SMART Goals: 5 Tips For Motivating Employees

The 10/90 rule in smart goal setting says that the first 10% of the time that you spend developing absolute clarity about what is to be done will save you 90% of the time once you begin. It can also save you 90% of the mistakes, the costs, and the time of other people involved.

You’ve heard it said that, “You can’t hit a target that you can’t see.” And the follow-up that is, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”

So without further ado, here are my 5 tips for using SMART goals in management.

Pay close attention to the specific goal-setting techniques designed to encourage and motivate your entire teamto hit their targets.

1. Use SMART Goals And Objectives

What Are SMART Goals?

SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound objectives you wish to achieve.

You have most likely heard of the S.M.A.R.T. acronym in setting business or personal goals.

S.M.A.R.T. stands for:

S = Specific

M = Measurable

A = Achievable

R = Relevant

T = Time-bound


It is perfectly clear to everyone who must be involved in its achievement. A child can tell you how close you are to accomplishing it. It is clear and unambiguous. Most of the problems with goal achieving stem back to a lack of clarity in setting the goal in the first place.


It can be defined in numerical or financial terms. It can be broken down into steps, each of which can be measured as well. The more clear the measures, the easier it is to focus and concentrate on achieving those numbers.


It can be accomplished within the constraints of time, money, the external environment, the economy, the skills and abilities of the team members and the other constraints contained both inside and outside the company.


It is within the bounds of reality and is something that people can develop a high level of confidence in achieving. In goal setting, many goals are “merely aspirational.” They do not reflect reality. They are more wishes and hopes than goals.


When you have specific schedules for the attainment of each part of the goal, and the completion of each part of the task, it is much easier for people to achieve the goal on schedule.

2. Break It Down By Tasks And Accomplishments

Defining winning can be a major factor in motivating employees. For a person to win, he has to know where the finish line is. He has to know how you define winning. He has to know exactly what he has to do to complete the task and cross the finish line. This is the first step in creating a smart business.

The smaller and tighter the increments, the easier it is for the other person to feel like a winner. Each time that the staff member achieves a mini-goal, he or she feels like a “mini-winner.” It is the manager’s responsibility to help the employee see that they are using proper goal setting techniques and setting reasonable milestones for them to achieve. Be sure that these small increments add up to big wins that are in line with specific business goals.

When you assign people a large, multitask project, that may take many months to complete, be sure to set up a series of milestones and benchmarks so that people can have short-term targets to aim at, and can continually generate the feeling of winning.

3. Motivate Employees With Successful Experiences

For a person to feel like a winner, he must succeed at the task. He must achieve the goal. He must accomplish the responsibility and get the result that he was tasked for. Not only is it the job of the manager to motivate employees, but they must also help each person experience success.

If a person has been given a job that is too much for him, the job of the manager is to adjust the job, assign parts of it to someone else, and make it more manageable for the employee. The focus is always on making sure that, whatever job the person has, they are capable of doing it successfully sooner or later.

The best way for motivating employees who are new is to give them a series of small jobs that are clearly within their ability.

4. Practice Individual Recognition And Make Goals Attainable

They say, “Children cry for it; grown men die for it.”

Everybody needs to be recognized for their individual accomplishments by the people around them, and especially above them. Since your team members are intrinsically motivated, it is the anticipation of the recognition they will receive for the completion of a task that motivates them internally to “go the extra mile.”

A good tactic for motivating employees is to give positive recognition for an accomplishment, which raises a person’s self-esteem, improves their self-image, and motivates them to do even more and better in the future.

5. Provide Rewards

This is the icing on the cake. You can only get by with praise and recognition for task completion for a limited amount of time. At some point, you must give some kind of reward to acknowledge superior results. Along with motivating employees, if there are no rewards following extra efforts, people lose their enthusiasm and conclude internally, “what’s the use?”

Rewards, however, can be tangible or intangible. A tangible reward is material or financial in some way. It may be a briefcase or a gift certificate. It may be a bonus or a pay increase. These rewards are great for motivating employees and act as a continuous spur to better performance.

Rewards can be intangible as well. An intangible reward can be something as simple as taking the person out to lunch to celebrate their success. It can be a bigger office or desk. It can be a new office chair or a new computer. I learned that the best financial reward for motivating employees is a specific bonus tied to completion of a specific task. It is a one-time affair. It is not a permanent pay increase that goes on month after month.

Short term rewards and bonuses are just as motivating as long-term pay increases. Another intangible reward is time off. When one of my staff members does a great job on a project, I tell them in advance that they need not come in on a Friday. I always give them time to plan their day off in advance, rather than telling them at the last minute.



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