Setting goals is a powerful and practical way of planning your future and turning it into reality. The same principle is applicable to companies and organizations too! When you work hard, you also need to ensure that you set achievable goals and work smart. As an education or migration agency, you should aim to set goals that are SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.
Since the 1960s, in the United States and other parts of the world, research began on possible methods to set goals that could motivate employees as well as evaluate company performance. Later in 1981, George T. Doran published a paper in the issue of Management Review titled ‘There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives’.
His main contribution to this theory was to recognize that goals, be they personal or communal, are only achievable if they are well defined, realistic and measurable. This method will be even more helpful for your employees to set goals that align with the agency’s vision.
So, what really is SMART goal planning and how can it work for your agency business?
Clearly define what you expect from your employees. Avoid being vague. Write a sentence that explains your goal in very specific terms. It should be able to answer questions like who, what, when, where, and why.
Who is the goal meant for? What objective does it intend to achieve? By when do you expect it to happen? Where will it happen? Why should it happen?
For instance, as an education or migration agency, your goal could be to “Achieve 120 successful visa applications in 2017.” Now, let us take this objective forward and see whether it fits with the other criteria of smart goal setting.
Imagine a sports competition without a scoreboard or scorekeeper. It will not make any sense, as it has no way of finding out the outcome of the game. Having a goal that is not measurable is the same. This lack of a specific target will also demotivate your employees and make them unproductive.
Identify how your agency or employees will keep track of the objective of achieving 120 successful applications in 2017. Since the goal has a specific objective, that too in numbers, it will come down to the sort of tools you provide to your employees, so that they know which visa applications are successful and which are not.
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Setting goals and having measurable tools is great, but it is also equally important to achieve it. Don’t set goals that are unachievable or unattainable. Before you set a target, ask yourself these questions:
Do you have sufficient human resources to manage so many visa applications? In your agency’s past experience, how much time does it normally take to process various types of visa applications? Do you have enough promotional outreach to attract hundreds of applicants each year?
Since the target for each month is 10 successful visa applications, you can make an overall assessment based on how many employees need to work on each application and the amount of time they require. For instance, if you have five employees who actively work on these applications and each has a success rate of two visas per month, then this target of 120 per year is definitely achievable.
This part of the smart goal setting process allows you to reassess your target, thus making the goal more achievable and realistic. A goal achieved is additional motivation for the employees and can lead them to perform better.
The average time employees will take to process visa applications will also depend on their role in your agency as well as skills and qualifications. This is where you need to be realistic and confident about their abilities.
It is good to motivate employees to achieve more than they have been, but you will also need to give them the right tools to do so. Ask yourself these questions.
Are your employees qualified enough to handle visa applications entirely on their own or do they require support from senior management? Do their qualifications match their skills? What sort of problem-solving attributes do they have? Have they over promised any clients in the past?
The answers to these questions will give you a realistic picture of what is achievable and what is not. For instance, you may have highly qualified employees, who have occasionally achieved 3-4 successful applications in a month. However, is it wise to put your overall target as 180 – 240 successful visa applications per year? Well, probably not! A more realistic approach of actually achieving the target of 120 you have set for the agency will be to make sure that at least two visa applications are easily doable by an employee every month.
A goal without a deadline is as good as not having one! The time limit will provide you and your employees the necessary motivation and focus to make it happen.
The time of 12 months or one year has been set, but do remind yourself to recheck whether this requires any relevant adjustments. Apart from assessing the skills and qualifications of your employees, have you considered the number of holidays in 2017? In case an employee is sick or unable to attend office, do you have an adequate or equally qualified back-up person to get the work done and meet the target?
Smart goal setting is all about analyzing whether the S – T criteria synchronize with each other as one or the other can be the check and balance of your overall target. Smart objectives will eventually lead to smart benefits for your agency.