HR SMART Goals: The What, How, and 12 Examples

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HR SMART Goals: The What, How, and 12 Examples

HR SMART goals enable HR teams and practitioners to achieve what they set out to do. They help prioritize and focus efforts where they’re most needed. Let’s look at everything you need to know about HR SMART goals and discuss 12 examples.

What are HR SMART goals?
Why should you set HR SMART goals?
HR SMART goals best practices
HR SMART goals examples

What are HR SMART goals?

A goal is a target to aim for and a marker of success when you’ve achieved the desired result. The SMART goals framework helps you set clear goals that enable you to accomplish what you set out to do.

The SMART acronym stands for five goal characteristics:

  • Specific: Narrow down the who, what, where, when, and why of what you want.
  • Measurable: Choose criteria to track progress and mark success.
  • Achievable: Ensure the goal is reasonable considering available skills and resources.
  • Relevant: The purpose matters in the context of the situation.
  • Time-bound: Set a specific timeframe with a clear deadline.

HR is a complex, people-focused field that is never completely predictable. With so many factors in play, HR professionals must stay centered on the most crucial objectives. SMART goals help you define what needs to be done within a team’s scope of responsibility. Additionally, each team member can set individual goals to support the team and grow their HR career.

We’ll provide more Human Resources SMART goals examples below, but here is what one looks like:

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“Obtain authorization and implement an HRIS by the end of the fiscal year to save roughly 45 minutes per week of HR administration time.”

To measure progress in smaller steps, HR can determine how to break down the overall SMART goals into KPIs (key performance indicators) and OKRs (objectives and key results).


Why should you set HR SMART goals?

Elaborate goals might sound impressive, but they are often vague and difficult to track and measure. Having a practical objective you can visualize working toward in your day-to-day activities is more effective. 

The SMART goals approach produces better aspirations for HR in the following ways:

Improving focus and performance

By setting clear, attainable goals, HR professionals have a structure for what to prioritize and how they’re progressing. SMART goals offer a sense of direction and the right frame of mind about what people are striving for and why they want to achieve it. 

You can focus on the end result while taking the necessary steps and staying motivated. This positively impacts the HR team’s performance and will increase their ability to achieve the goal.

Supplying more accountability 

If individual team members, as well as the team itself, set goals to achieve, it creates a culture of accountability. People know what they want to achieve and can monitor how it’s going.

When everyone knows how much time they have to meet the goal, they can dedicate their efforts toward making sure they finish their work on time. When a deadline comes within the overall goal timeframe, you can discuss why it was hit or missed and decide how to get back on track, if necessary.

Being able to showcase results to the leadership

A SMART goal can help everyone envision what success looks like in numbers. If you can show leadership how things are progressing and offer tangible results, they’ll understand the value of what you’re doing. You’ll be able to show the impact HR has on the organization and secure more support for your initiatives.

HR SMART goals best practices

A basic overview of SMART goals criteria is a great starting point, but you can do more to ensure you establish sound objectives. Here are five best practices to guide you:

1. Be ambitious but realistic 

A SMART goal should be worthwhile but not so daring that it’s unrealistic and impossible to stay motivated about. It also shouldn’t be so simple that it won’t be a challenge. There’s no need to formalize something you know you’ll accomplish anyway. 

You know your field/yourself, so you can think through whether a goal is sensible and doable. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this practical?
  • Do I have or can I access the necessary resources?
  • Are there any preliminary steps I need to take before attempting this?
  • Can I fully commit to this?
  • Will the end result be worth the effort put in?

There’s a difference between a dream and a goal. If your aspiration can only be attained in the very long term, break it down into smaller, short-term SMART goals.

2. Start with a non-SMART goal and revise it 

Whether your aim is to move your department forward or solve a problem, you may not be sure how to make it into a SMART goal. It’s okay not to be able to immediately come up with a SMART goal for everything you want to work on and achieve. 

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You can start with a goal that is not SMART and then brainstorm with your team about how to make it SMART. For instance, let’s use the example from above and go through the SMART goal process: 

Regular goal: Better manage HR processes and employee information.  

  • Make it specific: Implement an HRIS.
  • Make it measurable: It will save (this much) of HR staff’s time.
  • Make it achievable: The necessary funds will be approved by leadership and included in the budget.
  • Make it relevant: Why does this matter? Because it will save time and improve accuracy.
  • Add a timeframe: By the end of the fiscal year.

SMART goal: Obtain authorization and implement an HRIS by the end of the fiscal year to save roughly 45 minutes per week of HR administration time.

3. Work off of organizational and departmental objectives

Personal career aspirations aside, your goals must be guided by what your organization and your department are trying to achieve and on the areas of improvement. If your goal is misaligned with the big picture priorities, it’s a waste of time and resources.  

Where you focus your effort has a direct effect on business success. SMART goals will help you measure how well you’re reaching the organization’s objectives. Once you do accomplish your own goals related to these, your team or department will play a visible role in company achievements.

A framework to help you with this is OKRs – Objectives and Key Results. Here’s what working off of your organizational objectives could look like:


4. Create an action plan for achieving your goals

A SMART goal is where you want to go. It’s your destination. However, you also have to have a clear idea, a roadmap, about how to get to that destination. A SMART goal action plan gets you organized and breaks down what you want to accomplish into steps or short-term goals. 

When you are working on team SMART goals, be sure to get the rest of the team’s say in the action plan. That way, you can explain steps that aren’t obvious and also get input about points you may not have considered.

Here are some tips for designing your plan:

  • Set your SMART goal and put it in writing.
  • Come up with 5-10 actions to take or milestones to reach and specify timeframes/deadlines for each.
  • Identify the potential obstacles you will encounter, so you can prepare for or avoid them.  
  • Fight setbacks and self-doubt and follow through with each step. 
  • Acknowledge and celebrate progress.

Devising an action plan makes your SMART goal more tangible as you work through the steps and feel the reward of reaching milestones along the way. 

5. Evaluate progress and results

Once you’ve put your action plan in motion, it’s wise to review your progress and results regularly. This will help you identify where you need to focus your efforts, where you can make improvements, and where you might need to push deadlines. 

You can cover the basics by asking:

  • Are we following along the plan the way we intended to?
  • Is the project moving forward?
  • Should we make any adjustments to the plan?

You may want to look at your shorter-term outcomes every month and the results of your longer-term initiatives on a quarterly basis. 

Monitoring your progress will also serve as powerful motivation to keep you on track. And don’t forget how important it is to celebrate your achievements!

HR SMART goals examples

When you’re ready to set some of your own goals, you can use these examples of team and individual HR SMART goals for inspiration:

Team SMART goals

1. Employee engagement SMART goal

Increase employee engagement by 20 percentage points within the next six months by adding an employee recognition program and flexible work hours to stimulate employee satisfaction and productivity.

  • Specific: Boost employee engagement through a new recognition program and flexible work hours.
  • Measurable: Employee engagement survey results of 70%, up from 50%.
  • Achievable: One team member has been designated to design the employee recognition program, and leadership is on board with offering flexible work hours.
  • Relevant: Better employee engagement leads to higher productivity
  • Time-bound: By the following employee engagement survey in six months.

2. Employee benefits SMART goal

In the next 45 days, conduct an employee satisfaction survey regarding benefits and use data to propose potential adjustments to the current benefits package.

  • Specific: Use survey insights to reveal whether current benefits meet employee needs.
  • Measurable: Survey data will determine the level of satisfaction with current benefits.
  • Achievable: Survey software is in place, and the HR team is capable of assessing the data and making recommendations for updates to benefits. 
  • Relevant: The right benefits package attracts and retains employees.
  • Time-bound: Within the next 45 days.

3. Recruiting cost SMART goal

By the end of the calendar year, reduce recruiting and new hire costs by 15% by focusing on current employee engagement and pay satisfaction. Conduct surveys and interviews to improve talent retention.

  • Specific: Reduce recruitment costs by focusing on how to keep current employees.
  • Measurable: Target of 15% reduction in costs.
  • Achievable: The target percentage is reasonable, and survey data will reveal areas to focus on that will keep employees satisfied with their work environment and pay. 
  • Relevant: Reducing turnover saves time and money.
  • Time-bound: By the end of the calendar year.

4. Employee performance SMART goal

In the next six months, develop an employee bonus system based on KPIs to inspire productivity by rewarding top performers.  

  • Specific: Increase productivity by motivating employees to be top performers.
  • Measurable: Rewards will reflect increased performance.
  • Achievable: Leadership has approved the funding, and a preliminary structure and KPIs have been suggested, so there is adequate time to get the program in place. 
  • Relevant: Employees work harder when a financial reward is attainable.
  • Time-bound: No later than six months from now.

5. Efficient hiring SMART goal

Clarify job postings and automate the candidate review process to fill 25% more positions within their hiring deadlines by the end of next quarter.

  • Specific: Speed up candidate review process to fill positions quicker.
  • Measurable: Target of 25% more positions filled by deadline.
  • Achievable: Clear, specific job postings will attract more qualified candidates. A hiring software tool is purchased to save time communicating with and getting candidates through the interview process. 
  • Relevant: Promptly filled positions get new hires onboarded and productive sooner.
  • Time-bound: By the end of next quarter.

6. Professional development SMART goal

Within six weeks, set up quarterly speaker sessions where subject matter experts discuss topics that will help employees enhance their soft skills and prepare for career advancement. Survey employees after each session to gauge its learning benefit.

  • Specific: Expand employee professional development program by scheduling quarterly speaker sessions. Topics being considered are communication, negotiation, public speaking, and time management skills.
  • Measurable: Survey data will reveal each session’s worth. 
  • Achievable: An HR team member will research and schedule speakers, as well as promote each session. The budget has room for paying speakers from outside the organization when necessary.
  • Relevant: Developing employees will help build a talent pipeline.
  • Time-bound: Within six weeks.

7. Onboarding SMART goal

Implement onboarding software to streamline training, improve information retention, and speed up new hire readiness for their jobs by 20% at the one-year mark. 

  • Specific: Onboarding will be more efficient with software to centralize policies, procedures, and training. Gamification within the program will help information retention.
  • Measurable: Target of 20% decrease in the time it takes to get new hires ready and productive. 
  • Achievable: Software purchase is approved and it will track how long onboarding each new employee takes. 
  • Relevant: Less time onboarding new hires results in cost savings and more productivity. 
  • Time-bound: By one year post-implementation.

8. Organizational culture SMART goal

Better communicate and reflect organizational values to influence culture and boost annual employee experience survey numbers in the “positive work environment” area by 10% in next year’s survey. 

  • Specific: Incorporate organizational values into decisions and corporate communication so employees recognize and model behaviors that foster a more positive work environment.
  • Measurable: Target of 75% from 65% on employee experience survey.
  • Achievable: An emphasis on organizational values will be promoted to middle and senior management.
  • Relevant: Employees who feel aligned with their company culture feel more committed to the organization. 
  • Time-bound: By next year’s survey.

Individual SMART goals

9. Time management SMART goal

I will improve my time management skills in the next month to be more productive at work and maintain a better balance between my job and my personal life. 

  • Specific: I will set aside two hours of every work day to focus solely on the most important tasks.
  • Measurable: I can set the two hours into my daily calendar with a timer.
  • Achievable: I can plan which two hours will be best for each day and notify my co-workers that I’d rather not be disturbed.
  • Relevant: More focused time on crucial tasks will allow me to go home at the end of work hours.
  • Time-bound: I will commit to doing this for a month to evaluate its benefits.

10. Mentoring SMART goal

Within the next two weeks, I will establish a mentor relationship with someone I trust and respect who is willing to share wisdom and invest in helping me grow in my career.

  • Specific: Approach my former co-worker, who is now an HR Director, about meeting for coffee once a month to discuss HR issues.
  • Measurable: The relationship will either be or not be established.
  • Achievable: I feel confident this person will be willing to meet with me and that we will both make it a priority.
  • Relevant: Having a mentor relationship will provide me with sound advice and a fresh perspective on the world of HR and how I fit into it. 
  • Time-bound: Contact mentor within 2 weeks and maintain meetings for at least six months.

11. HR certification SMART goal

I will prepare myself for career advancement by obtaining an HR Business Partner certification in the next three months. 

  • Specific: Take an online, self-paced course to learn how to be an HR Business Partner and have the credentials to be a competitive candidate. 
  • Measurable: Earn certification.
  • Achievable: I can devote 2.5 hours of my free time per week to the course and finish it in 12 weeks.
  • Relevant: A certification will prepare me to become the HR Business Partner I want to be. 
  • Time-bound: Within 3 months.

12. Public speaking SMART goal

I will attend a public speaking club for one year to become a better public speaker who makes engaging presentations.

  • Specific: Join a public speaking club to improve presentation skills. 
  • Measurable: My fellow group members will notice and comment on my growth.
  • Achievable: I am motivated to do this and can devote the required time to meetings.
  • Relevant: Being a better presenter will expand my influence within the organization. 
  • Time-bound: Join now and stick with it for one year.

To sum it up

Setting SMART goals is beneficial both on individual and team levels. They give you a clear idea of where you’re headed, how you can get there, and the progress you’re making. What’s more, they have a motivational factor by laying out a clear target to aim for, and that’s why they help you and your team perform better. 

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