SMART Goals

Discover the meaning of SMART goals, how they can affect the workplace, and the steps to writing a set of them for your team or company.

team discussing ways to achieve smart goals

Published 15 Jul 2022

What are SMART Goals?

The “SMART” in SMART goals is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. In a nutshell, these are exactly what smart goals are. SMART goals contribute to the collective effort of a team or employees towards achieving the company’s overall objectives.

SMART goals, in essence, are in place to make sure that everyone in the team is on the same page regardless of position. This way, everyone understands the performance and productivity levels they need to achieve and what the company expects out of their output.

When a team tackles the SMART aspects when trying to set goals, they can figure out more realistic and attainable results for the team. Additionally, it makes it much easier to create a definite strategy on how to achieve the goals by the deadline.

To write SMART goals, teams have to take the time to go over every single detail. Here’s a deep dive into the different aspects of SMART goals and why they are important.

Specific

While SMART goals can be used in various workplaces and situations, they aren’t meant to be broad. When you set broad goals, it can become more challenging to meet them. This is why a company or team’s goals always need to be specific and to the point.

Most teams start by figuring out specific goals that the company needs to achieve. When they do this, it allows everyone to get down to the actual purpose or heart of the goal. Understanding the purpose behind the goal is a great motivator and also puts everyone on the same page.

When trying to create specific goals, teams can start by asking themselves questions to get into the details. Some of the important questions to ask when planning out SMART goals include:

  • What does the team need to do?
  • Who are the members in charge of the task?
  • How can we achieve the goal?

Of course, different industries and workplaces may need to get to even more specific questions. However, these are the general approaches one can take when trying to make specific goals for a company.

Measurable

When creating SMART goals, you always start with being specific. However, from there, it’s also important to be able to quantify the goals. Remember, numbers are definite and they can give you a great baseline, especially when trying to track progress or check if the team has met its goals.

Similar to setting specific goals, setting measurable goals makes it easier for team members and employees to figure out how to achieve the goals. This is because if a goal is measurable, there’s a definite number that teams can strive towards and a clear indication of when they meet the goals.

To paint a clearer picture of setting measurable goals, imagine a team at a cellphone store. The manager notices one day that they haven’t seen an increase in sales in a while. So, the manager approaches the team and lets everyone know that it’s important for them to work towards increasing sales numbers.

However, the manager doesn’t give them any information on how many sales they needed to make, didn’t set any deadlines, and basically didn’t give them any concrete goals. This would make it close to impossible to align the team towards the same purpose.

But if the manager lays out how many cellphones they need to sell to meet the team’s goals, which specific products they can push, and give the team the numbers they can work towards to assess performance, it will be more realistic to meet the goals.

Achievable

A mistake that managers can make is to unknowingly set unrealistic goals. It’s always important to prevent this from happening and set realistic and achievable goals for the team. To check if a goal is achievable, the planning team needs to take a close look at the employees, and their performance, and determine whether or not the new goals they set out are actually achievable.

This is why there are times when teams may have to adjust their goals. Although this is not a bad thing, per se, it’s important at the onset of goal setting to be able to determine at what point is a goal achievable and can be reached with the employees’ optimum performance, making it beneficial not only for the company but also for the employees.

It’s also important to do this even if the goals are being forwarded from the higher-ups. As managers, it’s important to represent the team and let the appropriate people know when the goals need adjustment.

Relevant

Another thing to consider when setting SMART goals is making sure that they are relevant. In essence, this refers to the “why” of it all. So, it’s important to ask why you’re setting certain goals in the first place and what the team or company can achieve by reaching them.

This is to ensure that the goal is worth chasing. Sometimes, it can be easy to get distracted by all the metrics and numbers in the industry that you lose focus on the team or company’s actual long-term objectives.

So, always make sure that the goal is worth chasing. There always needs to be a definite upside or benefit to putting in the work it takes to meet a SMART goal.

Timely

When people say that the goals need to be timely, they mean that the goals need to follow a definite time frame. Remember, using SMART goals is supposed to put everyone on the same page, and this means being able to deliver the goal within a specific time period.

A SMART goal needs to be time-bound with a definite deadline. However, when setting deadlines, it’s important to look back at the other aspects of SMART goals. Remember, these goals still need to remain achievable, which is why the timeframe and deadline for the goals need to be realistic and within the capabilities of the team.

So, aside from setting a deadline, it’s important to let everyone else on the team know when the deadline is. That way, they understand the work that they need to put in to be able to deliver on time.

Example

SMART goals are usually simple statements followed up by a detailed explanation of each aspect in the SMART acronym. For example, let’s take a look at a company that wants to boost its website traffic by creating a mobile-friendly site.

In this case, the goal would be, “boosting website traffic through a mobile-friendly site”. And to turn it into a SMART goal, the team needs to look at the different aspects of the goal. So, the final out output may look something like this:

Goal: Increase website traffic through a mobile-friendly site

Specific: A lot of potential customers land on our website using their mobile phones. But since the website isn’t optimized, a lot of the visitors don’t have a pleasant time on the site. That’s why the team needs to optimize the website for mobile users within 3 months and increase website traffic. To do this, there needs to be a team of developers, marketers, and designers.

Measurable: For the development to be worth it, there would need to be at least 50,000 new visitors to the site within the first 3 months of the launch. On top of that, there needs to be a 5% conversion rate from the people who use the mobile website.

Achievable: All the teams involved in creating the website have agreed that this is something they can do within the timeframe and are ready for the project.

Relevant: Boosting website traffic is a top priority for the company, and one of the ways to do that is by creating a website optimized for mobile use.

Timebound: The mobile website will need to launch by Q3 of the year, giving the team Q1 and Q2 for development, design, testing, and more.

Why Set SMART Goals?

SMART goals allow everyone to be on the same page. These goals also lay out all the details of the goals very clearly, making it much easier to understand and achieve the goals. SMART goals are also very broad, which means that they can apply to whole teams or even individuals looking to improve work performance and achieve their objectives for quality assurance.

Remember, these goals aren’t a cure-all solution to productivity problems. However, they are a clearer way of communicating the company’s needs and expectations to the workers to make sure that everyone is working towards the same purpose,

A Note on SMART

One thing about SMART goals is that because they can be very broad, they can sometimes lose their purpose. For example, there are many interpretations of SMART goals, and some of them completely miss the mark when it comes to setting goals that are achievable and realistic.

So, before setting SMART goals, it’s important to make sure that the team understands what they are, how they can help, and how to create SMART goals that actually tackle the company’s issues.

SafetyCulture staff writer

Leon Altomonte

Leon Altomonte is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. He got into content writing while taking up a language degree and has written copy for various web pages and blogs. Aside from working as a freelance writer, Leon is also a musician who spends most of his free time playing gigs and at the studio.

Leon Altomonte is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. He got into content writing while taking up a language degree and has written copy for various web pages and blogs. Aside from working as a freelance writer, Leon is also a musician who spends most of his free time playing gigs and at the studio.