A Sharp Aim Towards New Attainable Heights

A Sharp Aim Towards New Attainable Heights

Serge Reynaud, HR consultant


Rachel Vallée-Troie. HR and Communication coordinator


As the famous strategist Sun Tzu said: “He who has no goals is not likely to achieve them.” By definition, a goal is the desired outcome for individuals, groups, or an organization as a whole. They become the benchmarks against which actual achievements can be evaluated. The targeted or expected results must be known in order to be able to move forward. In other words, knowing what I am contributing to,will motivate me and will increase my performance.

In the workplace, objectives relate to day-to-day tasks, but aim to go over and above routine tasks. The pursuit of different targets should allow a person to tap into their extra full potential so as to better serve their organization.

In order to be as effective as possible, using the “SMARTIES” acronym can help us when brainstorming and drafting objectives:

Thus, any objective should be:

S: Specific

M: Measurable

A: Achievable

R: Rational

T: Time-guided

I:  Inclusive

E: Enhancing

S: Satisfying and rewarding

Deviating from any or all of these 8 requirements is said to will render the process futile and risk causing a loss of motivation.

As well, it is important that the objectives be aligned with the vision of the department or company. It is also essential that an objective be shared and accepted. Not only must it make sense to the employees and the organization, but it must also be motivating. Avoid generalized approaches such as:

“Robert will have to work harder to get more work done.”

Despite the absence of strict guidelines regarding the number of objectives to set, there is one important principle to follow: , Do not set too many goals. Pursuing an excessive number of objectives can prove stressful. 1 to 3 objectives is considered optimal as it is better to achieve all your set objectives than to be overwhelmed by too many and fail.

In some cases, meeting or even exceeding objectives may partly determine the amount of incentive compensation awarded to an employee. The achievement of objectives can also serve as additional motivation and helps the employer better identify high-potential employees. As Edward Locke’s Goal Setting Theory has demonstrated, objectives provide direction and allow employees to focus, plan, prioritize and persevere in adopting behaviours that will optimize their achievements. Better career paths are thus easier to establish for these employees. Nonetheless, a word of caution:  It is important that the employer not act unilaterally in this process. While the employer’s priorities and vision must be taken into consideration, employee aspirations must also be considered. For example, just because an employee is a particularly gifted financial analyst does not necessarily mean that they wants to become a CFO., This is so even if there is a pressing need for succession.

Consider the following scenario as an example:

Our financial analyst’s supervisor is well aware that he is gifted in the normal performance of his duties and that he would like to go further. He makes good suggestions to improve his effectiveness. The supervisor realizes that one possible solution is to allow the employee to evolve by earning his CFA designation, which would in turn benefit the team given his increased skill set. Consider the following SMARTIES scenario.

In order for John Jones to take on greater responsibilities, he will have to successfully complete the first module of the CFA designation course next year.

Is it Specific? The aim is registering for, following up on, and successfully  completing the first module of the course. Yes.

Is it Measurable? Annual tests allow progress to be tracked.

Is it Achievable? Certainly, because it was determined that John Jones had potential and wanted to move forward.

Is it Rational? Since John Jones still has to pursue his regular duties at the office and his life outside the office, he is asked to complete the first module of the courses within a year. This is certainly rational.

Is it Time-guided? Obviously, yes. There are 12, 24 and 36 month timelines towards the achievement of the goal.

Is it Inclusive? Yes, because it benefits the employee, the team, and as knowledge increases, the company.

Is it Enhancing? Yes, because it should eventually lead to the CFA designation.

Is it Satisfying and rewarding? Yes, because the employee is able to see that the company is investing in his professional development.

An objective should neither be too effortless nor overly challenging, but one must keep in mind that failure is possible. This is why it is important to evaluate the objective over time. External events, such as an economic crisis, a natural disaster, or an event impacting the life of the employee may call into question the relevance of an objective. It  is therefore  particularly important for the company and the employee to re-evaluate if necessary. If nothing is done to correct the situation, the risk of the employees becoming demotivated will be greater. Stay in tune with your employees; if the strategy or vision changes, the objectives will have to be modified or, at least, reviewed.

Finally, employees with greater self-awareness  of their position and contributions demonstrate higher levels of self-satisfaction, which leads to better performance. However, a word of caution:  Too much emphasis on reaching or even exceeding objectives (with the reward of higher incentive compensation or promotion) risks encouraging certain behaviours that conflict with the company’s values. For example, employees who are overly committed to their own success are likely to overlook the importance of helping each other.

Getting it right with SMARTIES.