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SMART objectives

A work objective should be a specific, achievable target which is linked to the job role and should contribute strategically to the successful operation of the organisation.

Objectives should be agreed between team member and manager.

The specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART) objectives concept helps you to check that your objectives and goals are clearly recorded.


Outline in a clear statement precisely what is required.

Objectives should describe the desire result in a way that is detailed, focused and well-defined. To be specific, an objective should have a description of a precise or particular behaviour, achievement or outcome.

To increase specificity when writing objectives, use verbs (doing words) which are action-orientated to describe the actions required to fulfil objectives.

Action verbs include:

  • analyse
  • apply
  • change
  • create
  • determine
  • differentiate
  • identify
  • perform

To help set specific objectives, it helps to ask the following questions:

  • What are we going to do, with or for whom?
  • How will this be done and what strategies will be used?
  • Why is this important to do?
  • Who is going to be responsible for what and do we need anyone else to be involved?
  • Where this will happen?
  • When do we want this to be completed?
  • What needs to happen?
  • Is the outcome clear?
  • Will this objective lead to the desired results?


Include a measure to enable you to monitor progress and to know when the objective has been achieved.

Measurement is important and will inform you that the objective has been achieved.

Ask yourself the following:

  • How will I know the change has occurred?
  • Can these measurements be obtained?


Objectives can be designed to be challenging, but it is important not to build failure into objectives.

Objectives can be stretching but not unachievable. Ways of knowing an objective is achievable include:

  • you know that it's measurable
  • others have already done it
  • the necessary resources are available, or there is a realistic chance of obtaining them


Ensure objectives support the goals of the team, department and/or organisation.

To help identify relevant objectives, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the objective linked to the aims of the team or department?
  • Does the objective support the goals of the organisation?

Time-bound (or timely)

There should be a date by which the outcome must be achieved.

A deadline date, or time when the objective will be met, is necessary and must be included to make the objective measurable. 

Tips for setting objectives

  1. Start each work objective with the word "to", i.e.: "To do something"
  2. Make sure each work objective contributes in some way to the overall team objectives
  3. Check that each work objective is SMART enough to be assessed in terms of achievement
  4. Work objectives should be discussed at a face-to-face meeting between appraiser and appraisee
  5. Work objectives don’t all have to be annual; some of the objectives could be set for achievement over a shorter period of time. If you’re a manager, make sure you know when each of your appraisee’s shorter-term objectives are coming up for achievement. Keep track of them and discuss in your one-to-one meetings

Example objectives

Objectives for this review periodTarget completion dateMeasurement/what you will do to achieve this objective, and additional comments
[For line managers and appraisers only.] Ensure all staff within your team engage in a robust appraisal performance review process and have completed all statutory and mandatory training required for their specific role within the mandated timeframe April 2022
  • Ensure all team members have appraisals and regular review meetings to ensure high-quality patient care
  • Staff are clear on expectations and are supported to perform the duties of their role, including receiving the appropriate personal development
  • Ensure all of team are up-to-date with mandatory training
By the end of March, reduce the average waiting time to have an appointment by streamlining administrative and communication processes with colleagues December 2021 Average waiting time for appointments reduced by two weeks
Engage in organisational priorities, and support and develop less-experienced colleagues March 2022
  • Number of staff receiving development and support
  • Number of ideas and opportunities for development and improvements raised

Last reviewed: 30 June 2021