Make Your 2020 Goals SMART

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Friday, February 28, 2020

As staff members and managers continue submitting completed performance appraisals for the 2019 calendar year, we thought it was a good moment to turn attention to 2020 goals.


Key Accountabilities vs. Goals


Before we delve into drawing up goals, a quick word about how they differ from your key accountabilities. In short, key accountabilities are your ongoing responsibilities in your job. For example, a coordinator may have responsibility for answering their office phone or fielding inquiries as a key accountability.


In contrast, a goal is a desired outcome that will eventually be completed. HR Associate and performance expert Linda Lefever says “Goals come and go, but key accountabilities remain pretty stable over time.” Linda also notes that some goals may be contained within a year while others might span multiple annual performance cycles.


A key accountability can be connected to a goal. Linda explains it this way:


For example, your key accountabilities might include using a software system to coordinate registration or complete another task. If you are implementing a new software system in the coming year, the activity of learning how to use the new system could be considered a goal.


Building a Better Goal


So, now that we know what a goal isn’t, let’s talk about what it is. A goal:


  • Is a specific work-related achievement.
  • May be performance-related, developmental, a special project, or some combination.
  • May arise from emerging priorities of the university or perhaps departmental needs.


When you’re thinking about developing goals for the year, Lehigh HR suggests using the SMART goal method:


S = Specific

M = Measurable

A = Achievable

R = Relevant

T = Time-bound


A specific goal should address the five Ws: who, what, where, when and how. When you’re writing a specific goal, it will usually include action verbs like create, design, develop, implement or produce.

Your goal should include numeric or descriptive factors that are measurable. Those factors might be defined quantitatively or qualitatively.

Is your goal within your control and influence to complete? Perhaps it is a stretch, but it should still be achievable in your view. Considerations when you’re determining achievability include authority/control, influence, resources and support in your work environment.

Is your goal instrumental to the mission of your department? Why do you believe it’s important? A relevant goal should relate to your key accountabilities and/or align to the university’s agenda.

Any goal that is time-bound will have a definite target date for completion. Other time considerations beyond due dates include how much time you should work on the goal (whether hours or a percentage of your time) as well as calendar milestones for intermediate steps.


If you evaluate all of your draft goals against this list of criteria, you should come out with SMART goals. Your goals should then be part of your next conversation with your manager. Once you’ve finalized them, be sure to put them into your 2020 Online Performance Draft Book form which will launch in March.


To learn more about setting goals, you can download a handout on the HR website.