Training Managers to Set SMART Performance Goals with Employees

We hear a lot about how important it is to set goals with employees. Most managers would probably agree that having goals is an important first step in achieving desired performance. Even though some might argue that employees should already know what is expected and formalizing the process is a waste of time, research has consistently shown that the primary reason that employees do not perform as expected is that they really don’t understand what is expected.

The manager may have a very clear idea of what he wants, but somehow the employee does not get the message. The manager may assume (always a bad idea) that the employee knows what a good job should look like. He may even have asked if the employee had any questions (he probably didn’t). So, the manager is at a loss to say why the expected performance did not occur.

Goal setting does not have to be complicated. One of the best ways to train managers to set goals with employees is to have them write out three things that their boss will hold them accountable for in this review period. These things should be important responsibilities. Next, have the managers consider what they need their employees to do for them in order for the manager to achieve his responsibilities. Finally, translate those items into SMART goals for the employees. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-Driven, and Time-Bound).

As an example, a production manager may determine that his boss will hold him accountable in this review period for 98% on-time delivery, a reduction of scrap by 20%, and an increase in departmental productivity of 5%. It would be a good idea for the manager and his boss to meet and agree on these accountabilities, so that there is no misunderstanding of priorities.

Once the manager is certain of what is expected, the next step is to make a list of what his employees need to do so that the manager achieves his goals.  In this example, employees may need to double check their work to help reduce scrap, or perhaps they have not been using appropriate measuring instruments.  SMART goals for the employees might be:

Use the correct template on every job to ensure consistency and accuracy. Do not start a job until you have verified that the template is correct.

Make at least one useful suggestion each month for how your team can increase productivity.

Adhere to the lunch and break schedule; no more than 15 minutes for breaks and 30 minutes for lunch.

Each employee should have no more than 3 or 4 goals. All of them should be SMART, and all of them should help the manager achieve his objectives. With just a small investment of time to ensure that all employees know exactly what is expected, the manager can improve the performance of his employees while achieving his own goals.