Establishing Goals and Expectations

The SMART Method

We should be “SMART” in how we communicate employee roles, job duties, and expectations, meaning they should be specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time measured.



  • Describe the key function or role component that the expectation addresses (e.g. customer service).
  • Describe the performance factor that the expectation addresses (interpersonal effectiveness).
  • Describe the performance expectation actions necessary to complete the goal and indicate related organizational objectives  (e.g. all customers will be given prompt, friendly, and useful services in line with the organization’s focus on providing all service in a customer friendly environment).


  • Indicate how expectations will be measured in terms of quality or quality required, cost savings, etc.; so that both the employee and the supervisor can determine whether a goal was successfully completed.


  • Make sure the goal/expectation is realistic and can be performed to satisfaction by an employee in that role.


  • Describe how the performance expectation links to the highest priorities of the department.

Time Frame:

  • Define the time frame within which tasks must be achieved.  Establishing a clear timeline enables the staff member to set appropriate priorities when completing multiple tasks.  It also avoids differing assumptions between staff members and managers about the priority of the task.

Empowering employees to be a part of the process of establishing expectations, will help them understand the goals of the organization, what needs to be done, why it needs to be done, and how well it should be done.

Establishing Goals and Expectations

When establishing goals and expectations, one must begin with the organization’s mission and vision.  From here, departmental priorities can be determined, employee roles can be identified, and expectations can be defined (including level of quality, quantity, timeline, etc. of work product). 

What is a Performance Goal or Expectation?

  • A description of the results expected to fully satisfy performance of a job function or task expressed in measurable terms.
  • Defines “how well” each function or task must be performed.
  • Provides a benchmark against which to evaluate work performance.
  • Should be derived from mission, goals, and values.
  • Should be mutually understood.
  • Should be defined collaboratively with the employee if possible.
  • Should be reasonable and obtainable.

When Should Performance Expectations be Set?

  • When an employee is hired.
  • When responsibilities are changed or added.
  • When clarification of responsibilities is needed.

Establishing Goals and Expectations – An example