Your SA will consist of a formal review/objective setting meeting and an optional review meeting. The meetings provide an opportunity for employees and managers to sit down and discuss the employees' performance and development, set and agree upon objectives and discuss progress against those objectives.

    Setting objectives using the online Staff Appraisal form

    When you are setting objectives for the next 12 months, the SA system provides you with key prompts to complete for each objective:

    • Objectives
    • How success will be measured
    • What development activities or support will help ensure success

    Suggestions – what to consider when creating an objective

    'SMARTS'Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timed/Timely, Stretch – objectives bring structure and the ability to track progress towards a certain objective, with clear milestones and an estimation of the objective's attainability.

    SMARTS-based objective-setting creates transparency throughout the University, therefore every objective should fit the SMARTS formula.


    Set out here in simple terms what the objective is. It can help to start this with an action verb ('Implement', 'Increase', 'Review', 'Deliver'). There is no need to define the objective in great detail here – that is what the other boxes are for.

    Key milestones

    Is it possible to break the objective into stages, enabling you to gauge progress?

    How will success be measured?

    In other words, what does 'good' look like? What is the final outcome of your objective and how will you know it has been achieved successfully?

    What development activities or support would help ensure success?

    It is important to understand that not all 'developmental activities' need to be training courses, but sometimes they might be the most appropriate intervention. Developmental activities can also be attending a conference, meeting or forum that allows for networking opportunities to meet with stakeholders, for example. Activities might also include support staff members need from their line managers, in terms of regular one-to-ones and sharing knowledge/contacts among other things. It can also take the form of pairing colleagues/team members together to share knowledge and experience.


    • What needs to be achieved?
    • How will it be achieved?
    • Is the objective clear?
    • Would an employee with a basic understanding in the work area understand the objective?
    • Is the expected standard clearly defined?
    • Is the quantity clearly defined?
    • Is the quality clearly defined?
    • Are there milestones which can be monitored along the way?
    • Is the objective realistic?
    • Are the necessary resources available to achieve the objective?
    • Has sufficient time been allocated to the objective?
    • Does the objective align to the School/Faculty/function/Business Unit objectives?
    • Does the objective align to the position description for your role?
    • Is the objective something which you have control or influence over?
    • Has the target date been set?
    • Is the target date realistic?
    • Does the objective stretch you or raise the bar on prior objectives?

    Using objectives

    What's the difference between a 'goal' and an 'objective'?
    For the purposes of this course, there is no difference. 'Goal' tends to be the generic word used in all areas of life, and in research literature. 'Objective' tends to be used more in organisational life.
    All objectives are supposed to be ‘SMARTS’. What does that mean?

    'SMARTS' is a very commonly used acronym when discussing goal-setting. It stands for:

    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Agreed
    • Realistic
    • Timed/Timely
    • Stretch

    The idea is that each objective, to be effective, should have these elements.

    Should an objective always have a number in it, as a measure?
    No. It is perfectly possible to have a goal that is very clear without there being a numerical measure. The important question is: will there be a defined moment when it will be extremely clear whether you have succeeded or failed? Measures can be very helpful in helping you make an objective clear so that you can answer this question. If you are looking to 'improve' or 'increase' or 'reduce', it will often be helpful to have a number of some kind to clarify what success and failure will look like.
    Should objectives be agreed with teams, individuals or both?

    Faculty, Service Delivery Centre and function business plans detail how the University-wide annual business plans will be implemented, managed, monitored and improved. The plans provide detailed definitions of activity over the coming 12 months – volume of activity, resources, priority change projects and KPIs. There are individual objectives that are cascaded from these team objectives, and everyone's individual objectives combined should aim to achieve the team objective.

    Can objectives be for 'business as usual' tasks, or should they be about new projects?

    Some people might argue that "We shouldn't have objectives for things that happen anyway – there's no point". To some extent that makes sense – objectives are pointless if the outcome will happen whether or not the goal is set and monitored. But the key point about setting objectives is that they direct attention towards the most important things, the tasks you do which make the most positive, lasting impact on the University. As a result, there is nothing to stop us agreeing on and pursuing objectives around business-as-usual activities, as long as we feel that they will impact on behaviour.

    For example, a cleaning operation might set objectives around the cleanliness of washrooms:

    • "Obtain average quarterly customer satisfaction scores of 4.2 or higher on washroom cleanliness" (result objective).
    • "Reduce customer complaints about washroom cleanliness to five or fewer per quarter" (result objective).
    • "Complete 100 per cent of washroom checklist tasks every day in your area of responsibility" (activity objective).

    Any of these objectives might be useful, if they have an impact on the cleanliness of washrooms and if washroom cleanliness is one of the things most valued by customers.

    What if my direct report doesn’t agree with the objective I want to set?

    Ultimately, as a manager you will need to decide what the objective is. Managers do have accountability which flows from their role, and sometimes it is necessary to use it (although these times should be as infrequent as possible).

    Remember that individual objectives cascade from team objectives, and you will have to outline what an individual needs to achieve to ultimately achieve the team objectives, so it might be necessary to discuss other ways of achieving the same outcomes.

    There will be cases where a direct report not wanting to accept an objective amounts to them saying "I don't want to do what I'm employed to do". In such cases, and when all else fails, a manager may decide to press ahead with the objective, knowing that they will have to manage performance closely and ultimately possibly engage with a formal process. Ideally this is a last resort, however.

    Can you change objectives through the year?

    Absolutely. The principle behind having objectives is that they direct your focus to what's important, and it's evident that what's important can change, sometimes dramatically. Always be guided by the principles set out above, checking as you go that:

    • this objective represents the most important thing we should be doing
    • it's specific (and is as clear now as it was when it was agreed to)
    • it's still seen as a hard goal to reach (but still attainable)
    • it's still accepted by my employees
    • the person concerned is getting feedback (from the task, from me, from others)

    If applying these principles leads you to agree upon new objectives, so be it. There is a space in the SA Form where you can keep notes, especially if your objectives change, to maintain the quality of the SA discussion.

    What if you work in an area where things change quickly? Are objectives relevant?

    Yes. Employees in these kinds of areas should bear in mind the following:

    • In a fast-moving environment, longer-term objectives can really help to avoid a situation where you are constantly being diverted by new things. It is easy in this environment to prioritise the urgent over what's really important, and so time spent clarifying what really is important and holding yourself to it can be even more valuable than for others.
    • Objectives are typically set every year (as part of the SA process), but there is nothing to stop you (a) agreeing to objectives with short timescales which are much more likely to remain more relevant, and (b) adding, deleting, revising objectives throughout the year as required and with agreement between managers and employees.
    I have a question that’s not covered here. What do I do?
    If your question is related to this material or you have a general question about the course, please contact your HR Manager. If you need HR advice about a particular situation, please also contact your HR Manager or HR Adviser. Thank you!