Writing “Meaningful” Performance Goals

How do you assess the performance of your staff members?

How do you want your performance assessed?

Some people have a problem with the performance evaluation process because they aren’t conducted fairly and have vague expectations. They can be complaint sessions.

But the process can be helpful if they are based on measurable goals directly related to what an employee should accomplish during the next review period.

Some people call them S.M.A.R.T. goals.

S – Specific

The more detailed your goals are, the more helpful they will be at evaluation time.

M – Measurable

If I tell you to make more widgets, you don’t know if I expect you to make 1,000 or 10 additional widgets. So make your goals quantifiable. This also allows you to set benchmarks to judge progress at various points of the review period.

A – Achievable

Unachievable goals sends a message to workers that they are being set up to fail. On the other hand, an attainable goal gives a person something to work towards. It’s ok to set larger or stretch goals, as long as they are reasonable.

R – Relevant

Each goal should relate to the person’s role in the organization and be relevant to the larger mission of the organization or company. We all want to feel that why we do contributes to the overall success of the larger good.

T – Timely

You may have received a goal, but are you expected to complete it today, in the next six months, or the year?  This helps workers align their daily work aiming toward meeting the goal.

As an example, I might set this goal for you:

“Raise more money for our nonprofit.”

If I give you this goal, you don’t know how much money you should raise, from who, when, or why.

If the goal was rewritten, you might have a better idea of how to proceed.

“Raise an additional $350,000 from current donors of our nonprofit before December 31 to meet the organization’s strategic goal to provide expanded services to our clients.”

If necessary, I could do intermediate goals:

“To achieve this goal, you will achieve 50 percent of this target by July 1 and 75 percent by October 1st.”

This is a S.M.A.R.T goal:

  • Specific: Reading this goal, you know what you must do (raise more money from existing donors)
  • Measurable: An exact dollar is provided ($350,000 before December 31, with a 50 percent target by July 1 and 75 percent by October 1.
  • Attainable: Presumably, this goal is based on past success at raising funds from existing donors to this nonprofit.
  • Relevant:  The goal is clear about how these funds will be used and why it is Important (aligns with the organization’s strategic goal and will allow expanded services).
  • Timely – Dates for targets are clear, and the alignment to a strategic plan gives it urgency.

Some goals are more accessible to measure than others. As with the example above, a monetary plan can be clear cut. But when I managed a public radio station, managers asked me how they should set goals for people who are creative and don’t crank out widgets.   For example, let’s take how you set a goal for a radio announcer? Or a news reporter?  I would say this requires an honest appraisal of what is important to the organization and how the work of these individuals relates to the station’s strategic goals.

If done correctly, performance goals can be beneficial to employees and employers.  If not done correctly, they can be a waste of time and continue to perform evaluation a lousy name.

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