16 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 16 ideas for data-driven SMART goals for HR professionals in 2021.
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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.

16 Human Resources (HR) Smart Goal Examples 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
  11. Prioritize Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
  12. Reevaluate Employee Benefits
  13. Continue Flexible Working Arrangements
  14. Create an Employee Wellness Plan
  15. Improve Employee Engagement
  16. Support Mental Health

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.

Example SMART goal: Create a list of five core values that the employees in your organization connect with by the end of the month. 

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.

Example SMART goal: Find and use new software to automate your hiring process this quarter.

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.

Focusing on improving your employees’ experiences will save you costs and time and will improve the experience of everyone in your organization. 

Example SMART goal: Starting in the coming week, schedule regular meetings with your employees to make goals on how to improve their experience at your organization. 

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.

Example SMART goal: Minimize your time spent on administrative tasks by putting a human resources tool into place to speed up the process by next month.

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.

Example SMART goal: Make a plan to experiment with a new interviewing question in your upcoming round of interviews.

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.

Example SMART goal: Begin and end employee feedback with positive comments about the employee’s performance during your weekly meetings.

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 skills 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.

Example SMART goal: Share a favorite book or podcast on Human Resources with an employee this week.

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. 

Example SMART goal: Create a standardized, formal onboarding training in the next month.

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 it’s true, 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.

Example SMART goal: Create a weekly tradition in the office that employees are excited about. Start next Wednesday, to keep people excited in the middle of the week.  

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.

Example SMART goal: Invite a subject matter expert to come and speak to your organization at the start of the next quarter.

Goal #11: Prioritize Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)

Increasing diversity and focusing on inclusion have become increasingly important for organizations to prioritize.

A 2018 McKinsey study showed how having a diverse group of employees within an organization can help the organization reach its goals.

The study showed that “companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity within their executive teams were 21% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile. For ethnic/cultural diversity, top-quartile companies were 33% more likely to outperform on profitability.”

To begin to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion within your organization, pay attention to the diversity or lack of diversity within your employee demographics. Listen to your employees and other experts to discover your weaknesses when it comes to equity and inclusion, and make a plan to act.

Example SMART goal: Plan a monthly meeting, starting this month, to listen to employees about their concerns about diversity, equity and inclusion.

Goal #12: Reevaluate Employee Benefits

For many employees, priorities for benefits have shifted over the course of the pandemic.

Many of these priorities changed as children participated in school virtually and needed their parents to be readily available.

Tim Allen, CEO of Care.com said, citing data from a New York Times article, that “between February and September 2020 alone, there were 1.2 million parents—disproportionately women–of children 5 to 17 out of the labor force.”

To recover from the pandemic, organizations will need to reevaluate their employee benefits and offer the benefits that matter most to employees.

A recent Statista survey showed that 72% of respondents prioritized work-life balance as an “important factor for selecting a job.” Having employee benefits that support this priority will set your organization apart.

Example SMART goal: Invite your employees to evaluate your pre-pandemic employee benefits to see if the benefits still match your employees’ priorities. Ask for their responses by the end of the month.

Goal #13: Continue Flexible Working Arrangements

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations found that remote work had many benefits for their employees. In many cases, remote work increased productivity.

How can organizations find the right balance in remote work options for employees? The answer is different for each organization but the benefits to discovering the answer are great.

Flexible work options can include flexible work schedules and options for remote work. These options can promote a healthy work-life balance.

Brenda Barnes, CEO of Sara Lee Corporation explained the benefits of flexible working arrangements.

She said, “The more flexible the work environment, the more we can provide workers with what they need to manage their lives and their jobs. We end up with higher productivity.”

Example SMART goal: Meet personally with each employee, starting next week, to determine what type of flexible working arrangement would be best for them.

Goal #14: Create an Employee Wellness Plan

Helping employees stay well physically and mentally has always been important, but it should become a priority for your organization in the wake of the pandemic.

The pandemic created a stressful work environment for many employees.

In 2020, an Oracle and Workplace Wellness Intelligence report found that 78% of the workers they surveyed said that the pandemic had negatively affected their mental health.

To combat the negative affects of the pandemic, consider creating a workplace wellness program.

With a workplace wellness program, you can work as a team with the people in your organization and motivate everyone to achieve their health goals. Doing this can make the workplace a happier and more productive place. 

This wellness program could include exercise programs, health screenings, nutrition education, and classes. These programs could also encourage employees to take short breaks to stand and stretch or take a deep breath. 

Example SMART goal: Organize employees into peer-support groups over the summer based on their wellness goals.

Goal #15: Improve Employee Engagement

 Employee engagement is the life behind your organization.

If each of your employees feel satisfied and fulfilled by their work, the entire organization will buzz with excitement and progress. Your goals will be met when your employees are actively engaged in the process of achieving them.

Recent data from Gallup shows that “just 33% of American workers are engaged by their jobs,” and “52% say they’re ‘just showing up.’’’

What can you do as an organization to change that?

Creating a culture of employee engagement is a process of building relationships and helping employees feel valued. 

Along the way of building those relationships, use an employee engagement survey to listen to your employees and learn how to support their growth.

Example SMART goal: Create an employee engagement survey that reflects your company’s core values and distribute it at the end of each quarter.

Goal #16: Support Mental Health

Mental health is a growing concern for organizations, and rightly so. 

The American Psychiatric Association shared findings that “Nearly 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience some form of mental illness every year.” 

Experiencing difficulty with mental health can make work much more difficult for employees. In Mind Share Partner’s 2019 report, they found that “61% of workers said their productivity was affected by mental health.”

As an organization, there are things you can do and goals you can set to help your employees with their mental health. Talking about mental health with employees is important.

The American Psychiatric Association reported that “62% of millennials say they’re comfortable discussing their mental health, almost twice as many as many as the 32% of baby boomers who expressed such ease.”

Times are changing to allow for more openness about mental health, which is beneficial for everyone. Understanding your employee’s struggles is the first step to understanding how to help them. 

Example SMART goal: This week, provide a text therapy number to employees who may be interested.

Conclusion

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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