10 SMART Goals for HR Professionals in 2021

SMART goals have helped people achieve success for decades, but it’s time to upgrade them by adding “data-driven” into the mix. Here are 10 ideas for data-driven SMART goals for HR professionals in 2021.
10 Smart Goals for HR Professionals in 2020
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Updated: November 2020

Most of us are familiar with SMART goals. They’re specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. Those are good elements of goals, but you’re in HR. There’s a key element left out of typical SMART goals that will help you get the most out of them — Data-driven. 

If you’re going to shake things up at work, you need to justify why. Not only that, but you also need to show results. That’s why every one of these goals is tied to cold hard data. 

Here’s our list of data-driven and SMART goals for HR professionals.

10 HR Goals and Objectives for 2021

  1. Revamp Core Values
  2. Automate Something
  3. Lower Turnover Rates
  4. Minimize Time on Administrative Tasks
  5. Get Out of An Interview Rut
  6. Improve Your Feedback Structure
  7. Keep Up Your HR Education
  8. Ramp Up Onboarding
  9. Make Work Happier
  10. Help Your People Learn

Goal #1: Revamp Core Values

According to Gallup, “Just 27% of employees strongly agree they believe in their company’s values, and 23% of employees strongly agree they can apply their organization’s values to their work every day.”

Core values are only more than wall art if your people are actually influenced by them. Strong core values are the foundation of your culture

"'Just 27% of employees strongly agree they believe in their company’s values, and 23% of employees strongly agree they can apply their organization’s values to their work every day.'"

That article written by Nate Dvorak and Niraj Patel for Gallup goes on to lay out how building culture through strong core values can help your recruiting efforts. 

According to their research, “Employees with a strong connection to their organization’s culture show higher levels of engagement. Engaged employees are more likely to refer friends to their organization. And 71% of workers say that they use referrals from current employees of an organization to learn about job opportunities.”

It’s no secret that referrals are one of the best if not the very best way to recruit great talent. Having a strong company culture based on solid core values can help you do that.

Goal #2: Automate Something

According to PWC research, “72% of business decision-makers agree AI can enable humans to concentrate on meaningful work.”

Automation and artificial intelligence are two words for the same idea. They both exist to free humans of menial work. By automating processes, you’ll have time to work on what’s meaningful, not just what’s menial.

One HR process that could stand some automation is hiring. A good hiring software tool can make the process easier by automating your candidate communication and streamlining evaluation.

Add some automation in the mix. You’ll save hours of organization and coordination time that could be spent actually evaluating candidates.

Goal #3: Lower Turnover Rates

According to research done by SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, “Half of all hourly workers leave new jobs in the first four months, and half of senior outside hires fail within 18 months.”

Turnover, in addition to being expensive, increases the mistakes your people make and decreases their productivity.

Let’s put this in perspective. According to a CAP study, the average cost of replacing an employee can range from 16% of their annual salary to more than 200% of their annual salary.

These numbers vary by role and seniority. Still, 16% of an entry-level salary is a hefty price for poor employee experience.

Goal #4: Minimize Time on Administrative Tasks

A WestMonroe study that surveyed five-hundred U.S. managers found some interesting things about how much time they spend on administrative tasks.

Here’s the breakdown of their responses.

Less than 1 hour per day7 percent of respondents
1-2 hours per day34 percent of respondents
3-4 hours per day36 percent of respondents
5+ hours per day23 percent of respondents

Nearly 60% of respondents spend three hours or more on administrative tasks every day. To put that in perspective, roughly half of these managers’ time is not spent on what they were hired to do.

Lowering that time is another goal that would be a lot easier to achieve with a good tool.

The thing about administrative tasks is that they have to get done. There’s no way around it. Benefits have to be managed, work time has to be tracked, and time-off has to be evaluated.

Having a good HR tool will just help you do these tasks faster. Now you can spend more time on the things that made you want to do HR in the first place.

Learn more about the reasons why every HR professional should be using modern HR software.

Goal #5: Get Out of An Interview Rut

Gallup has found that systematically selecting top talent helps companies realize up to 33% higher revenue per employee. Steve Jobs famously said, “The secret of my success is that we have gone to exceptional lengths to hire the best people in the world.”

Apple had a thorough system for hiring the smartest most talented people out there. Apple isn’t a tech giant just because Jobs was brilliant. It’s a tech giant because he systematically made sure that everyone at Apple is brilliant.

If you’re a growing company that’s hiring fast, you conduct a lot of interviews. With so much repetition, it’s easy to get into a rut and just hold the same interview you always have.

"Apple isn’t a tech giant just because Jobs was brilliant. It’s a tech giant because he systematically made sure that everyone at Apple is brilliant."

Try some experimentation in your interviews. Keep interviews consistent for candidates applying for the same position, but mix it up across job openings. Try asking different sets of questions, assigning different projects to evaluate, or having more or fewer interviewers.

By running these types of informal experiments you’ll be able to figure out how to systematically hire the best people and boost that top line.

Goal #6: Improve Your Feedback Structure

According to Gallup “Only 10.4% of employees whose manager’s feedback left them with negative feelings are engaged, and 4 out of 5 say they’re actively or passively looking for other employment.”

Giving feedback in the wrong way clearly has bad consequences. Avoid those consequences by going into your next employee performance review with the goal of motivating that employee. 

If they can walk out of your office feeling empowered, you’ve succeeded. If they find another job two months down the road, you’ve clearly failed. 

That same Gallup study reveals that “workers whose manager’s feedback left them with positive feelings are 3.9 times more likely to be engaged than employees who felt hurt, and only 3.6% of them are actively looking for another job.”

Giving motivational feedback is worth the effort.

Goal #7: Keep Up Your HR Education

One of our Core Values at Eddy is being lifelong learners. Once you stop learning, you start dying.

"Stagnancy is the quickest way to failure."

No matter how good you are at your job, the only way to stay good at it is to keep learning. Stagnancy is the quickest way to failure.

Books, courses, and conferences are great ways to keep learning, but you’ve got more options. There are thousands of podcasts, blogs, and social media accounts that are great ways to learn, and they’re all free.

A study by PewResearch found that 47% of learners say their extra training helped them advance within their current company.

Not only will your new knowledge and skill be valuable to you, but it will also be valuable to your company. Not only does this make you better at your job, but it also makes you qualified for a better job.

Goal #8: Ramp up Onboarding

UrbanBound produced an infographic that lays out a bunch of awesome statistics about employee onboarding. Here are a few. 

  • Automating onboarding tasks results in 18% greater achievement of the employee’s first performance goals.
  • Organizations with a standard onboarding process experience 54% greater new-hire productivity
  • Of new hires who hit their first performance milestone, 77% had formal onboarding training. 
  • Of those who do not hit initial performance milestones, almost half had no formal onboarding training.

Building, standardizing, and automating the onboarding process gets your new hires to proficiency faster.

If your employee onboarding program could use some work, then work on it. 

Read the Ultimate 15-Step Guide on How to Maximize Onboarding Success for New Hires

Goal #9: Make Work Happier

Companies with happy employees outperform their competition by 20%

If you can make work a genuinely enjoyable place to be, your employees will be more productive. Your developers will develop faster, your salespeople will sell more, and your marketers will market better.

"Companies with happy employees outperform their competition by 20%."

It may seem counterintuitive that having fun at work can boost productivity. If you don’t think so, just look at toddlers.

If you’ve ever tried to get a toddler ready to head out the door, you’ll know that it’s infinitely easier if they’re in a good mood. If you’re dealing with a grumpy toddler, it’s near impossible.

Yes, we’re all adults here, but we act based on the same emotions as kids. Toddlers are just an extreme example of what we all do. Everybody is faster, more efficient, and more productive if they’re happy.

Goal #10: Help Your People Learn

Meghan M. Biro, HR thought leader and founder of Talentculture, contributed an excellent article to Forbes Magazine that explains why and how to invest in your employees. 

In that article, she cites a LinkedIn study which found that 93% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their careers.’

One of the suggestions she gives is to integrate learning into the employee experience.

One way we incorporate this idea into the Eddy employee experience is by occasional “Maverick speakers.” Our Maverick speakers are people who have been there and done that and are willing to teach and motivate us from their own experience. 

On top of that, all Eddy employees have access to the corporate Audible account. Every month we get access to a new book to help us in our own personal development.

Our company grows as it helps us grow as individuals.%


You may already be incorporating a bunch of these things in your business. That’s awesome, but there is always some aspect of your game that can be improved. 

These may not be the goals you decide to tackle first, but by setting goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely and data-driven, you’ll see benefits that mere intentions could never achieve.

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