Sharlyn Lauby, SHRM-SCP, is an author, writer, speaker, and consultant. She shares her wealth of human resources knowledge through her blog HR Bartender, a “friendly place to talk about workplace issues,” and recently published her first book, Essential Meeting Blueprints for Managers.

In January 2016, Lauby led a Capella University-sponsored webinar entitled “5 Ways to Master Learning Agility,” during which she focused on how to use goals to manage your career. In this post, she shares her go-to tool for setting and tracking personal and organizational goals.

If we set the right goals and manage them well, we can make things happen for ourselves and our organizations. That’s why I think we have to find a tool that can be used for any goal exercise. The idea being, learn one flexible tool and learn it really well. Then use it in any situation.

I believe that tool is SMART. It’s an acronym first penned in 1981 by George T. Doran, a consultant and former director of corporate planning for the Washington Water Power Company, in the paper titled “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives.”

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Responsible and Time-Bound. You can use SMART as a guide to developing and monitoring goals.

Specific: What is the goal to be accomplished?

Measurable: What will success look like?

Actionable: What are the steps it will take to achieve the goal?

Responsible: Who will be accountable for accomplishing each step?

Time-bound: When should tasks be completed?

As human resources professionals, we spend a lot of time within the functions of management: planning, organizing, staffing, directing, and controlling. All of those functions involve goals, whether that’s goal setting, monitoring, evaluating, or adjusting. Here are a few examples:

#1 Organizational: According to SHRM, job openings in the U.S. are at a 14-year high. The CEO is concerned about finding the best talent, so HR plans to add a mobile recruiting strategy in 2016. A SMART plan might include some of these items:

Specific: Develop a mobile recruiting strategy

Measurable: Have a mobile optimized career portal that allows candidates to apply using their mobile device.

Actionable: Meet with current HR technology provider regarding career portal optimization

Meet with IT regarding converting site to mobile

Review existing portal content and update where necessary

Develop communication plan to share with senior management, recruiting managers and employees

Responsible: HR, IT, SEO vendor for career portal updates, marketing for communications plan

Time-bound: Q3 2016

#2 Departmental: As part of adding a company-wide mobile recruiting strategy, HR realizes it needs to update their existing social recruiting strategy. This department SMART plan becomes a subset of the larger organizational SMART plan.

Specific: Revise social media recruiting strategy to include mobile

Measurable: Candidates will be able to share jobs on social media using their mobile device

Actionable: Meet with marketing to determine best social sites to include in social recruiting

Meet with IT regarding firewalls and privacy

Create a lunch and learn series for employees on using social media

Responsible: HR, IT, marketing for social media analytics, employees who can teach social media lunch and learn sessions

Time-bound: Q2 2016 (ideally this should be done before the mobile recruiting strategy is rolled out)

#3 Individual: A member of the recruiting team realizes they should learn Twitter as part of the new social and mobile recruiting strategy.

Specific: Learn Twitter

Measurable: Recruit one employee using Twitter

Actionable: Sign up for a Twitter account

Download a Twitter app for phone

Attend a workshop or webinar about Twitter recruiting

Develop a list of 10 recruiting hashtags

Post one open job every day for 30 days

Responsible: Self, manager (for approval to attend workshop), IT (for access to Twitter)

Time-bound: April 2016

Sometimes SMART can be labeled as only a professional development tool or only a project management tool. The examples show it has the flexibility to be a goals tool that can be used every day. Any time we are trying to accomplish something, we want to know the task, the steps, the people responsible, the time we have to complete it, and finally what the finished product is supposed to look like. It’s all about working SMART.


Capella offers the following human resources degrees:

Business moves fast, stay on the cutting edge. Keep me informed.