Stanford Pathology

Supervisor's Guide

Goal Setting and SMART Goals

Job goals and specific job duties are the center of the performance management system. They define anticipated accomplishments for the employee. The job duties are listed in the job information form (JIF), and the supervisor and the employee establish goals at the beginning of the performance review period.

Job goals differ from the job description because they identify strategically important projected accomplishments, results, or outcomes for one time period. They also differ from training and development goals because they identify work accomplishments, not ways an employee will gain new or improved knowledge or skills. They further differ from remedial goals, which state how the employee will overcome gaps that get in the way of accomplishments, and career-related goals, which state how the employee will prepare for different work. The following examples indicate how these kinds of goals may differ.

A job goal:

Monitor department budgets monthly and communicate status to appropriate faculty member, noting areas for attention and identifying solutions to frequently encountered problems challenges.

A related training and development goal:

Successfully complete advanced budget training to identify problems and suggest solutions.

A related remedial goal (recorded as a training and development goal):

Successfully complete advanced budget training to monitor department budgets in a timely manner without having to wait for answers to basic questions.

A career-related goal (recorded as a training and development goal):

Increase knowledge base in financial areas by completing courses in fund and general accounting.


SPECIFIC (and strategic)

  • Is the goal focused on one issue?
  • Is the goal clearly defined?
  • Is there a clear understanding of what is expected?


  • Can you measure the quantity?
  • Can you measure the quality?


  • Does the employee have authority or control to reach the goal?
  • Does the employee have sufficient influence to reach the goal?
  • Are there resources to enable the employee to reach the goal?


  • Does the goal support the supervisor’s and department’s goals?
  • Is the goal aligned with strategic objectives?


  • Is there a specific date to complete the goal?
  • Are there milestone dates for review of progress?

Testing Job Goals

Your job goals should add up to an accurate statement of the work for the performance cycle. To be sure that they do, review them.

Are there too many or too few?

For most jobs, there will be three to five job goals, tasks, or responsibilities in a performance cycle. If there are more, consolidate related goals to produce fewer, more comprehensive statements.

Do they encompass too much or too little?

Each job goal should encompass at least 10% of the whole job, although most goals will probably represent more, and one or two goals may represent most of the job.

Are they focused appropriately?

They should focus on a strategically important accomplishment, result, or outcome, not on how the job is done.

Are they clear?

They should describe clear, specific, attainable accomplishments. Check for these characteristics by asking if the statement begins with an action, follows with what is acted upon, and includes a concrete goal and other information necessary to complete the work successfully.

Are they measurable?

They should include measurable targets that help answer the questions: “How will I know when I have accomplished the goals?” and “What impact will these results have?”  Measurable targets or benchmarks indicate progress toward achievement of a goal and may include such information as numerical or percentage change, costs of resources, or deadlines. When a goal cannot be measured using quantifiable targets, indicators can be identified to answer the questions:  “How can someone tell when a good job has been done in this area?”

Are they individual?

Goals are not the same for everybody, but are developed for each employee, with consideration of employee strengths and experience as well as work group needs.


Incomplete Goal Sample SMART Goal

Update website
(Job Goal)

Update fellowship program information and faculty biographies on department website by April 2021 in order to present accurate information for the new recruitment season.

Serve as HIPAA Lead
(Job Goal)

Serve as HIPAA Lead for the department, communicate compliance and training needs to management, track compliance, and implement new procedures by May 1, 2021 to comply with HIPAA regulations by the required implementation date.

Develop computer skills
(Development Goal)

Complete SU course on Stanford Express by April 2021, practice for one month to become proficient, and assume responsibility for handling purchasing of office supplies for the department by June 2021.

Complete Cardinal Curriculum
(Development Goal)

Complete Cardinal Curriculum research administration course by August 2021 to increase knowledge of research grant administration and complete orientation manual for new employees by October 31, 2021.

Download the SMART Goals worksheet here