top of page

How to create SMART objectives

Many years ago, I attended a 3-day workshop about measurement. I remember being totally BAFFLED for most of day one. I was lost in a sea of new language that wasn’t explained clearly: indicators, KPIs, outcomes, outputs… I felt stupid and thought this must come easy to everyone else but me.

But guess what… loads of other people felt the same way. Measurement can be intimidating, especially if you were terrible at maths in school like me and have convinced yourself “I can’t do this”.

I’m here to tell you that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. All these years later I take measurement in my stride. I even judge award entries and teach measurement to students.

Today I’m sharing my top tip for making communication measurement EASY.

You’ve probably heard of SMART objectives. But do you use them?

If you create SMART objectives for your internal communication, then you don’t need to worry about measurement because you’ve already tackled it up front. Your measurement will be baked into your objectives.

Easy, right? Obvious, no? But you’d be amazed at how many people are not creating SMART objectives. I was a judge in an IC awards this year and out of all the entries I reviewed, only 1 (yes 1!) laid out SMART objectives. I was pretty gobsmacked, truth be told.

So let’s demystify SMART objectives and you can get started creating some for your own work.

What’s an objective?

Very simply put, an objective is something that you plan to do or achieve.

What’s a SMART objective?

It’s something you plan to do or achieve that’s really specific and clear and laser focused. SMART = Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound. These criteria help ensure that your objective is well-defined, realistic and can be measured.

Specific: Clearly define what you are trying to achieve. Be really, really, REALLY specific. Make the objective about achieving just 1 thing.

Measurable: Include how you will track and measure whether you’ve achieved what you wanted or not. Set specific metrics or targets, for example “achieve a 20% increase” or “improve X from 50% to 75%”.

Achievable: There’s no point developing a Rolls Royce objective on a Ford Fiesta budget. Think about what you and your team have the capacity to deliver and keep the objective achievable.

Relevant: Your objectives absolutely must align with the broader goals and strategy of your organisation. Can you draw a line upwards from your own objectives towards the business strategy objectives and see a clear link? Is it clear how your work is supporting the business strategy?

Time-bound: Lastly, put a timeframe for achieving your objective. How long is it going to take to hit that target you’ve outlined – 12 months? 3 years? Write this down and commit to it.

Give me an example of a non-SMART objective

Good idea. Here you go.

Objective: Improve employee onboarding programme.

This is not a SMART objective because:

  1. Specific: The objective is not specific AT ALL. It doesn't not provide clear details about what aspects of the employee onboarding programme need improvement. It’s way too vague.

  2. Measurable: There are no measurable criteria or metrics included in the objective. How would we ever know if it’s been successful or not?

  3. Achievable: It’s not clear if it’s achievable for the team or resources available - maybe they do, maybe they don't.

  4. Relevant: The objective doesn’t explain why improving the onboarding programme is important to the business or the wider organisational strategy.

  5. Time-bound: There’s no timeframe or deadline in the objective.

Show me an example of a SMART objective

Deal. Here’s a SMART version of the same objective.

SMART objective: “Revise the employee onboarding programme by incorporating interactive online modules with a target of a 10% reduction in new employee turnover within the first six months of implementation.”

Here’s why this one works better:

  1. Specific: It specifies that the improvement involves adding interactive online modules to the onboarding programme.

  2. Measurable: The objective includes a clear measurement – a 10% reduction in new employee turnover.

  3. Achievable: Let's assume it's an achievable amount of work for the team in place.

  4. Relevant: The objective ties the improvement directly to reducing turnover, which is relevant to the overall running of the business and the organisational goals.

  5. Time-bound: It sets a timeframe for implementation and measurement – within the first six months of implementation.

I really hope this helps you to be a bit less terrified of measurement and a bit more open to playing around with SMART objectives.

Why not have a session on SMART objectives in your next team meeting or offsite event? They take practice so don’t worry if you feel you don’t get it “right” straight away.

Keep at it – you’ll get there.


bottom of page