For anyone with employees, writing effective objectives is a core professional skill. Maximizing clarity and achievability in professional objectives makes evaluating employees easier and keeps communication clear between all levels of the organization.
The basic components of a good performance objective are surprisingly consistent across industries. We've outlined some fundamental structures that will help you set worthwhile objectives for your subordinates.
The ultimate goal of a good objective is to be measurable for employee evaluation later. To that end, we've identified four fundamental elements that good objectives should test.
This objective should test an employee's reliability. Build your objectives on how well they follow directions, take constructive criticism and meet their requirements for time and achievements. For example:
Employee will resolve edits and submit updated copy within 3 business days of receiving edits from management.
It's difficult to quantitatively assess how good an employee is at trying or proposing new things. New things don't always work out, and that is by no means always an employee's fault. A good objective addressing initiative, therefore, should focus on how committed an employee is to innovation as opposed to the eventual success of a project over which they have only partial control.
Employee will research and submit no fewer than three prospectus reports on potential new clients per week.
Simply put, does your employee know what they're doing? Do they know procedure? Have they demonstrated expertise with the tools of their job? Establishing an objective covering this topic is about guaranteeing your employee has the practical ability to perform all aspects of their job.
Employee will take charge of implementing the new Content Management System for their team. Transfer of 50% of written content to the new CMS should take place by the end of the quarter.
At the end of the day, it's about execution. Setting an objective about quality of work can become a bit of a meta-exercise: you're establishing a way to measure how good your employee is at being good at their job.
This is where the "specific" part of SMART (see below) comes into play. Identify a measurement of achievement that applies to your employee's unique position and skills.
Employee will maintain a consistent output of 2,000+ words of clean, edited, client-ready copy per week.
Those are the basics. To go beyond the basic, you need to get SMART. Good objectives are always SMART, that is:
- Specific: The objective contains identifiable criteria for success or failure.
- Measurable: The objective's specific criteria can be quantified in a way that's useful for both management and the employee.
- Achievable: The objective is reasonably attainable by the employee. Encouraging employees with demanding goals is good. Giving them tasks where they're more likely to fail than succeed is not.
- Relevant: The objective applies directly to the employee's role, measures something important, and contributes meaningfully to larger company goals.
- Timebound: The objective states a timeframe in which the employee's success will be measured.
The SMART system keeps employee objectives focused, measurable and constructive.
KPIs, or key performance indicators, are measurable values that indicate the level of success as they pertain to objectives. The difference between a KPI and a business metric is that a KPI always aligns with an organization's core mission and goals. KPIs are necessarily unique to every business, but when you've identified KPIs for your organization and your team, your team members' individual performance objectives naturally follow.
For instance, in the hypothetical copywriting business described under Basics of a Good Objective, an organizational KPI might be "establish $10 million in returning clients over the course of the next two years." A team's KPI, therefore, might be "pitch a long-term contract to 50+ former clients per quarter." Within that team, a given employee might have the performance objective "write, edit and submit five professional pitches per week."
Note that each level of KPI is SMART: it's specific about what it intends, sets measurable goals, is achievable within the scope of our imaginary organization, keeps its goals relevant to the core business of establishing a profitable copywriting portfolio, and sets concrete timeframes according to which each goal can be measured.
Setting objectives is crucial in life and work alike. They allow a person or a whole organization to assess their progress, identify problems and establish strategies for solving them. For more on how to craft effective performance objectives, including an in-depth look at the SMART technique, check out our examples of measurable goals and objectives.