Once you’ve decided you are going to set Objectives and Key Results (OKRS) for your employees or for yourself or even just for your team, you might find that you are stumped about what to do next.
Logically speaking, you know the next step is going to be writing out goals and objectives. However, writing good goals and objectives is not an easy task. Especially when you are doing it for someone else. You cannot sit down for 15 minutes and dash off a set of employee goals and objectives.
If you can, that is great. But more often than not, employee goals and objectives require a fair amount of time to hash out and they also require some heavy-duty editing and re-writing.
The problem is not that you require a handsome mastery over all aspects of the language you are writing in; it is that the goals and objectives you set must make sense. They must also be clear, crisp, and concise.
And finally–they also need to be SMART. Do you notice how SMART is capitalized? It’s not to highlight that your goals must be clever. Rather, SMART is a methodology against which you can measure your goals. If your goals and objectives are SMART, then you’ve won half the battle.
Before we get to how to write good employee goals and objectives, let us take a look at what SMART stands for.
The concept of SMART goals seems to have first originated from George T. Doran in 1981. Take a look at the picture to your right where the S.M.A.R.T acronym has been expanded. Right now, those words can mean many different things. Let’s explore the concept a little further.
When you create employee goals and objectives – keeping the S.M.AR.T acronym in mind would be a good idea. But why would it be a good idea? Here is why.
1. Specific–Have a specific purpose. If your goal isn’t specific, it’s going to be doomed from the start.
2. Measurable–What is the point of setting a goal if you cannot measure it? When you can measure a goal, you will also be able to tell if the goal was met successfully or not.
3. Achievable–There needs to be a sweet spot for your goals. They cannot be too easy, but nor can they be too difficult. Your goal needs to make you break a light sweat and motivate yourself, not fill you with despair.
4. Relevant–Goal-setting in itself is not enough–you must make sure that these goals apply to the people who will utilize them. And of course, they must also align with organizational goals and help with organizational growth.
5. Time-Bound–Goals cannot be forever without any end in sight. There needs to be a time period during which the goal can be carried out and the objective met. More importantly, when goals are time-bound, they also tend to be motivating.
We now know what makes a good goal. But how do you get around to writing that goal? Here are a few things you need to keep in mind when writing good employee goals and objectives.
What is the nature of work?
The nature of the work an employee does is what decides their objectives. For instance, the goals and objectives that are set for a factory supervisor would be vastly different from the goals and objectives that have been set for a PR executive. Both of them do valuable work and are an important part of their organizations.
Since the nature of a factory supervisor’s work is routine, you could probably set goals and objectives for them that focus on concrete numbers and specific outcomes. But when you try to give a PR executive the same set of goals and objectives – that would be a recipe for disaster.
A PR executive’s work is not always composed of routine. You could give a factory supervisor a set of goals and objectives but for a PR executive, it would be ideal to invite them to set goals and objectives for themselves. Knowing the nature of an employee’s work will help you set goals and objectives that are better suited to them.
Write, Edit, Repeat
Like a wash cycle, the process of writing good goals and objectives is endless. I joke. But yes, there is a fair amount of writing, editing, and rewriting involved. Do not be satisfied with the first objective that you dash off. Take a critical look at it. Chances are, it could do with some refining.
There is a reason behind writing and refining the objective. An objective that can lead an employee to assume more than one explanation has already failed the test. Objectives need to be as clear and concise as possible. And remember, a clear objective is not one that is spartan. If you need to expend a few extra hundred words to detail the objective and goal, then, by all means, go ahead and use it. Do not skimp on words in favor of pithiness.
And by clarity, I mean goal clarity. If a clear goal cannot be gauged from an objective – then it is time to go back to the drawing board. The lack of clear goals is not only going to affect the employee in question, but it might also impact the work that they do, and consequently, the objectives of others too (if they are in a team) and the overall objective of the company as well.
Keep Them SMART
It is not that the SMART acronym is without its faults and critics. However, it is important to note that despite being first established 30 years or so ago – the acronym still holds value today. It acts as a checklist of sorts and by keeping it in mind when writing your objectives; you are essentially creating a crude version of a good objective that has all the necessary information. All it needs is refining!
Writing good goals and objectives is not easy. But these tips should make the process a lot easier for you! How do you go about setting goals and objectives? Share your comments with us.
Srikant Chellappa is the Co-Founder and CEO at Engagedly and is a passionate entrepreneur and people leader. He is an author, producer/director of 6 feature films, a music album with his band Manchester Underground, and is the host of The People Strategy Leaders Podcast. He is currently working on his next book, Ikigai at the Workplace, which is slated for release in the fall of 2023.