Share This Article:
Back to Blog

How to Set SMART HR Goals to Improve Performance

How to Set SMART HR Goals to Improve Performance

Your HR goals should align with your company-wide goals for the year. By keeping your organization's strategy and vision in mind, you’re ensuring that everyone is working towards the same ends—and that your efforts don’t create unnecessary friction or roadblocks.

SMART goals can provide your HR team with long-term vision and short-term motivation—leading to tangible results that underscore how integral HR is to your organization. Here's how to set them. 


What Are SMART Goals?

The SMART goal method is a productivity tool that can be used to set more effective goals and objectives for any given project, whether they be short term or long term goals. SMART stands for:

  • Specific: The more well-defined the goal is, the better. Vague, open-ended goals are usually harder or impossible to achieve.
  • Measurable: Clearly define what success looks like for your goal, so you’ll be able to know when you’ve reached it.
  • Attainable: You want your goal to be realistic. Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting a goal that isn’t achievable.
  • Relevant: If your goal isn’t relevant to your job or your organization, then why are you setting it?
  • Timely: A goal without a deadline isn’t likely to be met. Set reasonable, timely deadlines for all of your goals.
Let’s compare examples of a normal goal and a SMART goal side-by-side
  • Non-SMART goal: I want people to stay at our company longer.
    Nothing about this goal is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, or timely. 
  • SMART goal: To better retain our existing talent and save on the costs associated with new hires, I want to reduce our current annual turnover rate of 25% to 15% by the end of the year.
    This goal specifically states you want to reduce the company’s current annual turnover rate, identifies 15% as the measurable goal, is attainable given that it’s only a drop of 10 percentage points, is relevant because you state your focus is retention, and is timely because it states your expected completion date. 

Clearly, the SMART version will be more effective than the normal goal.


How to Use SMART Goals to Improve Your HR Processes

To strategically improve your HR processes, follow these seven steps:

  1. Align HR Mission Statement with HR Audit Findings:

    Let’s say that your mission is to hire the best and brightest teammates for your organization. Meanwhile, you find in your HR audit that your onboarding process is severely lacking. In fact, it’s leading to turnover at an all-time high. 

  2. Set SMART Goal to Address Areas of Improvement:

    Knowing that your turnover is at an all-time high, develop a SMART goal to establish parameters around your objective. You can’t do it all, but you do a lot better by committing to a particular area of improvement.

  3. Identify How You’ll Reach SMART Goal:

    How will you improve turnover? You could overhaul the onboarding process by implementing checklists through BerniePortal. Or you could improve your benefits package using BerniePortal’s Benefits Administration feature so that it’s more personalized to your employees. There are a number of ways you can reach this goal, so this step is about identifying those exact methods.

  4. Set KPIs Within Selected Methods:

    Let’s say you’ve decided to overhaul the new hire onboarding process to improve retention. What metrics will you use to measure your efforts? These are called Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

  5. Get to Work:

    The second-to-last step is to implement your plans. Use resources—such as the BerniePortal blog, HR Party of One episodes, and BernieU courses—to help you prepare and implement plans that get the job done.

  6. Evaluate Results:

    This comes later, maybe even during your next audit. But the point is that, for your SMART goals to be truly effective, you need to be committed to regularly reviewing your efforts—and to adjusting accordingly. For example, maybe your new hire onboarding process has gotten better, but you’re still seeing higher turnover than you’d hoped. Make adjustments to your approach if you want to achieve these objectives.

  7. Hold Your Team Accountable:

    As with any goal—SMART or otherwise—it’s helpful to share with others what you hope to accomplish so that they can help you achieve it and hold you accountable. This can be helpful across your whole organization, not just within HR. 


Best Practices for HR Goal-Setting

The SMART method is certainly effective when setting goals, but there’s more to it than just that. Consider a few additional tips and tricks to use when establishing goals:

  • The goals you’re setting should be in line with your organization’s—and your team’s—mission statements.
  • Conduct an HR audit to identify how your department can improve.
  • It’s okay to start with a vague, non-SMART goal as long as you revise it as a SMART goal.
  • Make sure you have or can obtain the necessary resources to meet your goals.
  • Keep goals attainable, but also make sure they’re challenging—that's how you grow.
  • Remember to celebrate and reward yourself when you meet your goals.
  • Use BerniePortal’s Performance feature to document goals and hold employees accountable in weekly 1:1 meetings.

Additional Resources

You can stay informed, educated, and up-to-date with important HR topics using BerniePortal’s comprehensive resources:

  • BerniePortal Blog—a one-stop-shop for HR industry news
  • HR Glossary—featuring the most common HR terms, acronyms, and compliance
  • HR Guides—essential pillars, covering an extensive list of comprehensive HR topics
  • BernieU—free online HR courses, approved for SHRM and HRCI recertification credit
  • HR Party of One—our popular YouTube series and podcast, covering emerging HR trends and enduring HR topics

Share This Article:

Related Posts

Thomas J. Peters, best known for his book In Search of Excellence, once stated, “The day...

According to the Ethics and Compliance Initiative’s (ECI) 2023 Global Business Ethics...

The IRS announced in May of 2024 the updated HSA contribution limits for 2025, which take...

Summer officially starts on June 20th this year, but any HR pro knows that summer really...

Submit a Comment