Setting objectives is a management function. The accounting supervisor’s manager will be responsible for setting the objectives, but the employee should be involved in the process because objectives clarify expectations for the coming year. Employees need to have a clear understanding of what is expected of them to be able to perform their job duties properly. According to Peter Drucker, for objectives to be useful they need to be SMART, which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time framed.
Gather the information you need to begin the process of setting the objectives. This will include the individual job description, departmental or team objectives, and personnel records for the accounting supervisor (i.e., prior evaluation). The job description provides an outline of what is expected of any person in that position. The departmental or team objectives identify what the individual’s objectives should work toward. The personnel records help the manager take into account the individual’s circumstances (e.g., level of experience and time in the current position).
Start by identifying what you want the individual to do or achieve that reflects the accounting department or team objectives. For example, the accounting department wants to reduce errors while at the same time providing accounting reports on time. The manager should determine what the accounting department needs the accounting supervisor to achieve so that the department accomplishes its objectives.
Apply the SMART criteria to what needs to be achieved. Be specific--for example, the accounting supervisor will achieve a reduction in errors from the accounting staff of 90 percent. For the objective to be measurable, the manager will note the number of correcting entries made in the general ledger and compare with the corresponding month from the prior year. For the objective to be achievable, the manager should consider the resources the accounting supervisor needs--for example, the accounting staff may be short-handed and there is need for another person. To be relevant, the manager must ensure that the objective reflects what the department or team needs and that it fits in with the job description. The must be a time frame for accomplishing the objective--for example, one year. The error rate will be measured each month to determine the progress, and the objective should be fully achieved by the end of the year.
Meet with the accounting supervisor to review and discuss the objectives. Provide the accounting supervisor an opportunity to comment and/or have input into the objectives. By making the accounting supervisor a partner in the objective-setting process, you are creating incentive for achievement. Setting objectives that are either too easy or too hard will be counterproductive and discouraging to the employee.
Review the accounting supervisor’s comments and input, discuss any changes made with the accounting supervisor and finalize the objectives. Provide the accounting supervisor a written copy, and place a copy in the personnel file to be used for evaluation purposes.
Provide progress reports during the year so that the accounting supervisor can stay on track toward achieving the objectives. Because the manager will be measuring progress each month, a progress report can be made monthly.
Drew Nelson is a Certified Public Accountant with over 20 years experience. As a professional he has written dozens of reports, presentations and manuals. His articles appear on various websites, covering finance, economics, politics and health topics.