How to create and set examples of SMART goals for employees

All businesses have goals that they work toward, whether it’s increasing sales effectiveness, reducing shrink, producing more visibility or enhancing their digital efforts. There’s one problem that most of them run into: they don’t have any examples of SMART goals for employees to replicate and work toward.

In a previous podcast I discussed why we fail at New Year’s Resolutions. One piece of the puzzle is motivation vs discipline, but the easiest way to doom yourself is by setting goals that aren’t attainable or measurable.

What are SMART goals?

The acronym SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based. To be a SMART goal, the goal needs to meet these criteria:

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Your SMART goal should be as specific as possible

In the SMART model, goals need to be specific to what you’re trying to accomplish. These goals can be broken down into sub-goals depending on how detailed your expected outcome is, but if you aren’t specific with what you want to achieve then your progress will be scattered and hindered because the expectation isn’t grounded.

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Example: During strategy calls with my clients we talk about their focus for the month and create specific results based on that general focus.

Creating measurable goals

In the digital age every campaign can be easily measured through the use of metrics available via third-parties and social media analytics. While it’s important to have a specific goal that you’re moving toward, if you can’t tangibly measure your progress then there’s no telling if your campaign is heading toward an expected outcome. It will also be next to impossible to tweak your campaign messaging based on user engagement and interaction.

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Example: My clients and I change the layouts of their websites regularly. To see if these changes are beneficial, we analyze engagement over a 30 day period to determine if website metrics have gone up or down based on the heat maps of their websites.

Can you achieve your SMART goal?

Setting specific and measurable goals are the starting points for establishing SMART goals, but if your expected outcome is too lofty or unrealistic, it’s necessary to check your expectations. Your campaign might be amazing and garner thousands of likes and engagement, but it’s disheartening and detrimental to not come close to achieving your goal.

Example: For this website my goal is to get 100,000 visits in three years. I set my goal to multiply my yearly visits ten-fold through attracting a consistent audience base and optimizing my posts to rank in Google’s search engine. This might be considered a far-fetched goal, but it’s attainable if I’m putting enough effort and time into promoting and curating content. An unachievable goal might be to monetize a freshly created site within the span of a year, as that typically requires an incredible following to perform that well. Again, if your goal is unattainable then you’re setting yourself up for failure.

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Is your SMART goal realistic?

This falls in with making sure your goal is achievable. If your goal is out of arm’s reach, you need to dial it back and create a goal that you know you can achieve within a set time-frame. As a side note, businesses will often interchange relevant with realistic.

Developing certain aspects of your goal is great, but it’s important to also ensure that it’s relevant to the vision of your company. I personally think that the specific portion of SMART guarantees that your goal will be relevant, but it’s easy to overlook this aspect of your SMART goal if a deep-dive isn’t happening with other employees in the company about your action plan.

What is your time frame to achieve your SMART goal?

Completing tasks in a set time frame is one of the best ways to ensure that you’re working toward achieving that goal. Without a time frame it’s difficult to measure through analytics and if campaigns/efforts are successful.

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Example: I will often talk with clients and set specific, measurable and achievable goals for the month, but if there isn’t a timeframe agreed upon then they will procrastinate or never set out to complete the tasks on their to-do-list. By setting that time frame, whether it’s by the end of the day, week, or month, it will convey a sense of urgency and ensure that you’re tracking performance-wise for your set SMART goal.

How to lay out your SMART goals framework

There are two ways that businesses will create their SMART goals. The first is to fill out each piece of that acronym based on your action plan.

  • S Develop social media presence on Twitter
  • M Maintain 1.5 percent engagement rate through tracking on Twitter’s Analytics API
  • A Dedicate 20 hours a week to curating and promoting content
  • R Get 500 followers with engaging posts
  • T Involvement will last 3 months

By laying it out in this way it’s a great place to start as you develop a well-rounded goal that you can begin to implement and flesh out. For me, however, I find that it isn’t specific enough to produce any significant results or guidance when developing an action plan to follow throughout the course of a campaign. Because of this, I follow a second method of laying out my SMART goals.

Examples of personal SMART goals

While setting your goals through specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely ways is quintessential in fulfilling them, I typically break down my goals into several buckets. First, I try to set up my SMART goal and what I want to accomplish.

After setting up my SMART goal, I will break it down more specifically through objectives, strategies and tactics.

Objectives serve as those sub-goals where I can assign an action plan to fulfill them. The action plan consists of various strategies and tactics that will aid in their completion.

Difference between strategies and tactics

Understanding the difference between strategies and tactics took me a long time to figure out, but in a nutshell your strategy will be the long-term “what” to accomplishing your goal while tactics are the short-term “how.”

Strategies and tactics serve as a means to an end as you coordinate them. As progress and campaigns change, you will change your tactics to fit your strategy.

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Examples of SMART goals, objectives, strategies and tactics

SMART goal: Increase my social media presence to get 3,000 total followers by the end of the year

Here I set my overarching goal that’s specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.

Objective 1: Post consistently on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram

With this first objective I’m a little more specific in outlining a method to gain more followers

Strategy 1: Get 500 likes on Facebook through increased posting and engagement

Through outlining my strategy on how to increase my social media presence, I can now outline my tactics that will contribute to my objective and outlined goal. Notice that I’m describing what I plan on doing, while my tactics will outline how I plan on accomplishing this task.

  • Tactic 1: Post 1 piece of original content per day on Facebook
  • Tactic 2: Leave comments on three Facebook pages a day
  • Tactic 3: Do one FB ad a week on highest engaged posts
  • Tactic 4: Place direct CTA in post messaging
  • Tactic 5: Engage in five FB groups
  • Tactic 6: Post at peak traffic times at 4 p.m. during weekdays

With these tactics, they reinforce the “how” in accomplishing this strategy. These are short-term and can be tweaked to aid in accomplishing your overarching strategy.

Strategy 2: Get 1,500 Twitter followers

  • Tactic 1: Engage with 10 tweets a day in 5 hashtag categories
  • Tactic 2: Repurpose 3 tweets from blog posts a day
  • Tactic 3: Participate in two Twitter chats a week
  • Tactic 4: Create a Twitter list to manage content
  • Tactic 5: Make tweets headline like and less than 140 character with two hashtags for optimal engagement
  • Tactic 6: Post at 1 p.m. during weekdays

Strategy 3: Get 1,000 Instagram followers

  • Tactic 1: Post three times a day during peak traffic times
  • Tactic 2: Reshare content using Repost App
  • Tactic 3: Use Tagstram and TagsforLikes to organize hashtags
  • Tactic 4: Engage with 10 people a day on different hashtags
  • Tactic 5: Post four stories a day

Strategy 4: Utilize livestreaming and native videos to increase follower engagement

  • Tactic 1: Use slideshare to repurpose photos into video content
  • Tactic 2: Download Periscope and watch five streams a week to recreate best practices
  • Tactic 3: Livestream once a week on all social media platforms
  • Tactic 4: Explain intent, thank people and welcome them when they join the stream
  • Tactic 5: Follow engaged chatters/promote other streamers to cultivate streaming presence

Beyond this outline, I have a few other SMART goals that I’ve created objectives, strategies and tactics for, but this should give you a good idea of how to create your own.

Motivation vs. Discipline alongside SMART objectives template

In my third podcast episode I discussed how to successfully accomplish your goals (insert video here). Even if you write down all of your goals, strategies, tactics and objectives it won’t be enough if you lack the discipline to carry out your action plan.

In 2017 I wrote a list of things I wanted to accomplish by the end of the year. Surprisingly, I was able to accomplish every single thing on that list, but it got me to thinking about the high failure rate that comes with New Year’s Resolutions.

After uploading that list and receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback, I started to evaluate my current process of incorporating strategies, tactics and metrics into monthly updates that I use to slowly inch my way closer to my yearly goals that I’m striving to accomplish, considering I always failed at completing my goals in New Year Resolutions in previous years.

It also made me explore my mindset that I start and end my day with. So many people start New Year Resolutions, but they either taper off toward the end of January or they never even start working toward them. We see this at the gym, where there’s a rush of individuals crowding the treadmills and power racks trying to get that beach body for the summer time. They’re passionate and motivated, but it doesn’t last long, which is part of the problem: they have motivation, but they lack discipline.

People associate motivation and discipline as the same thing, but they’re actually two sides of the same coin. Motivation is getting into the perfect mindset to accomplish a task, which is great for short bursts and situational moments like working out, but is detrimental when relied upon. It’s impossible to be in the right mindset or frame of reference 24/7 and will amount to procrastination if left unchecked.

A great example that I heard is that we don’t wait until we’re in Olympic form to train; we train to get into Olympic form.

This is where discipline comes into practice as we build that fortitude to accomplish the tasks that we dread throughout the day.

Motivation is a short burst that will kick start a “discipline engine,” so to speak; once that engine is kickstarted through cultivating daily habits and routines, it will provide the long-term longevity to carry us into the future.

Understanding the difference between motivation and discipline is the other crucial element when it comes to carrying out our action plans; without that knowledge, theory will never be put into practice.

SMART goals and objectives conclusion:

Each element of the SMART acronym should not be ignored as they each hold a large piece in developing your action plan.

By following these methods to create an action plan for a campaign or any business goals, you’ll be guaranteed success and the fulfillment of your goals, objectives, strategies and tactics.

What did you think of my outline for examples of goals for work and my personal example of how to write goals that I included in this post? Do you have a different method of creating an action plan? If so, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!

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