Setting Expectations and Objectives

The University has long had a whole range of performance enhancement tools, but has been historically viewed as not being ‘good’ at performance management.  Perhaps one of the key factors behind that perception has been our inability to always be as clear as we could about expectations and objectives.

There are a number of different ways in which SMART objectives can be set, one method is to start by identifying what you want the individual to do or achieve that reflects both the School/Divisional or team objectives.

For example:

You may be a Senior Lecturer and your School is looking at ways to improve the student experience as one of its objectives or priorities (this may be linked to results from the student satisfaction survey or feedback from other sources).  You are responsible for reviewing two lecturers and it would therefore be appropriate to look at their role in relation to this departmental priority.   What does the Department need them to achieve?  Is it an increase in student satisfaction in a certain area (e.g. feedback on assessment)?  Is it a reduction in the number of students who don’t progress on to the second year of studies? Etc.

You may be a manager within Support Services and your Division is also looking at ways to improve the student experience as one of its objectives or priorities.   What does the department need the staff you manage to achieve?  Is it the introduction of new processes/procedures in order to improve the service given to either students directly or academic departments?  Is it maintaining a high level of service to students/staff over a period of time?


For the lecturer:  Increased student satisfaction levels in the time taken to provide feedback on assessments.

What is reasonable and is there a benchmark you can use?  What specific types of assessment are you referring to?   What programmes are you referring to?

For the administrator:  Reduction in the amount of time it takes to respond to academic departmental requests for information.

What reduction are you aiming for?  What do you mean by respond to? Do you really mean all academic departmental requests for information or those in a particular area?


For both examples – what measures are you going to use?  Clarification is needed for both.  How will you know when the objective has been achieved?

So for the lecturer the objective may look something like:

Starting from October 2012, ensure that overall marks and written feedback on all written assignments within xx programme are provided to each student within a maximum of 3 weeks of the submission date.

For the administrator the objective may have changed slightly to look as follows:

Ensure all academic departmental requests for information on x are dealt with within 3 working days by October 2012.


This is where you need to consider the context, abilities etc of the individual that you are expecting to do this work.  Is it something that they would be able to do?  It may be that the individual would need support in the form of resources, training/ development etc in order to achieve the objective set. 


Double check that the statement you are now crafting reflects both what is needed by the department and fits in with the expectations upon the individual, where necessary checking back to their job description/role profile.


Is there a time frame in place?  By when will you be expecting this work to have been done?  When will it be measured and will the information be available then?  Check that the timeframe is achievable and relevant, as well as the outcomes expected.

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