What Are SMART Goals?

One of the most widely used—and effective—approaches to goal setting is called SMART, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. This helps you and your teams create clear goals with defined and attainable objectives.

Many accounting managers struggle with the annual goal setting process. It can be hard to quantify the work of the folks who do the counting—which is ironic, but quite common outside of sales teams. Accountant routines can vary significantly and tend to be driven by outside factors.

But setting smart goals for accountants is a critical part of ensuring a successful year. They help you and your teams be intentional about what you want to focus on and accomplish, and create alignment across the entire F&A organization.

How to Write SMART Goals for Accountants

Make Your Goals Specific

The more specific a goal is, the more attainable it will seem, and the more likely you’ll achieve it because you’ll know exactly what you need to accomplish in this area.

It’s okay to start with a larger goal, but then break it down into smaller goals that are more specific. Determine why this goal is important—for the individual, the team, and the broader F&A organization—and then talk about the short and long-term impact of achieving it.

To get even more specific, determine the exact outcome you want.

Make Your Goals Measurable & Attainable

Next, quantify your goals so you’ll know how to measure process and when they’ve been accomplished. This is often the most difficult part of setting SMART goals for accountants, and if a goal doesn’t seem quantifiable, try rephrasing it so it’s possible to measure.

It’s equally important to ensure the goal is attainable. Stretch goals are great, but impossible goals will only lead to overwhelm and frustration. Make sure the time frame is reasonable and identify anything that could get in the way of achieving the goal.

Removing those barriers should be the first step.

Make Your Goals Relevant & Time-Bound

Every goal must have importance to the broader organization as well as the individual. Uncover the why here, so the reason this is a priority is clear. This can also increase the individual or team’s motivation to achieve this goal.

Creating a reasonable deadline for each goal is also critical, along with regular check-ins to ensure you’re on track. It’s okay to have some flexibility in adjusting this deadline as needed, especially if things come up and get in the way.

This is, however, why it’s so important to identify and remove those barriers as the first steps toward the goal.

Strategies for Effective Goal Setting

Here are three strategies to incorporate into your goal-setting process that will make your accounting and finance teams far more effective in the future.

Take a Project-Based Approach

Most of us have down time here and there that we could utilize to work on a project. Talk to each of your team members about coming up with a project that contributes to their own development, helps them connect with others, and causes them to look at their job in a new way.

For example, a Senior Staff Accountant could conduct a skills training to help accountants keep up with changes in the industry. Or, maybe you believe your AR team could be more efficient but you’re not sure. Why not give them a goal to identify areas they can improve? You may be surprised at how many great ideas surface that could save the team some time.

Create Opportunities to Strategically Develop New Skills

With the rise of new tech like robotic process automation, artificial intelligence, and blockchain, strategically developing skills to prepare for the future of finance is more essential than ever.

The exceptional accountant of tomorrow needs to begin cultivating effective communication abilities, data analysis, business acumen, and creativity — today. These capabilities will equip teams to deliver predictive insights for leadership, drive data-based decisions, and provide expert counsel.

Developing opportunities for accounting and finance professionals to problem-solve more creatively, learn new technology, and build relationships with other departments can make a massive difference on an individual and team level.

Carefully Craft Your Culture

A carefully crafted culture creates competitive advantage. It improves quality of work, boosts productivity, engagement, and retention, and reduces stress and healthcare costs.

But if this isn’t a current focus at your company, where do you even start?

A team brainstorming session can be an excellent first step. Involving your people in culture discussions can make them feel invested and as important as they really are. They’re also the ones who will be able to quickly identify what needs to change, along with the most effective approaches.

Give your leaders the responsibility of planning regular team building events. This can be anything from fun, off-site events to a team appreciation lunch at the office. The goal should always be to bring the team closer and help them maintain better relationships, generating understanding and a deeper respect for each other.

Put Your People First

Done right, setting smart goals for your accountants can create a shared vision that makes your teams feel inspired and connected. And when the strategies within that vision meaningfully contribute to the entire organization, you can count on a higher level of buy-in.

It all comes down to putting your people first and setting them up for success. If you continually look to the future of finance and equip your teams for the new digital landscape, your F&A organization will thrive.

Creating smart goals and creating a great culture can help F&A teams retain top talent, which is a challenge in today’s business environment. Watch this on demand webinar to discover the survey findings and get a pulse on ways to stay ahead of the curve and attract and retain the best talent.