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Examples of Smart Goals for Human Resource Professionals

Fast-track company growth, enhance brand reputation, create a happy, productive environment for employees with these smart goals for human resources.

Culture
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10 Min read
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Last Updated on
June 3, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic was instrumental in making remote work, which was once a luxury, a necessity. And if studies are to be believed, this trend is set to persist well after the pandemic is officially over. Offices around the world are in no hurry to summon their employees back, and some are even contemplating making remote work permanent.

A recent Gartner report revealed that 74% of CFOs surveyed planned to move at least 5% of previously on-site employees to permanently remote positions post-COVID 19, the most obvious reason being cost savings.

Honeymoon turns into a nightmare

The transition to remote work was, however, not an easy one. At its outset, employees were thrilled; they could control their working hours, spend quality time with their families, and most importantly, could work in their pajamas. But with time, tedium started to set in. "Life" slowly started to fade out from Work-Life balance. Employees started their day staring at their laptop screens sipping coffee and ended their day staring at their laptop screens sipping wine. They began to prefer the passive-aggressive altercations with their bosses and co-workers to the fully aggressive squabbles with their housemates. The angst of being cooped up for months on end without any respite started telling on their productivity. Zoom fatigue found a place in everyday vocabulary. Morale hit a dangerous low.

HR to the rescue!

Then, HR swooped into action. Employees started routinely receiving goodie bags with cute little handwritten notes. Yoga, meditation, and, for the more adventurous, Zumba sessions became a part of work. "Mental Wellness" breaks, those coveted surprise holidays, were introduced. Employees were happy. Their morale and productivity levels started to improve. Business was back on its feet.

But is it really a rescue?

However, as employees settle into remote work for the long haul, these measures aren't going to be effective forever. They are, after all, only short-term, mitigatory measures. HR professionals need to stop slapping on band-aids and start looking at their fundamental goals, such as hiring new talent, employee retention, communication and employee appraisals, etc., in a new light. HR decisions usually have a direct bearing on the overall growth of a company, and in these precarious times, the effect becomes more pronounced.

What are SMART Goals, and Why Should HR Professionals set them?

Employee management has attained new heights of importance, thanks to the pandemic. Employees are the lifeboats that carry th business over a storm and help it reach calm waters.

But in such times, it's far too easy for HR to get overzealous and set lofty goals which neither see the light of the day nor align with the organization's long-term goals. For example, the organization may have resorted to cost-cutting for a time until the economy stabilizes.

In this scenario, an HR goal that says "increase hiring by 200% compared to last year" would be going off on a tangent from the organization's goals.

SMART goals bring the much-needed clarity and alignment. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely - typically goals that aren't vague, misguided, or impossible to achieve. SMART goals break down the organization's overarching vision into small, bite-sized chunks for every department to set their members' KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and OKRs (Objectives and Key Responsibilities).

SMART goals help HR keep the organization's objective always in sight and work towards the greater good of the organization. Without goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely, even the most well-intentioned plans can fall through. SMART goals give HR professionals tangible targets and the means to achieve them, keeping them focused and motivated throughout. HR professionals can notch their progress against set milestones. They can easily identify any deviation from the predefined path and immediately course correct it, minimizing time and resource wastage.

SMART goals help HR quantify their requirements so that they know precisely what to ask of the board in terms of budget and resources to meet their goals. In the same vein, SMART goals also help quantify the results, such as percentage contribution to the organization's overall growth in terms of brand enhancement, better employee feedback, and an improved skill pool.

When followed consistently, SMART goals give the company culture a significant shove in the right direction, making it desirable for both future candidates and investors.

Examples of SMART Goals for Human Resource Professionals

Take the example we discussed earlier in this article, where the company has cut costs to tide over the pandemic. Here, HR's SMART goal would be to "increase annual retention from 80% to 90%." The reasoning is that since the company cannot afford to hire new talent, they cannot afford to lose their existing talent. Companies during this time may feel complacent about retention - they may be under the impression that employees value job security over anything else and hence will not take a risk by switching jobs. However, the April 2021 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (under the U.S. Department of Labor) reveals that there's little change in employee turnover compared to the previous years, which makes the SMART goal of retention even more relevant. This SMART goal can be further broken down into tactics to achieve the goal, such as Rewards and Recognition programs to motivate employees, opportunities to upskill/reskill, etc.

Let's look at some more examples of how SMART goals for HR professionals would look like against the backdrop of the pandemic:

1. Talent Acquisition

Companies that are hiring at this time would look to reduce their cost-per-hire. The talent acquisition team should therefore reduce expenses attached to the recruitment process (such as reviewing applications and interviewing candidates), travel and relocation for the selected candidates, and other administrative tasks. Since most of the hiring now happens virtually, recruiters need to make their screening process more efficient so that only the suitable candidates get netted, and team leads needn't waste precious time interviewing ill-suited candidates.

So, a SMART goal for Talent Acquisition would be:

I want to reduce the cost-per-hire by 20% by the end of this quarter by making my screening process more efficient.

Breaking down the goal into its components, we get sub-goals that are

  • Specific: I want to reduce the cost-per-hire
  • Measurable: by 20%
  • Attainable: by making the screening process more efficient
  • Relevant: to help the organization manage its costs
  • Timely: by the end of this quarter

The goal now sets a clear direction for the team and also gives them the means to achieve it. The target is realistic, and results are tangible, which motivates employees and the team towards it.

2. Retention

As we discussed already, employee retention is the need of the hour and takes precedence over hiring. HR needs to make its employees feel valued and instill pride and loyalty towards the organization in them, something that pay hikes alone cannot do. Here's how a SMART goal for retention could look like:

I want to improve my employee retention rate to 90% from 80% last year by making employees feel more valued.

Breaking down this goal into its components, we get sub-goals that are

  • Specific: I want to improve my employee retention rate
  • Measurable: to 90%
  • Attainable: from 80% to 90% in a year
  • Relevant: to reduce churn and save the company replacement costs
  • Timely: in a year

The means to this goal could be sending goodie bags with appreciation notes, quarterly rewards for hitting targets, promotions and pay hikes, etc.

Read our blog on: 8 Innovative Employee Retention Strategies That Really Work

3. Upskilling and Reskilling

A recent survey by Gartner involving HR professionals - Top 5 Priorities for HR Leaders in 2021 - revealed that 68% of HR leaders surveyed prioritized building critical skills and competencies. Upskilling also significantly impacts hiring and retention. Companies can train their existing workforce in new skills instead of hiring new talent for them (which is the costlier option). Employees are less likely to leave an organization if they're given opportunities to learn and grow.

A SMART goal for upskilling (or reskilling) employees would be:

I want to allocate 20% of the annual HR budget towards employees development and make them learn one new skill per quarter.

Breaking down this goal into its components, we get sub-goals that are

  • Specific: focus on skill development
  • Measurable: track progress in performance after learning the skill
  • Attainable: allocate 20% of the annual HR budget
  • Relevant: better performance and improved employee satisfaction
  • Timely: one new skill per quarter

HR can either invest in online certification courses that employees can choose (which are relevant to their work) or hire external instructors for the training and development of teams.

4. Performance Appraisals

Yearly performance appraisals are arguably the most taxing times for leaders and employees alike. Tensions flare, grievances are aired, and some employees even make spot decisions to quit. With the added anxieties of the pandemic, performance appraisals need to be dealt with more gingerly than ever. Here's how a SMART goal for performance appraisals could look like:

I want to make the performance appraisal process hassle-free for employees and managers by encouraging open communication and regular feedback.

Breaking down this goal into its components, we get sub-goals that are

  • Specific: make the performance appraisal process hassle-free
  • Measurable: employee OKRs
  • Attainable: encourage open communication
  • Relevant: reduce the hassle that makes employees disgruntled or causes them to quit
  • Timely: routine feedback

Open communication coupled with regular feedback ensures there are no surprises during the D-day, making the process tension-free and enjoyable to both managers and employees.

Conclusion

As the American businessman Douglas Conant says, "To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace." HR professionals help companies achieve this victory through their policies, and SMART goals are what enable HR to craft successful policies. SMART goals lift the fog and help HR professionals see a long way down the road. They also provide clear milestones, signals, and signposts so that HR never loses its way and always reaches the destination - a fast-growing company with happy, productive employees.

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