S.M.A.R.T. goals

Developing sound goals is critical to managing employees’ performance. Each year managers work with employees to set goals for the upcoming year/evaluation period. Goals should be S.M.A.R.T. – specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused and time-bound. The concept of writing S.M.A.R.T. goals is very important for accomplishing individual goals, which in turn are linked to department, division, and University goals. It is also critical for ensuring good communication between employees and supervisors so there are no surprises during annual performance reviews.

Example: By mm/dd/yyyy, implement a new performance management system for Classified Staff and University Employees using clearly defined processes and guidelines so employees and supervisors can more competently evaluate performance and develop their careers. Below is a definition of each of the S.M.A.R.T. goal criteria referencing the example above.


Goals should be simplistically written and clearly define what will be accomplished. Specific is the what, why, and how of the S.M.A.R.T. model. Explanation of example:  

“Implement a new performance management system for Classified Staff and University Employees = What

“Using clearly defined processes and guidelines” = How

“So employees and supervisors competently evaluate performance and develop their careers” = Why

Goals should be measurable so employees have tangible evidence that they have accomplished the goal. Usually, the entire goal statement is a measure, but there are usually several short-term or smaller measurements built into the goal. Explanation of example: The essential metric is whether the system is operational as of mm/dd/yyyy. What measures will define “operational” response time, working as configured, % of time available to users?

Goals should be achievable; they should stretch the employee slightly so they feel challenged, but defined well enough so they can achieve them. Employees must possess the appropriate knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to achieve the goal. When the goal is clearly defined, sufficient resources exist and a timeframe is established that allows the employee to carry out those steps. Achievable goals motivate employees. Impossible goals de-motivate them. Explanation of example: In order for an employee to reach the goal, they must have a skill set. In this case, proficiency in the area of performance management is the skill set that allows them to understand the nature of the goal. The goal must present a large enough challenge for the employee to remain interested in and committed to accomplishing it.

Effective goals measure outcomes, not activities. Explanation of example: The result of this goal is a process that allows employees and supervisors to more competently evaluate performance and develop their careers, not the individual activities and actions that occur in order to make the goal a reality.

Goals should be linked to a timeframe that creates a practical sense of forward movement to close the gap between the current state of the goal and the desired outcome of the goal. Explanation of example: A specific date/timeframe for completion provides the employee with a time-bound deadline.