Well-written employee performance objectives are critical, yet elusive for many companies. Having clear performance objectives affords advantages to your startup:

  1. They help align employee performance with the business strategy
  2. They clarify the specific expectations the startup has of its employees, and what will be measured. This facilitates the performance review process
  3. They enable both employees and the startup to easily monitor progress and adjust as required to be successful

Defining good performance objectives

There is a simple approach to define good performance objectives. The key lies in remembering the acronym SMART. Each letter reminds you of an important element when creating objectives:
Specific: Set clear expectations—as specific as possible. This keeps people focused on exactly what you need from them.

Measurable: Make items as quantifiable as you can. If the objective can be defined using numbers, do so. If not, establish as many defining parameters as possible.

Achievable: Determine how you’re going to accomplish the goal, as the end does not always justify the means.

Realistic: Ensure that the expectations are reasonable and within the employee’s area of control. This will keep employees motivated and avoid frustration and disillusionment, which generally leads to failure.

Time-based: Fix timelines for each goal. This keeps staff focused.

Example: Strategic performance objective

A loosely defined, ineffective objective might be worded as “close more files by next year.”

In contrast, a clear strategic objective would state:By March 31, 2015 we will increase by 15% the number of help-desk work orders closed within 24 hours. This is to be achieved by hiring and training a new help-desk representative, and by using a budget of $100,000 to select and implement a more efficient tracking system.”


Doran, G. T. (1981). There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives. Management Review, 70(11), 35-36.