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How to Write SMART Goals: Guide for Smart Goal Writing

8 min read
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It’s easier to succeed when you have clearly defined objectives that are based in reality. Teams often fall short of meeting their goals due to a lack of consensus on the definition of success. SMART goals use a specific set of criteria to help ensure that objectives are clearly defined and attainable within a certain timeframe. Working through each step of creating a SMART goal can reveal instances where priorities and resources are out of alignment.


Setting SMART HR Goals
Creating Effective SMART Goals
HR SMART Goals Examples
Goal Tracking Software ✅

Setting SMART HR Goals

Imagine an HR manager at a mid-sized tech company, let’s call him Mark. Mark, the HR manager’s current mission is to enhance employee retention within his organization. He’s aware that achieving this goal will require a collective effort from the entire team. However, he keeps bumping into the same problem. Whenever Mark has previously set company-wide HR objectives, they’ve tended to lose momentum. The team lacked a clear grasp of what constitutes success, and without clear goals set, monitoring progress was practically impossible. As a result, these important HR initiatives often fell by the wayside. This time, Mark is taking a new approach. He’s determined to utilize SMART goals to craft a precise action plan and ensure that everyone remains committed to improving employee retention at the company.

SMART Goals for HR

In the dynamic landscape of human resources, setting effective goals is crucial for the growth and success of both employees and organizations. HR professionals play a pivotal role in shaping a company’s workforce, ensuring its efficiency, and fostering a healthy work environment. To achieve these objectives, it’s essential to establish well-defined, actionable, and measurable HR goals. One of the most effective frameworks for setting such goals is the SMART goal framework. Although we will be taking most of our examples from the HR department, SMART goal setting is useful for everyone from small- to medium-sized businesses to the US government.

Related: HR KPIs: Top 10 Key Indicators for Human Resources

What is a SMART Goal?

SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. This framework provides a structured approach to goal setting, making it easier to create goals that are clear, actionable, and aligned with the overall organizational strategy.

SMART Goals Are Specific

HR goals should be specific and well-defined. Instead of vague objectives like “improve employee satisfaction,” a specific goal would be “increase employee satisfaction survey scores by 10% in the next quarter.” This clarity helps everyone understand what needs to be achieved.

SMART Goals Are Measurable

A goal should be measurable to track progress and determine when it has been achieved. In HR, this might involve using metrics such as turnover rate, training completion rates, or employee engagement scores. Having concrete numbers or data points allows you to evaluate your progress objectively.

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SMART Goals Are Achievable

While it’s important to set ambitious goals, they should also be achievable. Unrealistic goals can demotivate employees and lead to frustration. Consider the available resources, time, and capacity when setting HR goals to ensure they are attainable.

SMART Goals Are Relevant

HR goals should align with the organization’s mission, vision, and values. They should also address specific HR challenges and opportunities. For instance, if your organization is focused on diversity and inclusion, a relevant HR goal might be to increase the diversity of new hires.

SMART Goals Are Time-bound

Setting a deadline for achieving the goal provides a sense of urgency and accountability. It helps prevent procrastination and ensures that progress is continuously monitored. For example, a time-bound HR goal could be “reduce onboarding time for new employees from four weeks to two weeks by the end of the fiscal year.”

Creating Effective SMART Goals

Keep in mind that a SMART goal comprises five essential elements: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. To draft SMART goals, you’ll need to navigate through all these components to create well-defined and actionable objectives.

Now, let’s walk through each facet of the SMART goal framework:

1. Specific

To steer clear of vague objectives, it’s imperative to formulate a precise action plan. Here’s how to tackle the key ‘w’ questions:

  • What: Provide a detailed description of precisely what you want to accomplish.
  • Who: Enumerate the individuals who must be involved in your goal, particularly critical if you’re pursuing a team performance goal.
  • When: Establish both the commencement date and the endpoint for your set goal.
  • Where: If applicable, designate a location relevant to your goal.
  • Why: Define your motive for aspiring to achieve this specific goal, ensuring it aligns with your future objectives.
  • Which: Identify any challenges or prerequisites that could influence goal progress to ascertain if you’ve set a feasible goal. For instance, suppose your aim is to launch a new website, but you lack experience in web development. In that case, you might encounter obstacles.

Specific Goal Example: Enhance organic website traffic by 10%.

2. Measurable

The subsequent step entails determining how you’ll gauge progress toward your goal. Defining these metrics renders your goal more tangible because you can distinctly monitor your proximity to attaining it. Furthermore, if you’ve established a long-term goal, you can bolster motivation by instituting milestones.

What are milestones?

Milestones represent pivotal achievements along your goal’s timeline. For instance, if your objective is to launch an e-commerce website, crafting the user interface (UI) can serve as a milestone. Celebrating these milestones can sustain your motivation to accomplish even more goals.

Measurable Goal Example: Regularly review analytics to boost organic website traffic by 10% by Q1’s conclusion.

3. Attainable

Now, it’s time to evaluate the feasibility of your objective. While setting an exceedingly challenging goal, such as a stretch goal, may spur superior performance, it might also demoralize you if it proves unattainable. Instead, ponder the acquisition of new skills, shifts in attitude, utilization of goal-setting tools, procurement of equipment, or enrollment in courses necessary to achieve your goal. If you detect a deficiency in a skill or certification, ascertain the means to obtain it. Nevertheless, remain mindful of financial and time constraints.

Attainable Goal Example: Growing your online business may necessitate hiring web developers, but you must also gauge your financial capacity to remunerate them adequately.

4. Relevant

The establishment of relevant goals ensures that you set objectives conducive to your future. Crafting SMART goals that don’t align with your career development or long-term personal aspirations might leave you underwhelmed upon their attainment. For example, if you envision yourself managing an online retail business in the near future, it’s prudent to establish goals focused on sales and marketing courses. Conversely, pursuing unrelated goals, such as stand-up comedy classes, won’t bring you closer to your ultimate aspiration.

Relevant Goal Example: Considering that your website’s organic traffic increased by 8% last quarter, it’s logical to set a goal of augmenting organic traffic by 10% this quarter.

5. Time-bound

Goals demand a deadline. Devoid of one, your objectives can extend indefinitely, succumbing to the perils of procrastination. To establish a pragmatic timeline for an online business, factors like recruiting team members, securing physical space, filing administrative paperwork, and securing suppliers must be deliberated.

Time-Bound Goal Example: Increase organic website traffic by 10% by Q1’s culmination. Once you’ve addressed these queries, you’ll ascertain the requisite timeframe to fulfill your goal.

SMART Goals Benefits

Writing SMART HR goals for your team can have several significant benefits for both the team and the organization as a whole.

Here are the advantages of implementing SMART HR goals:

  1. Clarity and Focus: SMART HR goals provide clarity by specifying exactly what needs to be achieved. This clarity helps team members understand their priorities and focus their efforts on the most critical tasks.
  2. Measurable Progress: SMART goals include measurable criteria, which allow for objective tracking of progress. Team members can easily see how close they are to achieving the goals, providing motivation and a sense of accomplishment.
  3. Enhanced Accountability: When SMART goals are established, it’s clear who is responsible for what. This accountability promotes a sense of ownership among team members, leading to increased commitment to achieving the goals.
  4. Improved Decision-Making: SMART goals require thoughtful planning and consideration of how to achieve them. This often leads to better decision-making and the identification of necessary resources and actions to meet the goals.
  5. Efficient Resource Allocation: Setting SMART HR goals helps in identifying the resources required to accomplish them. This ensures that resources are allocated efficiently and effectively to support the team’s objectives.
  6. Alignment with Organizational Goals: SMART HR goals should align with the overall objectives of the organization. This alignment ensures that HR efforts contribute to the company’s strategic direction.
  7. Employee Development: SMART HR goals can include objectives related to employee training and development. This fosters continuous learning and growth among team members, improving their skills and capabilities.
  8. Enhanced Communication: Clearly defined SMART goals facilitate communication within the team. Team members can discuss progress, challenges, and adjustments needed to achieve the goals effectively.
  9. Higher Job Satisfaction: When employees have clear, achievable goals, they are more likely to find their work meaningful and satisfying. This can lead to higher job satisfaction and increased morale.
  10. Measurable Results: SMART goals enable the measurement of results and outcomes. This data-driven approach allows HR teams to evaluate the impact of their initiatives and make data-informed decisions.
  11. Adaptability: SMART goals often include time-bound elements, which encourage teams to adapt and respond to changing circumstances. This flexibility is crucial in today’s dynamic business environment.
  12. Motivation and Recognition: Achieving SMART HR goals provides a sense of accomplishment and motivation for team members. Recognizing and celebrating goal achievements can further boost morale and teamwork.

In conclusion, writing SMART HR goals for your team is a strategic approach that promotes clarity, accountability, and measurable progress. It ensures that HR efforts are aligned with the organization’s goals and contributes to employee development and job satisfaction. Ultimately, SMART HR goals drive improved performance and outcomes for both the team and the organization.

HR SMART Goals Examples

Here are some examples of SMART HR goals to provide you with a better understanding of how to structure them:

1. Recruitment and Hiring SMART Goals

  • Specific: Recruit and hire three experienced software engineers for the development team within the next 90 days.
  • Measurable: Evaluate and compare the qualifications of candidates through structured interviews and assessments.
  • Achievable: Develop an attractive compensation package to compete for top talent within the allocated budget.
  • Relevant: Align recruitment efforts with the company’s growth objectives and technology roadmap.
  • Time-bound: Complete the hiring process and have the new hires onboarded by the end of the quarter.

2. Employee Development SMART Goals

  • Specific: Provide leadership training to all department managers within the next six months.
  • Measurable: Assess the progress of each manager through pre- and post-training evaluations.
  • Achievable: Identify external trainers or internal experts to deliver the training program.
  • Relevant: Ensure that the training curriculum addresses current leadership challenges faced by the company.
  • Time-bound: Schedule and complete all leadership training sessions within the established timeframe.

3. Employee Engagement SMART Goals

  • Specific: Increase overall employee engagement scores by 10% in the annual employee survey.
  • Measurable: Conduct quarterly pulse surveys to track changes in engagement levels.
  • Achievable: Develop and implement action plans based on survey feedback to address areas of concern.
  • Relevant: Align engagement initiatives with the company’s culture and values.
  • Time-bound: Achieve the targeted increase in engagement scores within the next 12 months.

4. Performance Management SMART Goals:

  • Specific: Implement a performance management system that includes quarterly check-ins and annual reviews.
  • Measurable: Monitor the completion of check-ins and reviews for all employees.
  • Achievable: Train managers and employees on the new performance management process.
  • Relevant: Ensure that performance assessments are aligned with individual development plans.
  • Time-bound: Roll out the new performance management system and conduct the first round of check-ins within the next quarter.

5. Diversity and Inclusion:

  • Specific: Increase diversity within leadership positions by promoting two employees from underrepresented groups to senior management roles within the next year.
  • Measurable: Track the progress of potential candidates in leadership development programs.
  • Achievable: Provide mentoring and coaching to help prepare candidates for leadership roles.
  • Relevant: Promote diversity and inclusion as part of the company’s values and strategic goals.
  • Time-bound: Promote the selected candidates to senior management roles within the established timeframe.

These SMART HR goals cover various aspects of human resources, from recruitment and development to engagement and diversity and inclusion, and are designed to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound to drive meaningful results.

Factorial can help you track SMART goals

Factorial’s OKR software offers a powerful solution for organizations aiming to enhance performance and achieve their objectives effectively. With a user-friendly interface and a comprehensive set of features, Factorial’s software enables you to set, track, and optimize your organization’s goals seamlessly.

  • Set Your OKRs: Factorial’s OKR software enables you to establish clear and ambitious objectives and key results (OKRs) for your organization.
  • Track Progress: Regularly monitor and track progress against your OKRs to gain valuable insights into your company’s performance.
  • Improve Company Performance: With centralized OKRs and progress data, identify bottlenecks, address challenges, and optimize your company’s overall performance.
  • Adapt Goals: Create, adjust, and align goals with different employee roles to ensure everyone is on the same mission.
  • Monitor Key Metrics: Factorial’s intuitive interface allows you to monitor key metrics, identify areas for improvement, and make data-driven decisions.
  • Transparent Variable Pay: Keep employees informed about their variable pay by assigning statuses to goals and closing objectives when they expire.
  • Foster Collaboration: Factorial’s software fosters collaboration and a sense of purpose among employees at all levels, driving high-performance and success in today’s competitive landscape.

Schedule a demo today to try Factorial for yourself and see exactly how our HR software can help you with your goal setting and tracking.

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Did you like this article? Benjamin McBrayer has been a Content Writer for 5 years. He specializes in HR strategy and workplace trends. Check out Factorial's blog for more of his posts on time management in the office, productivity, and HR news.

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