Squishy goals lead to disappointing results

One of the areas where I help my clients is  constructing, writing, and delivering performance evaluations. One of the most consistent challenges I encounter is the widespread use of squishy, undefined, and ambiguous goals.

Examples are "improve customer service", "continue to develop", or "drive strategic results". It's hard for employees to know what to do when they start the year with squishy goals. This leads to infrequent coaching on progress, since it's hard to really know if someone is "continuing to develop" without any specifics. This causes confusion at the end of the year when the boss sits down with the employee, lamely attempts to dissect past performance, and establishes a new set of squishy goals for the coming year.

Strong goals that drive performance follow the SMART model. (Download our primer here.)

S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Attainable
R = Relevant (to your strategy, mission, or vision)
T = Time-bound or timely

Clearly, "improve customer service" isn't SMART. However, "improve our score on the annual customer satisfaction survey from 85% to 95% by December 31" is SMART. Not only does it fit the model, it's much easier to understand, it's easier to measure progress, and it's easier to tell if we've achieved it at the end of the year.

Check out your employee goals and see how SMART they are. You can use our worksheet to help you.