Are objectives set for your employees? Are they SMART? Are they calibrated?


Setting SMART objectives is a great productivity tool and motivator if they are done correctly. Why they are needed, the basic principles, SMART and stretch objectives, all are discussed on today’s blog.


Why set objectives.

Employees with objectives are more likely to be productive as they know what they are expected to do. However, if they are not clear, easier to achieve or not relevant to their job, they can become disengaged. The same applies if the employee is over-stretched, not skilled to the required level, has no support or the tools are not available. Employees can become disengaged but also become stressed, anxious, emotionally and physically drained, even burnt out if they are left.

Main reasons to set objectives:

  • Provides clarity and direction
  • Avoids end of year surprises
  • Sets you up for success
  • Provides focus for development plans
  • Ensures alignment

“Make the connection: Purpose > Vision > Strategic Priorities > Business Area Objectives > Team Objectives > Individual Objectives.” Mary Cushen.


The basic principles:

  1. Setting objectives is a shared responsibility. Both the manager and employee need to feed into and contribute to them. Without the joined up approach, you are risking a reduction in performance, impacting employee wellbeing and not identifying any areas of concern before they arise.
  2. Individual objectives need to link back to the overall purpose, vision and local/regional operational priorities. Having standalone objectives that don’t link back to the company’s vision, cannot contribute to the overall success of the company.
  3. Calibrate objectives. Why? If everyone across the company sets them for their team but each team doesn’t review the objectives as a whole across the company, it can cause a disconnect later on. There may be key company objectives that, when all the objectives are reviewed together are not met or are threatened. It may be the standard of objectives across the company are not comparable, leaving some employees over-stretched while others have an easier job. Calibration is a way of sense checking the data and standard of objectives. Not all objectives are reviewed, however, a good range across the different business areas and managers is required.
  4. Review all objectives regularly and keep them up-to-date. It doesn’t stop once they are created and agreed to. Progressing should be monitored on a regular basis (this could be monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly) and the objectives reviewed to check they are still relevant for the company’s priorities and the role of the employee. Companies do not stand still so objectives need to evolve as the business does.
  5. Individual objectives are about the employees most important responsibilities that contribute to the organisational priorities. It is impossible to include a full list of what is expected of an employee – This is a job description. The objectives are the key tasks the employee needs to complete that make the biggest impact on the company’s priorities – The ones that add value. Aim for around 6-8 per employee for the year.


Having objectives will only make a difference to productivity and employee wellbeing if they are done correctly. The best way to do this is have a standardised way of setting and recording them (making sure all employees responsible for setting them have been through training) and ensuring they are SMART.

There is a lot out there on SMART objectives and goals so I won’t cover too much on it here. SMART stands for:

  • Specific – Clear on what needs to be done
  • Measurable – A way to measure the result to confirm completion
  • Achievable (or Attainment) – Realistic for the employee they are set for
  • Relevant (or Relatable) – Appropriate for the employees role
  • Time – A deadline to when completion is required


Capturing and Detailing the Tasks.

When they are being setup, it is important to use the right language.

Objectives should not begin with the following:

  • Help in…
  • Assist with…
  • Provide needed support…
  • Familiarise myself with…
  • Be available as needed…
  • Provide better…
  • Improve my ability to…


Instead, think about using words like:

objective, business consulting, employee wellbeing,


Include some stretch targets:

Research* suggests that the most effective performance seems to result when targets are:

  • Specific and challenging
  • Used to evaluate performance
  • Linked to feedback on results
  • Used effectively to create the acceptance of, and commitment to, outcomes

Setting a stretch target leads to higher performance than setting easily achievable targets. Objectives that are both smart and stretching lead to the highest performance.

*Research by Fred C Lunenburg, 2011: ‘Goal-Setting Theory of Motivation’


“A stretch objective is one which is challenging to achieve. It focuses an individual on delivering beyond their target to add significant value to the organisation.”


Ideally, at least 50% of objectives should have a stretch target.

How to work out possible stretch targets:

  • Take an existing objective (must be SMART)
  • List the variables (aspects of the objective which can be changed – i.e. deadline)
  • Consider how the variables can be changed so you/your team member can create greater value within the process without causing burnout

Need some guidance to improve productivity?

Although objective setting appears to be a simple tool, many businesses find it hard to get it right. This impacts on productivity and employee wellbeing which in turn affects the level of service provided to your customers.

If this is an area you know you could make improvements in, why not see how I could help you. We can work together to review your current process, look at improvements and train employees responsible for setting the targets. It is also key to provide guidance to all employees around setting targets. They are jointly responsible so need to be kept in the loop to how the process works and their responsibilities.

If you would like to discuss how I could help you move forward, feel free to get in touch. I am always happy to answer any questions you may have.



Photo by david clarke on Unsplash