Tips on Getting Started With SMART Goals

Paycor Legacy Support

May 22nd, 2024 Updated

Please note Cascading SMART Goals are only available on Talent Development Pro.

Launching a SMART Goals

Understand the Basics of SMART Goals & Alignment

  • There is an abundance of resources, best practices and materials when it comes to Goal Setting Best Practices. It is recommended that you familiarize yourself and any others supporting your implementation with the SMART approach to goal setting.
  • SMART is an acronym that stands for the criteria of what a goal should have. A goal should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant/Realistic and Time-based. This is a mnemonic device that brings in what best practice suggests.
  • As a guide in general, it is recommended that every person has 3-5 goals per quarter with at least 1 goal dedicated to professional development and 2 focused on the core business. Checking into goals helps to keep them front of mind. When we check in or report on progress we ensure we don’t “set it and forget it” and greatly enhances the likelihood of people achieving their goals.

Determine Your Goals Cadences & Cycles

  • Determine Cadences: Many companies are working toward establishing more frequent and agile cycles for goal setting. Based on this, ideally it is recommended to have quarterly individual goals in order for people to feel a sense of progress and to break down bigger annual goals into more reasonable “chunks”. You have the ability however, to customize your goals to any timeframe that will suit your company processes.
  • Cascade and Alignment: If you are using the Cascading or Advanced SMART feature you can create a link (alignment) between goals in a tree like form. For instance, how a company directs goals underneath them at the department level, or the individual (cascading), and vice versa, how an individual goal or set of goals aligns to a departmental goal or a set of departmental goals align to a company goal (rolls up). This will require a more collaborative way of creating alignment and clarity on how the goals interact with one another.
  • Checking into Objectives / Goals: Typically, it is recommended that you check into your goals on a weekly basis however, this depends on what makes sense for your department. Some teams may only receive metrics on a monthly basis or may work in 2-week sprints so it may make more sense to check into their goals on either a monthly or bi-weekly basis.
  • Closing & Iterating: At the end of each quarter or Objectives / Goals cycle, it is recommended to close out goals with a reflection and retrospective and to iterate on them for the next quarter. Providing your team with a template for this “closing out check in” and retrospective helps nudge this process. For example, you might ask them to reflect on how difficult or “stretchy” the goal was to achieve, what they would do differently and what value it added to the organization.

Communication & Training

  • It is important to build awareness, excitement and capability in Goal Setting as you roll this out. It is recommended to partner your platform training with an overview of how to write effective goals and detail how to write SMART goals, check into them and iterate on them.
  • If you are adding goals as part of your performance reviews, make sure this is communicated well in advanced. It is important to decide how you want to assess them. If goals are linked to company targets and bonuses, it’s important that they are seen differently from those that have to do with personal/professional development, to avoid sandbagging. In some cases, the evaluation is on the end-result (achieved/not achieved), and in some cases on the effort (especially if they are stretch goals).