UCL Human Resources


How to set objectives for your team

Find support to review and set objectives with your team.

Setting and agreeing objectives is important to ensure that expectations are clear, fair and consistent. Employees should understand what is expected of them and the behaviours required, as well as how this will be measured. Managers should be aware of the employee’s personal circumstances and training needs, and consider these when setting achievable objectives.

What is an objective?

Objectives are potential attainments of the individual that can be realistically achieved by them by following a certain number of steps. These should be SMARTER. Instead of the acronym ‘SMART’, ‘ER’ extends the concept in that it recognises the importance of engagement.










Achievable (Agreed)


Time specific



What exactly do you need to do, with or for whom?

Is it measurable and can you/your manager measure it?

Can it be achieved in the timeframe set, with the resources available and is there support (managerially/ politically) for it to be done? Is it a priority?

Will this objective lead to the end goal?

When will this be accomplished / completed?

The objective should stretch your capabilities or make a significant contribution to the department/ faculty/ UCL's goals

The achievement of the objective should be rewarding to the individual and UCL.

There is no single correct way to write a SMARTER objective, but it is helpful to think throuh some of the following tips.

Specific:Be concrete. Use action verbs
Measurable:  May be numeric or descriptive of quantity, quality or cost. How will you evidence that the objective has been met?
Achievable:The objective should be appropriately limited in scope (it is better to split big stretching objectives into sub stretching objectives for clarity, especially if there are different deadlines, targets or measures) and within the employee's control and sphere of influence.
Relevant:Measure outputs or results not activities
Time specific:Identify target dates, including interim milestones and plans to monitor progress
Extending:Should be challenging and make a difference to established practices, ways of doing things. Does it link to the bigger picture / goals?
Rewarding:What's in it for the employee as well as for UCL? What motivates them to want to complete this objective? Is it something they can get passionate about and fully engaged?

Where should the objectives come from?

In probation, the principal objectives, including behavioural standards, will normally be based on the core duties of the job description used to define the post for appointment purposes. Additional objectives, based on changing needs or personal (e.g. research or developmental) objectives may be agreed with the employee. UCL's Core Behaviours Framework should also be referred to in supporting an individual’s personal and professional development. If the employee is in professional services the UCL Ways of Working for professional services Steps to Development should be used to discuss objectives and development. Consideration of how equality and diversity matters can be promoted within the role should also be embedded within the objectives.

Examples of a SMARTER objective

  • To check and process purchase orders, supplier invoices, expenses and interdepartmental transfers (IDTs) using MyFinance on a weekly basis. Ensure accuracy of invoices against orders raised and chase queries in a timely manner to facilitate 30 day supplier payment deadlines.

  • To design and deliver quarterly training courses on the European Computer Driving License (ECDL), commencing in 6 months’ time. The course should comprise of 7 modules and must be accredited and approved by the British Computer Society. 26

  • To write and submit a proposal for a grant bid on X topic, aligned to the Faculty’s strategic plans for delivery against UCL’s Grand Challenge on Global Health by 30 September.

How often should objectives be reviewed?

Objectives should be kept under review. Where circumstances change (e.g. revised departmental priorities) you should revisit the objective to see if it is still relevant and achievable within the timescales. If it is not, it should be updated, removed or replaced, as appropriate.