Some might say that the only function of human resources is to protect your company from labor lawsuits. But this is a cynical take on one of their main functions, which is to ensure that your company complies with all of the laws and regulations that apply to its labor force. If you are in compliance, you greatly reduce the chances you will be sued.

What Else Does HR Do?

The fact is, a good HR department is involved in everything that affects each employee and the company’s workforce as a whole. HR supports the company’s goals of profit and growth by managing the needs of and providing services for its employees. It is a big job.

Yes, HR is usually responsible for planning events like the annual holiday party, but they also deal with Equal Employment Opportunity issues, processes and documentation for onboarding and offboarding, as well as employee complaints.

The best HR departments are staffed by business people who have specialized in HR. They have a clear and comprehensive understanding of the business’ structure, goals and strategy. They are capable of advising management on employee needs and issues as they relate to the business as a whole.

Using SMART to Define Goals 

To fashion their job's extremely wide scope into focused, attainable goals, some HR managers use the SMART model. The idea behind SMART is to make goals specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based.

One way of applying the SMART model to HR is to divide the department’s responsibilities into seven areas, then formulate SMART goals that correspond to each area. Here is a suggestion for how to divide HR’s functions into seven parts:

  1. Ensuring that the company is in compliance with all employee laws and regulations that apply to it.
  2. Recruiting and staffing.
  3. Benefits and compensation.
  4. Education and training.
  5. Employee relations.
  6. Advising management on employee-related matters.
  7. Risk management.

SMART HR Objectives Examples

SMART goal setting for each of those seven functions might look like this:

  1. To ensure that the company is in compliance with all laws and regulations that apply to it, I will attend the Society for Human Resource Management’s annual conference this year. Within one month of attending the conference, I will reevaluate and update our policies and procedures as needed. Within six weeks I will hold a meeting with management to discuss the changes.

  2. Before this quarter is up, I will focus on recruiting and staffing needs by meeting with each department’s manager to find out what their staffing needs are. Then I will meet with the finance department to compare our needs with our budget. I will prepare a report on the results of my work and present it to upper management.

  3. To help our company retain a talented workforce, I will conduct a review and comparison study of our benefits and compensation during the second quarter of this year. I will present the results and make recommendations for changes to upper management within three weeks of completing my research.

  4. I will conduct a survey this month asking employees for their input on what education and training they believe would improve their job performance. I will prepare a cost/benefit analysis and present it to upper management by the end of the quarter.

  5. I will contribute to good labor and employee relations by creating a reward and recognition program for employees’ outstanding performance and production. Within the next two weeks I will ask employees for their input on the kinds of rewards they would like to receive. In the week following, I will assess their suggestions in relation to my budget, and during the week after that I will obtain approval to implement the program.

  6. As I advise management this year, I will ensure that the information I give them is accurate and unbiased by fact-checking every report one week before I submit and asking a peer to review it.

  7. To address risk management, I will review our emergency evacuation plan and distribute a memo to all employees that requires their signature to acknowledge they have read and understood it.

Professional Development Goals for Managers

If you have not already made this observation, some of these SMART HR objective examples can be used to develop concise and practical professional development goals for managers, and not just for HR managers. They can be adapted for use by other department managers, too.

For example, take “recruiting and staffing”. A non-HR department manager in a manufacturing company might have the following goal: Learn how to do a time and motion survey this year so that I can present a strong, quantitative case to HR for hiring two more entry-level mechanics. The potential application of this HR goal-setting is widespread.