July 23, 2019
Performance Management 12 January 2018
How to set Smarter Goals: Improving on SMART
Ankita Poddar
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The New Year hustle has begun. The holidays have ended and new resolutions have begun to kick in. What time better than now to finish reflecting on the past year and usher in goals for the new? 

While some of you may still be struggling to say goodbye to the holiday spirit, many have already begun charting out what they hope to achieve in 2018. So let’s get to work and figure the best way to set goals for a stellar year.  After all, how well you and your employees perform throughout the year will depend a disproportionate amount on how well you’ve set your goals. It is probably the one thing that sets your ‘A’ player apart from the rest.


Traditional Goal Setting

Goal setting hardly ever receives the time and effort it deserves. If you are lucky, you’ll get a few hours with your manager, have a haphazard conversation over a sheet that attempts to capture expected deliverables and then forget about it a month later. Some of you may even get away with doing this over email. 

The goal sheet is another joke in itself, almost every goal sheet remains forgotten until it is time for you to be measured against it. 

The best way of approaching this is to set SMART goals. Specific, Measurable, Achievable (originally assignable), Relevant, and Time-bound goals. We previously covered how setting SMART goals is a great way to start the goal-setting process, make sure you read it if you haven't already and get acquainted with this foundation. After all, we’ve been doing it for years and with good reason too!

This article will expand your knowledge of SMART and help you get SMARTER, where E stands for ‘Employer Aligned’ and R for ‘Regularly Reviewed’. I am not going to spend time on the ‘SMART’ bit. I’m more interested in the ‘E’ and the ‘R’. 


Employee Aligned

Let us begin with the assumption that the folks on top know exactly what they are doing. Once you’ve built faith in that, it is time to take the organizational objectives and breaking it down into bite-sized pieces for you and your team. 

Has your organization decided that they will release 10 new devices this year? What does that mean for your team? Which features will your team be responsible for? Set team goals and have each manager create their goal sheet. 

This is handed down to team members who then look at the manager goal sheet and translate it into what it means for them. What you end up with are goal sheets that end up being well aligned not only with the team objectives but also to the organization’s expectations. It is no longer a jigsaw puzzle with missing links but a well-painted holistic picture. 

When employee goals are aligned with the company vision, it sets the foundation for the whole company to work together towards the same purpose. Every piece of the machine runs more smoothly and your company will be able to achieve so much more.


Regularly Reviewed

Once you have a goal sheet that aligns with the S, M, A, R, T, and E, it is time to plug the second R in. Organization expectations and goals are changing faster than ever before. With ongoing conversations and continuous feedback becoming the new trend, it is even more important to review your goals regularly to assess relevance. 

Goal adjustment needs to become real time. Do not be afraid to scratch out goals if they no longer make sense. Spend time understanding what’s in it for both you and the organization. What breaks if you miss the goal? What is the dollar impact? The answer to these questions helps understand when a goal has lost relevance. It also helps both your manager and you to prioritize. 

As you adjust your aim to hit a moving target will help your company adapt quickly and efficiently. Reviewing your goals and improving them based on feedback will help clarify your expectations for employees allowing them to better accomplish what you set out to do.


Poor Goal Setting

There are many downsides to poor goal setting. Not only does it prevent you from utilizing resources like talent and time effectively, it can be counter-productive.  Poor goal setting can also push people to focus on the outcome without considering the means to get there. 

While goal setting works well for simple, repeatable, measurable tasks, the process gets tougher for complex tasks that involve creativity and innovation. After all, how do you assign a measurable goal to an innovator? Do you ask for ‘x’ number of innovations to be delivered in a year? It for this very reason, some people believe goal setting to be inhibitive. 

In such scenarios, try exploring learning goals and focusing on ‘framing’ the goal right. Help employees see what new skills they need to obtain in order to make progress along their Pathway. Group goals also work well towards encouraging collaboration vs being entirely individual focused. 


Goal setting is a necessary evil. It comes with its pros and cons. If done well, it can get you all set up with succession planning. If done poorly, it can send you down an unproductive pathway. It is an art, perfected over a period of time, which demands continuous review and patience. 

Find more great articles to help improve your company's performance by checking out our blog TalkingTalent.

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Ankita Poddar is an HR professional based out of India. Identified as one of the emerging young HR leaders in India in 2016, Ankita's experience as an HR Business Partner gives her the opportunity to work closely with business leaders, innovate and execute on the behalf of customers especially in areas of people analytics, employee engagement, rewards and recognition and performance management. Ankita blogs about all things HR at https://thehrbpstory.com. You can follow her on Twitter  @ankitapoddar.