How to set goals for contractors: think SMART

How to set goals for contractors: think SMART

We all want to be successful in what we do. But to be successful, we’ve first got to define what success is – otherwise, we’re just working aimlessly.

Think of it like this; you get in your car, and you start driving – with no destination in mind. Where are you going? Where will you end up? What’s the outcome going to be?

Sure – you might have a nice drive. Or you might get hopelessly lost. Most likely, you’ll probably just decide to go home, and be right back where you started, only with less fuel and less time in your day.

But, if you knew where you were going, you could plan your journey – and get a step-by-step roadmap to where you want to go. You’d find your way there, even though you’d never been there before.

Setting goals works exactly like that. Knowing what you want to achieve is the absolute bedrock of success, no matter what you’re doing. You need to know what your end goal is, and then create a roadmap to achieving it.

With your internal teams, goals are likely to be established and well-known. But with contractors, they’re coming in from the outside – and it’s all going to be new to them. Don’t just sit them in the car and tell them to drive: integrate, motivate and engage your contractors, by giving them a simple, clear, achievable path to success.

And the best way to set goals for contractors is to think SMART.

SMART goals

SMART is an acronym that stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

Each goal is written around these five simple rules. By setting SMART goals, you and your team will know exactly what needs to be accomplished and when. You’ll know if you’re on track, or if you’ve hit setbacks. Best of all – you’ll all know when you’ve succeeded.


The more specific, the better. Otherwise, your goals will be too wooly and difficult to measure. You need smaller, more concrete objectives to aim for. A goal like “launch new versions faster” can be made specific by breaking it down into separate, mini goals – like  “improve development workflows”, or “reduce testing times”.

Yes, you now have more goals – but they’re smaller. This makes every step easier to make, and gives your contractor a more actionable timeline towards achieving the end goal.


A goal like “reduce testing times” might be specific, but to be measurable you need to quantify it. Let’s say you want to focus on reducing testing time to aid your end goal of faster version launches. By making the contractor’s goal to “reduce testing times by 20%”, they now have a solid benchmark to check themselves against.


Realistic goals need to be set – but you might not know how realistic your goal is until you start working towards it. Sticking with the specific goal of reduced testing times – let’s say 20% was a little optimistic, and even with after overhauling your company’s testing process, testing time has so far been reduced by 12%.

That’s okay – there’s still an improvement – but importantly, you can assess the goal at this stage and scale it back to something more achievable; say, 15%.

This can be a good motivator, too. It shows leadership is listening, is part of the process and trusts that the contractor is doing a good job. Adapting to the reality of the goals you’ve set is far more effective than grinding to achieve something unattainable.


What would achieving the goal mean to you? Why is the goal important, and what benefit will it bring to the company? This is your reason for doing it, the key motivator that you want your contractors to engage with.


Each goal and mini goal must have a deadline. This is when you stop, look at the results and assess whether the project was a success. Without deadlines, the work will never be finished – but make them realistic, and listen to your contractor when they give you their thoughts on timescales needed to achieve the goal.

What your SMART goal might look like

Using our example, our goal might look like this:

S – We want to cut software testing time

M – By 20%

A – Scaled back to 15% after review

R – This will lead to faster launches, and more happy customers

T – We want to achieve this by end of Q3

Or, in a paragraph:

Our goal is to cut our software testing time by 15%, by the end of September. The Contractor will accomplish this goal by [outline each step as mini goals]. Accomplishing this goal will lead to faster launches, happier customers and more sales this financial year.

Keeping tabs on progress

Set regular check-ins with your contractor – to make sure they’re happy with the work, on-track to hit the goal and to find out if they need anything to help them do their job.

Measuring along the way will help you keep the goals achievable, and you can scale up or scale back as appropriate. Importantly, it’ll be motivating for your internal team and your contractors to see how much progress is being made – and that they are being listened to along the way to reaching the goal.

Hire Atlassian contractors – reach your DevOps goals

ClearHub specialises in finding the best Atlassian contractors to meet your business goals. We understand what it takes to help businesses integrate contractors into their teams, and work together to achieve your desired outcomes. Want to know more? Get in touch with our friendly team today – call +44 (0) 2381 157811 or send your message to

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