To help you incorporate this approach into your leadership strategy, this article will discuss what SMART goals are and how they can drive your team beyond performance expectations.

Specify the Goals You Want to Achieve

First, you need to be clear and specific about what members need to achieve on an individual and team level. To do that, you need to establish goals specific to the industry and individual team roles. For example, perhaps you want your team to work on soft skills such as communication, time management and initiative. Or maybe you want members to further their expertise in job-specific skills—for example, the technical competencies offered through SkillsFuture courses and similar certification programmes.

With that being said, you may need to bring the team together for their input on the goals they want to achieve. Members must be able to determine the goals they want to accomplish, the steps needed to achieve them and how they want the outcomes to look. Clear and direct goal-setting will help the team develop action plans, particularly those that integrate individual progress into broader team objectives.

Measure Results Regularly

When it comes to goal-setting, it’s not enough to establish milestones and call it a day. You also need to incorporate performance metrics that keep everybody in check. How you establish these metrics largely depends on your industry, but a good rule of thumb would be to use quantifiable indicators to measure progress. For example, the sales team may need to hit a specific weekly quota to mark progress. Similarly, new data entry personnel may need to cut down processing time in the next three months to achieve a milestone.

In addition to technical skills, it would also help to monitor changes in output quality and behaviour to paint a full picture of the changes. To complement this data, it might help to schedule regular check-ins to identify pain points, successes and areas for improvement. This would allow managers to help team members who may be struggling, plus it serves as a chance for the team to strengthen their bond by celebrating small wins.

Keep Goals Attainable

While performance goals are there to challenge team members, they must also be realistic enough for everyone to achieve within a designated time frame. When setting SMART goals, make sure to identify potential hindrances that may arise. For instance, your team could be lacking in equipment and staff to handle a heavy workload.

Make sure to thoroughly analyze the achievability of the metrics you’re setting, and perhaps take them down a notch when they seem too aggressive or demanding on your team.

It might help to break down large goals into smaller tasks to keep your objectives attainable. If possible, ensure each team member is equipped with the right performance tools, skills and other resources to achieve milestones one step at a time. Ultimately, a team that believes that goals can be realistically achieved will be more motivated to put in the effort and maximize their resources.

Make Your Goals Relevant

Although SMART goals are meant to improve performance and support company growth, they must also feel relevant to your team members. Employees must have a “big picture” of why improving themselves will matter in the long run. With this, you may want to discuss the importance of each team member’s contribution, how they help achieve business priorities and what these contributions do for their individual careers and possibly the world at large. In that sense, constructive comments during performance reviews are always useful.

The key is to foster a deep connection between employees and their jobs so that they understand why improving performance is worth all that effort in the end.

Adhere to Established Timelines

Another thing to understand about SMART goals is that they must be time-bound. Essentially, performance goals must be achieved within a specific target date for them to be truly effective. So when establishing goals with your team, make sure to clearly imbue that sense of urgency by setting deadlines for specific milestones. From completing training courses to meeting sales objectives, many goals can be achieved efficiently with the challenge of a deadline.

Whether it’s within a week, a month, or a year, having a timeframe for the goals you set for the team will motivate each member to do their best. If you don’t set a target, employees are less likely to take tasks seriously and end up becoming disengaged as a result.

Work SMART Together

SMART goals focus on employees’ holistic development as much as the value they bring to the company. These performance goals are meant to encourage teamwork and learning, so team members can help each other out and move past their mistakes.

That being said, it’s fine not to do things perfectly when attempting to achieve these goals. In the end, what matters is that everyone made an effort to do things a little bit better and overcome performance challenges. And with the tips mentioned above, leaders like you can encourage the team to continue those efforts and keep doing their best—both for themselves and for the team.

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