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How to Set Professional Goals

Virtual team discussing professional goals

The end of the year is rapidly approaching, which means it’s time to reflect on the past 11 months and all that’s transpired, to improve in the coming year. Efficient goal setting is a daunting task to some, but this brief guide will assist in making this a more manageable task by focusing on some goal-setting best practices.

The SMART Plan

The SMART plan is a tool intended to make goal setting simple by focusing on five criteria: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. Each element divides a task or goal into smaller focus points to help you achieve each individual item. To begin, start with a basic goal.

Example: “I will increase my revenue by 5% at the end of the fiscal year.”

Specific: Define what you want to achieve in clear and concise terms.

Specificity is a useful practice to help communicate a message across the board. Through specifying tasks, it may allow the opportunity to further understand the final product through causality. By building tasks with precision in mind, you will gradually understand the effect each specific task has on your goal.


Who: Sales and marketing departments.

What: A revenue increase of 5%

When: The approaching fiscal year.

Why: To increase revenue and better quality of life for me and my associates.

Measurable: Use data to monitor the progress of your goals.

The measurable section of the SMART plan is here to affirm that tasks are quantifiable or trackable by any applicable milestones. This segment is where the foundation of a “roadmap” starts. Without it, it’ll be hard to discern where you are in your journey when you’re unable to mark the steps you’ve taken or need to complete to attain a goal.

Example: If your goal is to ‘increase revenue 5% by the end of the year’, the measurable part of your goal would be the percentage growth of revenue. It is up to you to determine the rate at which you must monitor these changes.

Achievable: Keep goals realistic and attainable.

Honesty and transparency about an ability to complete tasks is the key to the achievable section of the SMART methodology. It may hinder performance to be dishonest in what your organization is capable of accomplishing. By doing so, you may end up aligning with tasks better suited for later stages in your organization’s growth or completely overestimating what your goals are.

Example: To understand if your target is achievable, you may want to refer to previous data and attempt to point out any trends that you may be able to return to and capitalize on.

Relevant: Ensure that your goal reflects current needs and desires.

Affirm your tasks by their relevance to goals. Ask, “Are these tasks integral to achieve the end result?” If the answer is “no,” review the steps taken to develop the tasks and refine the discernment between end-goal progress and task completion.

Example: Here is to see if your target is aligned with your model. Is a 5% increase good for your company? Will targeting this goal take away from any other directives?

Time-based: Set a deadline for goals and develop a timeline accordingly.

Lastly, the worthy companion of the Measurable section, time-based settings are the “other half” of a roadmap. Knowing when to start and when tasks should be completed is an essential skill to develop. Completing tasks in a timely manner allows cooperation to flourish by permitting a clock to track progress.

Example: The example here is pretty easy as your “clock” is the fiscal year. You are free and recommended to work around with any necessary increments of time.

SWOT Analysis

The SWOT method of analysis is a great pairing with the SMART method of task planning. In the SWOT method you’re analyzing your current business structure in order to help layout a plan of attack. Usually you start with your SWOT analysis and then begin planning your route with the SMART method. Have your employees develop their own SWOT geared towards their goals.

S- Strengths: Identify the strong suits of your organization.

This is the part where you acknowledge what your company is does well. Note the areas in which you excel and give yourselves some credit. What processes are working for your organization? Are there particular areas where you consistently outmatch competitors? Where were your wins?

W-Weaknesses: Identify the weak points of your organization.

Here is the time to be honest with yourself as to how your organization functions. Be clear to define any points in which you may fall short, even if minor shortcomings. Keeping tabs on slight lapses may better your company in its future growth. Where has the competition beaten you prior? How were your losses formed?

O- Opportunity: Analyze and Identify your business environment to find advantages.

Here is where you recognize any external trends or resources that your company can use to get a leg up on the competition. Do you notice any trends taking place that work in favor for your company? Are there certain practices in your market that align with your capabilities?

T- Threats: Analyze and Identify your business environment to find disadvantages.

Like Opportunity, you should also study the external factors of your business to identify any pitfalls or potential hinderances to your operation. Threat analysis and identification will be good to update on a regular basis, as you may see new or resolved items from the threat list as your company grows. See if there are any repetitions in detriments or any downward trends that are time specific.

The SMART plan and SWOT analysis are great basic tools to use when the time comes to set goals and attack them. For advanced assistance in goal setting and performance management, request a consultation from one of our HR service specialists at Human Capital.

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