Setting clear goals is an essential process for any business. Goals keep employees focused on the task at hand, give managers a clear aim for their teams’ efforts, and provide accountability for executives to report on measures of corporate success. An effective workplace goal is more than just doing good work. SMART goals create clear expectations and provide the most clarity for progress tracking.
Let’s explore the elements of the SMART criteria, then look at some SMART goal examples to help you create your own professional development goals.
What is a “SMART” goal?
The first aspect of a SMART goal is that it is specific. Vague goals cannot provide you with a clear direction. Be specific with what you want to achieve and when you want to achieve it.
Good example: To complete a project that can be submitted and accepted for publication in American Engineering Monthly.
Bad example: To build something cool.
Along with being specific, your SMART goal must have clearly defined measures that help you mark your progress. Again, lack of clarity is the enemy. Make sure to use numbers or other obvious markers to really let you see how effective you will be at meeting your goal.
Good example: To complete and file ten additional change reports per day in order to increase overall efficiency by 5%.
Bad example: To do better with office paperwork.
Your SMART goal should be something you have a realistic chance of achieving. Many motivational books and speakers will tell you to “dream big.” Dreaming big has its proper time and place, but when you are setting performance goals, you should design them so you have an actual chance of succeeding with hard work and focus.
Good example: To grow revenue by 10% over the course of 12 months by bringing on five full-time new customers.
Bad example: To earn $5 billion by the end of this calendar year.
This element of the SMART goal framework can have multiple meanings, but the most important one is relevance. If you want your career or company to move in a particular direction, don’t set personal goals that have nothing to do with the overall aim of the organization or your desired career path. Secondarily, making sure you set attainable goals is important (the “Realistic” part of the “R”).
Good example: To be promoted to department manager within five years, then division VP ten years after that.
Bad example: To become rich overnight with no luck or hard work.
The last important element of SMART goals is that there is a clear time by which you should reach them. Otherwise, you could lose focus or interest, resulting in a failure to meet your goal. Deadlines are unavoidable for any business, and they should be a critical part of your goal-setting process.
Good example: To achieve $5 million in new sales in the next four years.
Bad example: To grow sales.
Professional SMART Goals Examples for Work
#1 Example: Arriving to work on time
I will avoid arriving late to work this month by setting my alarm 30 minutes earlier each morning and leaving 20 minutes earlier than I do now.
S: The specific long-term goal is arriving on time for work.
M: Thirty extra minutes in the morning, as well as 20 extra minutes of travel time, is measurable.
A: These changes are incremental and not drastic.
R: Both changes relate to arriving on time.
T: The time frame is one month.
#2 Example: Growing client base
I will add ten businesses to my client base by the end of this year by spending 30 minutes cold calling twice a week. I will also attend two chamber of commerce events each month to grow my professional network as well.
S: Specific actions include growing the client base, spending time cold calling, and attending chamber of commerce events.
M: Measures include ten new clients, 30 minutes of time twice per week, and two events to attend.
A: The time spent each week and month with new activities is manageable.
R: Cold calling and relationship building will support the goal of growing the client base.
T: There is an endpoint to measure against (the end of this year).
#3 Example: Improve report accuracy
I will decrease inaccuracies in my summary reports by adding recurring checklist items to my project management platform for a grammar and plagiarism check, as well as a weekly reminder before submitting my reports, then compare my incident reporting to last month and see how my rate has decreased.
S: The goal is to remove report inaccuracies.
M: There are two checklist items and one weekly reminder to add.
A: These tasks are very easy to add to existing processes.
R: These extra tasks will improve the writing process.
T: There is no specified end goal, but an ongoing goal is acceptable.
#4 Example: Improve department staffing
I will reduce the number of times my department is short-staffed by analyzing last month’s work schedules and adding one additional employee to each shift, then review the customer feedback system and make changes accordingly.
S: Keeping the department staffed month over month is the specific goal.
M: Adding one additional employee is measurable.
A: One additional employee for each shift is not too drastic and is a realistic goal.
R: The extra shifts and monthly reviews will support the goal of improving staffing issues.
T: The monthly action plan provides a milestone to work toward.
#5 Example: Complete software vendor selection process
I will complete our software vendor selection process by hosting meetings with five different vendors this month, then submitting a three-page summary report on each one when the interview process is complete.
S: Completing the software vendor selection process is a clear goal.
M: Five vendors with a three-page report on each is measurable.
A: Five vendor meetings in one month is an achievable goal, as is the brief report for each.
R: The meetings and reports will aid in the decision process.
T: The one-month time frame is easy to work toward.
#6 Example: Earn additional freelance income
I will earn an additional $200 in freelance income each month by completing a minimum of one project each week.
S: The monetary goal is specific, as is the added workload.
M: One project a week is a measurable addition.
A: One additional project per week is doable.
R: Taking on more work will increase the extra income.
T: The monthly time frame is trackable.
#7 Example: Increase conference registrations
I will increase conference registrations by 25% by adding weekly email and social media invitations to our partner list and target audiences, then refining messaging each week over the three months leading up to the conference.
S: There is a specific and measurable goal of increasing conference registrations, and the actions are specific as well.
M: The growth milestone of 25% is clear.
A: The added email and social media communications are not out of reach.
R: The added actions and weekly improvements directly serve the business objective.
T: Three months is the time limit for the work.
#8 Example: Improve automated process efficiency
I will increase our automated mailing efficiency by operating our machines one additional hour each day in order to achieve an overall output growth of 6%.
S: Improving automated mailing efficiency is the clear goal and the key result to be achieved.
M: The extra one hour of operation per machine, as well as the 6% growth target, are measurable goals.
A: One additional hour per machine per day is not unreasonable, depending on staffing commitments.
R: Extra operation will produce more each day, rather than adding additional resources (which improves efficiency).
T: Daily, weekly, and/or monthly checks can track toward the 6% improvement goal.
#9 Example: Decrease call center wait times
I will decrease call center wait times from 45 to 30 minutes by hiring six additional service representatives over the next two months.
S: This management goal is to decrease wait times in the call center.
M: A 15-minute decrease, as well as six additional hires, are trackable goals to reach.
A: Six new people over two months is an achievable goal for a call center.
R: Added capacity is a good idea for meeting the ultimate goal of decreasing wait times for callers.
T: Two months is the time frame for making the new additions.
#10 Example: Decrease production downtimes
I will decrease downtime by 20% for our three main production lines by hosting weekly meetings with the design manager, materials manager, and production manager to assess where delays are occurring.
S: Decreasing downtime for three production lines is a specific improvement target.
M: A 20% decrease in downtime is measurable.
A: One weekly meeting is doable for each of the leaders involved.
R: All relevant departments are included in the improvement meetings.
T: This ongoing process will aid in tracking production problems for the next step in setting goals to fix the problems.
#11 Example: Create a uniform pricing system
I will create a uniform pricing system over the next two months by running a full stock inventory, then assigning two employees each week to price each item according to new standardized corporate guidelines.
S: Creating a uniform pricing system is a specific goal.
M: The time-bound goal is trackable.
A: A rotating schedule of two employees per week does not take too much time away from the employees’ existing workload.
R: Adding devoted time to the work will help reach this organizational goal.
T: The two-month time frame creates a deadline to work toward.
#12 Example: Decrease travel costs
I will attempt to decrease my travel costs by 5% this year by taking one extra hour each week to assess my individual hotel and flight bills and searching for better deals where possible.
S: Decreasing travel costs is a clear goal.
M: The five percent decrease in expenditures is measurable, as is the time commitment for searching for better deals.
A: One extra hour each week is a reasonable amount of time to spend.
R: Searching for better deals will lead to lower costs, making this a relevant goal.
T: The yearlong time frame creates a clear time frame within which costs can be compared to the previous year.
#13 Example: Find buyers for new products
I will find a buyer for four new enterprise-level products by scheduling one sales pitch each week with venture capitalist firms over the next three months.
S: Finding a buyer for enterprise products is the goal.
M: Four products sold is the measure for success.
A: Scheduling one investor meeting per week is reasonable.
R: Investor meetings should lead to purchase decisions.
T: A three-month time frame gives a clear goal.
#14 Example: Implement mandatory staff training
I will implement mandatory technical skills training for all members of our department through monthly seminars offered to each of our six teams over the next six months.
S: The technical skills training program is the specific goal.
M: One monthly seminar for each of the six teams is measurable.
A: Asking all staff to attend one seminar is not asking too much.
R: Providing timely options for each team allows everyone to participate.
T: The six-month time frame for implementation lets you track participation over time.
#15 Example: Grow knowledge of industry trends
I will become more knowledgeable on current industry trends by reading three consumer blogs and listening to one thought leader podcast each Monday morning during lunch.
S: Increasing knowledge on industry trends is a broad but clear goal that can be further shaped over time and is a good personal goal to support professional pursuits.
M: Adding three blogs and one podcast each week is measurable activity.
A: This extra time commitment is doable.
R: Reading the blogs and listening to the podcast is a great way to stay connected to the industry.
T: This added regular activity can be checked each week.
#16 Example: Decrease website bounce rate
I will decrease our website bounce rate by 10% through a month-long A/B landing page test campaign, as well as purchasing paid search ads for our top ten most viewed pages each week.
S: Decreasing the website bounce rate is a specific goal.
M: A ten percent decrease in bounce rate is a measurable goal.
A: Running one additional content campaign is a good action to implement.
R: The testing and paid search improvement will serve the specific goal.
T: Weekly checks are a trackable milestone, as well as the month-long time frame for the campaign.
#17 Example: Convert client base to a new operating system
I will convert 50% of my client base to our new operating system by next quarter by calling at least 25 clients each week to offer a conversion incentive.
S: Converting clients to the new system is the specific goal.
M: Fifty percent conversion and 25 client calls each week are the measurable outcomes.
A: Fifty percent adoption is reasonable, as are the 25 weekly calls.
R: The conversion incentive should help increase the client adoption rate.
T: The goal looks toward the next quarter as a comparison point.
#18 Example: Improve staffing for the holiday rush
I will prepare for the holiday sales rush by hiring three new sales associates in October and fully training them in November.
S: The holiday sales rush is the specific goal.
M: Three new sales associates over a two-month time frame is clear and measurable.
A: Hiring three new team members is doable for most retail locations.
R: Hiring additional team members will help alleviate staffing issues once the holiday rush hits.
T: The two-month time frame creates a clear goal to work toward.
#19 Example: Deepen customer satisfaction
I will gain a better understanding of customer satisfaction by calling five new clients each month for a brief ten-minute exit survey on our customer service.
S: Understanding customer satisfaction is a good goal that can lead to further action steps.
M: Calling five clients with the survey is a measurable outcome to achieve.
A: Five client calls are not too much extra work to add in a month, and ten minutes per call is also doable.
R: Exit surveys are an excellent goal to assess customer satisfaction.
T: The monthly routine creates a trackable milestone to measure against and for benchmarking.
#20 Example: Grow foot traffic
I will increase restaurant foot traffic in the Southeast by 5% over the next four months by promoting a “kids eat free every Sunday” special in local newspapers and commercials; I will study sales patterns to see what markets need more advertisement saturation and make shifts accordingly.
S: Increasing restaurant traffic in a particular region is a specific goal.
M: The five percent increase is easily trackable.
A: The promotion being offered is a fairly common restaurant practice.
R: Offering a promotion usually increases foot traffic and purchases.
T: The five percent increase is trackable, as is the four-month time frame.
#21 Example: Become a certified mentor
I will become a certified corporate mentor by completing the six-month program of biweekly training sessions and taking on one mentee during the final two months of the program.
S: Completing a mentorship program is a clear goal.
M: The training program can easily be measured.
A: The training program is not too much extra work.
R: Completing the program will lead directly to achieving the goal.
T: The six-month time frame is easy to track.
#22 Example: Archive old client records
I will electronically archive 5000 pages of client records each month by assigning a rotating schedule of seven three-person teams to spend one-hour scanning files into the system each day of the week.
S: Electronic archiving of client records is the clear goal.
M: The number of pages and the specified work rotation are easily trackable and measurable.
A: The work rotation prevents teams and employees from becoming overloaded, which makes the work more doable by spreading it out.
R: Adding the work rotation for this project serves the overall management goal.
T: The monthly milestone is easy to track.
#23 Example: Prepare for upcoming sales calls
I will prepare for the upcoming week’s sales calls by spending 30 minutes doing initial research each Friday afternoon for the following week.
S: Preparing for upcoming sales calls is the specific goal.
M: Thirty minutes of extra time once a week is measurable progress.
A: Thirty minutes of time is not too much to ask in order to reach this goal.
R: Performing this initial research will lead to better preparation and also help with other career goals.
T: The weekly time can easily be tracked.
#24 Example: Complete inventory catalog
I will complete inventory descriptions for ten catalog items each week, with the goal to have all 200 items completed in six months’ time.
S: Completing inventory descriptions in the catalog is a specific goal to work towards.
M: The overall goal of 200 items to complete, as well as ten items each week, are measurable milestones to work towards.
A: Completing ten catalog items each week is a reasonable amount of extra work to add.
R: Breaking the work into chunks over a period of time makes the work more manageable.
T: The work will likely be completed ahead of schedule, but the regular tracking can keep you on task to do so.
#25 Example: Implement branding protocols
I will implement the new company branding protocols in my team’s upcoming designs by spending two hours each month with our task force and revising campaign collateral as needed, with the goal of updating five projects per month.
S: Implementing the new brand designs for adoption is the specific goal.
M: Updating five projects per month as the outcome of each monthly team meeting is a clear and measurable outcome.
A: One monthly meeting is doable.
R: Spending the extra time each month directly relates to implementing the new brand standards.
T: Tracking the number of projects completed each month is a clear aspect of the goal.
Some people do not set goals for themselves in the first place, and others put vague or unclear thoughts too far out of reach. By using the SMART goals framework for your professional goals, you can keep your career on track and have a greater chance of success. Think about what you’d like to achieve on the job, then use SMART goals to help you with your strategic planning to reach your objectives!
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