Goal Setting: Taking a SMART Approach in 2020

Posted by JoJo Harris

As we near the end of February, it’s an ideal time to reflect on your department’s 2020 goals and expectations. Has your team made any progress toward achieving those goals? Are you on track to hit milestones? It is easy for employees to get distracted by smaller, but perhaps more pressing, tasks throughout the workweek. If your longer-term goals have been moved to the back burner, you’re not sure how to measure your team’s progress, or you’re not aligned with enterprise-wide initiatives, it’s time to reevaluate the goals you set at the beginning of the year. By taking a fresh look, you can redefine those goals to make them strategic, SMART and positioned to make a larger overall business impact.


It’s likely you’ve encountered SMART goals at some point in your professional career. To review, these are goals created with the following criteria:

  • Specific - Think through who, what, when, where and why as you set your goals. Make them as specific as possible. 
  • Measurable - How will you know when your goal is accomplished? This should be stated in a way you can tangibly measure. 
  • Attainable - Given the timeframe and your resources, is this something you can accomplish? If so, how will you get there? 
  • Relevant - Make sure your goal is a priority and will have an impact once you accomplish it. How will meeting your goal impact you? Your team? Your company?
  • Timely - Have a timeframe for meeting your goals. This may mean breaking a larger goal up into smaller pieces to ensure it remains a priority.

The SMART goal framework should be at the foundation of the priorities and activities you set for your department or functional area. By creating SMART goals for your employees, you’ll be able to set your team up for success and generate the greatest impact. With this in mind, also consider the following in your goal-setting process.

2020.02_SMARTBLOG-03-1Larger Business Goals

To be most relevant and impactful, your team’s goals and priorities should be working toward larger goals set by the department and company. If you haven’t already, take a look at your organization’s enterprise-wide goals for the year and analyze how those goals cascade down to your department or function. What part of each goal is your team responsible for? Is it a particular percentage of revenue? Helping to get a new product or project off the ground? Determine the role your team plays in meeting overall business goals and build your department goals from that information. Then, define the activities that need to occur in order to move the needle. This could be reducing the time it takes to complete certain tasks, implementing new project management systems or increasing customer satisfaction ratings, to name just a few. Once these goals and activities are clearly defined, consider the contributions each employee will need to make in order to collectively achieve them. 


Sense of Employee Ownership

Employees should always be advancing the goals of the company. Once your department goals are set, ensure employees also have clear and personalized individual goals for the year. By setting SMART goals for your team members, they will clearly understand expectations and have well-defined paths forward. Explain what the company is trying to achieve, how your team’s goals support those goals, and the pieces each employee is responsible for. Encourage employees to participate in creating their goals; proactively ask for their ideas and feedback, while ensuring the goals are clearly understood and agreed upon. Build excitement by highlighting how employees’ individual contributions support the success of the larger department and company. And, ensure they know their specific roles are a valuable component of the overall organization’s success.

Checkpoints and Celebrations 

Once you set goals, it’s important to periodically check in on your team’s progress. Afterall, it’s much easier to course correct if there are six months left in the year than just a few weeks. Your checkpoints may be monthly, quarterly or before major milestones. Consider each of the specific goals and how much guidance and support an individual employee may need. At the same time, celebrate reaching major milestones or tracking ahead of your initial projections.  

Goals are not meant to be set and forgotten. Clearly define how you expect to grow from the past year and the activities that need to take place to reach your 2020 goals. As a manager, it’s important to understand what the company is aiming to accomplish and your team’s responsibility in meeting those goals. Keep the larger business picture at the forefront as you prioritize projects and ensure all employees are clear on how they can make the greatest organizational impact.