What Are Smart Performance Evaluations?

Supervisors must set appropriate goals and objectives to support employee performance evaluations.
Supervisors must set appropriate goals and objectives to support employee performance evaluations. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Employee performance evaluations serve as a formal means for a supervisor to provide feedback to employees on their performance. Evaluation ratings can be used to determine salary increases and provide insight into an employee's capacity for promotion. The affect of the evaluation's uses require that supervisors handle the performance review process thoughtfully. The SMART framework provides guidance to supervisors to ensure that performance reviews are objective, meaningful and reflective of an employee's performance. SMART is an acronym that describes the five key components -- specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based -- that properly establish employee goals and objectives for an upcoming review period.

Goals Must be Specific

When establishing goals and objectives for the upcoming review period, be specific. If an employee is responsible for customer order fulfillment, establish a definition for what it means to fulfill an order. The established definition should be clearly understood by the employee and supervisor to avoid mis-understanding and conflict during the performance review.

An example of lack of specificity can be found in a case in which a supervisor establishes an objective for an employee to "expand knowledge" of Microsoft Office. This objective statement does not provide guidance about which particular application the employee should focus and does not include what skills or capabilities are needed. A better approach would be to set an expectation for the employee to attend an Excel educational course or become proficient in creation and use of Excel pivot tables and charts. Each of these objectives is easily understood and clearly defines what is expected of the employee.

Goals Must be Measurable

In selecting goals and objectives that can be measured, the supervisor is able to clearly define the desired level of performance as compared to the employee's demonstrated level of performance. For a customer service representative who is responsible for customer order fulfillment, the supervisor can measure the number of orders shipped on time. Maintaining an order fulfillment metric enables both employee and supervisor to understand ongoing performance. Setting the order fulfillment goal for the upcoming review period at a specific level, such as 97 percent, provides the employee with a goal that is easily understood and with results that are measurable.

Goals Must be Achievable

It is the supervisor's responsibility to establish goals and objectives that drive improvements in performance, but at the same time the goals must also be achievable. Setting performance standards in this manner creates an environment of continuous improvement, while also putting employees in position to be successful.

Goals Must be Relevant

The goals and objectives set forth in the performance review should be directly related to the employee's duties and responsibilities as defined in the employee's job description. For example, it would not make sense to include delivery performance in the goals and objectives for a quality engineer. Nor would it make sense to hold a human resources employee accountable for inventory investment. Keeping goals focused to the responsibilities outlined in the job description ensures that the employee is working on appropriate tasks and is capable of delivering the required results.

Goals Must Include a Due Date

The "T" in SMART stands for time-based. To be effective, an objective must have a due date, otherwise it will remain a work-in-process indefinitely. Setting a due date puts a defined date for when the deliverables of a project need to be realized.

For example, if a purchasing agent is assigned to reduce the unit purchase price by 5 percent as compared to the prior year's average price, it would make a significant difference if the 5 percent is realized in January as compared to December. Specifying a due date further clarifies the task to be completed by defining the timeline.

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