Learning & Development

How to Set Human Resources Goals You’ll Actually Stick To

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: goal-setting time!

Some HR professionals are eagerly whipping out their notepads and pens, ready to make some spreadsheets and crunch some numbers for projections. Their coffee is hot, and their to-do list is waiting. Yearly, quarterly, weekly—goals are their bread and butter.

But some HR professionals are looking around their office for a desk to hide under. Goals seem like just another measuring stick; they’re an opportunity for failure and a terrifying red light on the horizon. Goals brings to mind all of those other goal-setting sessions in the past that have gone absolutely nowhere.

No matter how you feel about goals, it’s undeniable that they’re helpful in professional settings. Nearly 6 in 10 Americans say setting goals has helped them achieve their best successes in life, and setting goals that are challenging but achievable leads to a 90% better performance. If you want to continuously improve at your job, it’s important to track your progress and set the bar high!

That being said, HR can feel like a strange department to focus on goal-setting. Aren’t goals more for the sales or operations teams? Not so fast. There are tons of metrics HR departments can use for goal-setting. Think:

  • Employee satisfaction
  • Employee turnover
  • New positions created and filled
  • Onboarding time for new employees
  • Cost of recruiting practices
  • Cost per new employee hire
  • Effectiveness of HR software currently used by the company

That’s just a list to get you started, but your unique business will have metrics of its own that you want to measure and make goals around. As we start to slowly walk toward 2024, it’s the perfect time of year to sit down and map out what metrics matter to your HR department and how you can make great goals so 2024 is your most productive year yet.

But we’ve all been there—in February or March, you sit down for a meeting with your team and think “We should really revisit those goals,” but it doesn’t happen. By April, you’ve forgotten them, and by May, you’re shrugging the whole practice off, making your goal-planning time now a complete waste of time. So how, as a department, can you make goals you’ll actually chase after?

Make Them SMART

You’ve probably heard the phrase “SMART goals” before. It refers to goals that are:

Specific: A goal like “decrease employee onboarding time” won’t get you very far. It doesn’t give any indication as to what you should consider a success. Instead, think “decrease onboarding time from X weeks to X weeks.”

Measurable: A goal without measurement is just a vague idea. There should be some type of number attached to every goal so you’re able to track it effectively.

Achievable: Pie-in-the-sky goals are fun to talk about, but the constant feeling of defeat that comes from missing them is really demoralizing. While it’s great to be optimistic, make sure your goals are actually achievable. This means both being realistic about your situation and making them something that’s in your power to do.

Relevant: Your goals should have to do with some type of endgame. Are you overall trying to increase the positivity of your company culture? Or trying to grow your workforce? Or trying to offer better training to employees? Having an overarching goal that’s more broad can help your SMART goals serve as arrows toward a bigger ending. That way, you won’t get distracted by small projects or side ideas.

Timely: Your goal should have a time frame attached to it so it isn’t just swirling around in “one day” space. Depending on the goal, this could be anywhere from the end of the month to the end of the quarter to the end of the fiscal year.

SMART goals will ensure your goals are rock solid, making you much more likely to make active progress on them.

Factor in Reevaluation Time

Part of the problem with yearly goals is that a lot of things change during the year. If the economy crashes or your CEO quits, your goals will probably shift rapidly. That’s perfectly fine—in fact, it’s a good thing! It means your business is nimble enough to stay on its toes and react rapidly to change. It isn’t something to beat yourself up over. But factoring in quarterly goal reevaluation time will help make sure you’re still on track. Some goals might no longer seem like a good fit halfway through the year, while other ones might seem more necessary. At least once a quarter, sit down with your team and reevaluate your goals to make sure they’re still in line with your mission as a business.

Some questions to ask when considering your goals during your reevaluation time:

  • Is this goal still relevant to our larger mission?
  • Are we making good progress, or have we stalled somewhere?
  • Would this goal benefit from any additional tweaks or resources?
  • Are there any new goals that seem vital to add?
  • Do our goals still seem realistic given how much time has passed and how much time is left in the year?

Remember the Why

Lastly, it’s important to remember the why behind your goals. As discussed previously, your goals should point to a more overarching vision for your company. Goals aren’t just tasks to be checked off a to-do list or a way to make your team feel good about themselves. They should really be something that’s contributing to your business. On the days when working through goals feels like a slog, it can really help to have a larger vision. What does your company contribute to the world? How do its products and services help people? And what effect does a robust employee base have on those products or services? That’s what you’re working for, and that’s why your goals matter.

Claire Swinarski is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.

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