Choosing the most effective performance management can be daunting but rewarding. A manager’s job is not just to administer disciplinary action to an underperforming employee, but also to devise ways to recognize an employee that has made significant achievements and contributions to the team. When choosing an effective performance management system, the prudent manager will want to make sure the system adheres to the notion of setting specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely (S.M.A.R.T) goals.
When goals incorporate these five tangible elements, they become concrete and objective. They enable the employee to know what he or she needs to do to meet or exceed standards. This is a critical and sometimes overlooked aspect of an effective manager’s job. To be effective, managers must try to avoid any sluggish reliance on subjective assessment from their managerial arsenal and replace it by setting objective, easy-to-see criteria. When year-end reviews come around, it is then easy to point out whether an employee has met, fallen short of, or exceeded his or her goals.
It can be helpful to look at the S.M.A.R.T goals in an example of effective performance management. Say that you are managing a call center and want to measure the quality of your employees' calls. You could devise a system in which you note, among other things, that you will listen to a certain number of calls per week, that each call taken by the employee must conform to a certain flow and structure, that the tone of voice will be monitored as well as the thoroughness of the responses and research. By rating each of these components, or simply checking off whether they were done or not, the manager has employed a smart — and S.M.A.R.T — management system because it has replaced subjective consideration with objective observation.
On top of that, there are more obvious standards to apply, such as the employee’s amount of phone time and whether they were logged into the system during their allotted time. This way, a manager can easily and systematically evaluate the performance of his or her employees. When it comes time to identify the poor performers and reward the top achievers, the manager is able to produce evidence to support his or her evaluation.
By contrast, a performance management system that lacks S.M.A.R.T goals can endanger the manager’s credibility, call to question his or her ability to evaluate frankly and objectively, and perhaps result in serious human resources or legal repercussions. If a manager allows the goals and expectations of their employees to fluctuate or vary, the employee has the right to challenge any negative assessment rendered against them. Accordingly, any effective performance management will invariably include goals that are S.M.A.R.T.