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A.R.E. you S.M.A.R.T?

1 Nov 2015 - Blog

A.R.E. you S.M.A.R.T?


Performance management is currently one of the hot topics in the HR / employee engagement space. Since Accenture famously scrapped their annual performance appraisal, many organisations have begun to question the appropriateness of their performance management approach. Many HR teams and managers realise that their current approach does not always meet the goals of the employee or the organisation and that their processes are too complex and clunky. This got me thinking; what is performance management really all about?

Performance management, at its core, is about goal setting, as People Streme Human Capital Management quotes:


“It is about aligning the organisational objectives with the employees’ agreed measures, skills, competency requirements, development plans and the delivery of results.” Source


So, ultimately, performance management is about aligning the goals of the organisation with the goals of the employee, and ensuring the employee can meet the organisations goals while using their current skills and developing new ones. Does it need to be any more complex than that?


Is Goal Setting Theory the answer?

This brought me to thinking that it’s a great time to look back at another of our ‘oldie but goody’ motivation and engagement theories, and to relate it to what’s happening in the industry today. Goal setting theory, originally founded by Locke & Latham, 2002, provides an old but great foundational framework to think about what a simpler approach to the future of performance management might look like.

Locke and Latham’s goal setting theory states that goals need to be S.M.A.R.T. This means they need to be:

  • Specific – goals cannot be vague or the output will be vague. They need to be described so that someone knows exactly what they need to achieve.
  • Measurable – once someone has a goal, how will you know when they have achieved it?
  • Achievable – is the goal achievable or is it an unrealistic goal?
  • Relevant – are employee’s goals relevant to the goals of the organisation? Are they in line with how the employee needs to develop? 
  • Timely – is there a timescale by which the goal needs to be achieved? Again, this needs to be realistic but it also needs to challenge the employee.

As I mentioned above, this is a great foundation for the future of a simpler performance management approach, but since the theory was established, the world of performance management has progressed. Employee engagement is now a key factor in how employees deliver within their role. With this in mind, below is one suggestion for how we could reframe Lock and Latham’s theory for today’s performance management approach.


A.R.E you S.M.A.R.T?

  • Ambitious – Goals need to stretch the employee. If we consider our last oldie but goody post, one of the main factors of motivation according to Daniel Pink is mastery. If people aren’t stretched, they will not master a new skill.
  • Revisable and relatable – It should be made clear that goals can be revised if needed. Of course, sticking to a goal is important so they shouldn’t be revised because they are unachievable, but they should be revised if the broader goals change. Goals should always be related back to the broader organisational goals and values so that employees understand where their goals fit into the wider organisational mission.
  • Engaging – is the employee enthused by the goals? If not, why not? How could the goals be reframed or redesigned to give the employee more commitment and energy towards completing the goals?


Final thoughts

In today’s working world, the focus is not only on getting the work done; it’s also on engaging employees while they work and in the process unleashing more creative solutions to workplace tasks and problems. With this in mind, the future of performance management is a simpler yet comprehensive approach to engaging and developing employees.


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