Setting SMART Objectives

The ability to set stretching, realistic and achievable targets is an essential behaviour for high performing managers. In the past, I have found that goals and objectives can be so large that they can be hard to tackle and almost impossible for employees to achieve. Having business goals and knowing ‘where’ you want to get to is important, but it is equally important to know ‘how’ you are going to get there and keep track of your progress. The SMART acronym for objective setting became popular in mid 1950’s and I still like to use this today as it provides a simple formula to remember and a tick list which is easy to understand.

What are SMART objectives?

S – Specific: Objectives should be focused on the goal and include an action. For example ‘Produce, achieve, develop, implement”

M – Measurable: It is important for objectives to be measurable to allow you to identify whether or not they have been achieved.  The outcome of the objective should be able to be expressed as a number, percentage or frequency. A measurable objective will allow you to say whether the objective or target has been achieved and how many times.

A – Agreed: Objectives should be agreed at the outset. Agreed objectives will act as a motivator as employees will be more committed and ready to invest in an objective which they have agreed to.

R – Realistic: For objectives to be realistic, it is important to consider the skills and resources that are available. Whilst stretching objectives can motivate, if an objective is unlikely or impossible to achieve this will reduce motivation and commitment.

T- Timely: It is important to set a specific time by which the objective should be achieved. This also emphasises the need for measurable and realistic targets. Deadlines can act as a motivator (providing they are realistic) as they help to focus effort to the task at hand.

When SMART objectives become SMARTER

SMART objectives will provide a good framework to work towards hitting goals and they will allow you to identify whether you are on the right track.  However, more recently the SMART acronym has been extended and become SMARTER by adding on two more important characteristics:

E – Energising: Objectives and the process of setting them, should be energising. SMARTER objectives will help to create an engaged and motivate workforce, who understands the business goal and how, individually, they can play their part in achieving it.

R – Reviewed: It is important that objectives are reviewed at the agreed time.  If objectives have a long timeframe, it may be beneficial to review the objectives at specific milestones along the way.  By reviewing the objectives you can identify what has been learned and what could be done better next time.  If objectives have been met or exceeded, it is important to recognise and reward this so that the individual feels valued and appreciated.

One of the most important things to remember when setting objectives, is to keep them simple, easy to understand and achievable. To illustrate the benefits of SMART objectives, consider this ‘not so SMART’ objective:

‘To expand the offering of the business to include two new services and one new product line.’

This objective is too big, not at all specific, measurable, achievable, realistic or timely. It is necessary to break the objective down against each of the SMART characteristics to create a more easily understood and effective objective. After doing so, you may come up with an objective like this:

‘Develop two new services that will benefit 30% of existing client database and be attractive to encourage five prospective clients to engage with business by the end of the current financial year.’

This objective is now far more attractive and real. You could continue to develop the objective further and break it into even more manageable chunks, by focusing on each new service line specifically.

The above example clearly shows the merits of SMART and SMARTER objectives.  If you have set SMARTER objectives, they will be more easily understood by everyone involved and will give your team a good understanding of how they fit into the wider business plan and contribute towards the business goals.

SMART objectives will help to create a motivated, committed and focused workforce which will increase productivity and deliver results.

If you would like to know more about how to integrate SMART objective setting into your workforce, please email

Why apprenticeships are good for your business

An apprenticeship is a way for young people and adult learners to earn while they learn; in a real job gaining real qualifications.

Businesses benefit from growing their own talent and creating a highly motivated and skilled workforce.

The benefits of apprenticeships are:

  • They are a tried and tested way to recruit new staff, perhaps retrain, or upskill existing staff or people returning to work after a break;
  • The apprentice learns while they earn!
  • On the job training means minimum disruption to day to day business activity whilst getting the maximum impact;
  • Apprenticeships can be tailored to specific job roles making them flexible to the meet needs of your business;
  • Engaging young people and encouraging them to take up apprenticeships and continual professional development will assist your business with its plan for succession – hopefully your business will not suffer with an aging workforce;
  • Train up the future managers in your business;
  • Become an employer that inspires a future generation by passing on skills and experience;
  • Help improve your product or service with apprentice input;
  • Apprenticeships boost productivity to business by on average £214 per week.

An apprenticeship can take between one and five years to complete, depending on the role.  There are three levels of apprenticeship available:

  • Intermediate level apprenticeship (level 2) – equivalent to 5 A*- C GCSE’s;
  • Advanced level apprenticeship (level 3) – equivalent to 2 A-levels;
  • Higher level apprenticeship (level 4 and above).

There has never been a better time to hire an apprentice.  There is a wealth of support and assistance available to business to make sure they hire the right apprentice for them.

Where to start:

  • Choose a training provider to deliver the apprenticeship programme that is right for your business;
  • Recruit the apprentice (the training provider can help you here);
  • Develop a training plan which reflects the apprentice’s need and yours;
  • Engage with the apprentice and ensure their needs and yours are met;

More information on how to hire an apprentice is available at:

During the apprenticeship:

  • Provide on-site training to support the apprentice. Most of the training will be on-the-job, working with a mentor to learn specific skills. Off-the-job training is provided by the training provider either in the workplace, or through day/block release away from the workplace.
  • Review and test the progress of an apprentice and provide feedback to them and their training provider

Apprenticeships are highly regarded within business. On completion of an apprenticeship, 90% of apprentices remain in employment with just over 70% staying with the same employer.   If you are considering  growth in your business and thinking about how to integrate young people into your workforce, then please contact me for some help and guidance or 0792 700 8440.

Thought provoking workshop in Melksham aims to reduce stress plus improve leadership and management skills

Two Wiltshire experts, Debbie Pepler of Peptalk and Matt Hill of Matt Hill Systema, have designed a workshop which will be delivered on Wednesday 16th March 2016 from 9.30am-4.30pm at the Melksham Town Hall.

Business owners and senior managers attending this workshop will:
• Learn how your body reacts in a stressful situation and what stress triggers to look out for in others;
• Have opportunities to discuss real situations and problems in the business; and
• Come away realising what is important to them and the business.

Not only do Matt and Debbie talk the talk, they have both walked the walk during their careers. They are experts on these topics and bring to you not just theory, but real scenarios and opportunities.

Located in Westbury, Debbie is a business coach  with more than 25 years hands on business experience – she has felt the pain business owners and senior managers feel with leadership and management challenges.

A full time instructor of Systema, based in Melksham, Matt offers an ancient martial art which has evolved into a complete health system. His clients report improvements after just one session of learning how to perform better under stress. He blends practical experience of some of the most stressful corporate and military environments with teaching experience at all ages and levels from children to FTSE board level executives.

Debbie says, “I see a lot of stressed business owners and managers, and am frequently asked about how best to manage stress in the workplace. Having an expert like Matt on board is fantastic as he brings together martial arts with his previous parachute regiment experience and corporate background and we integrate these with the principles of leadership and management.”

Prices to attend this workshop are £99.00 per person.

If you would like to book a place or require further information, please book here, or contact:

Discussing Leadership and Management on BBC Radio Wiltshire

Following the news that the managers of the French Rugby Team, Swindon Town Football Club and Leeds United Football Club had lost their positions, Debbie was invited to comment on the Simeon Courtie show on BBC Radio Wiltshire Tuesday 20th October 2015.

Listen here to Debbie talking about important aspects of leadership and management.

Recruitment – Getting Ready to Sift and Interview

This post continues from my Recruitment blog – giving hints and tips to run a successful recruitment campaign. So what happens once applications close and you have lots of applicants to choose from? Firstly, you will need to conduct an initial sift of applications against your job description and person specification. If you have asked for ‘Essential’ qualifications, certificates, or personal qualities you can sift out any applications that don’t meet these requirements.

Once you have compiled a short list, you will want to find out more about the applicants skills, experience and competencies to understand who will be best suited to the role. Inviting applicants to interview is a good opportunity to do this.

Here are some top tips for before, during and after the interview to make sure the interviewers and interviewees get the most out them.

Before the interview:

• Review the candidate’s application and make a note of any areas which you wish to explore further and plan your questions accordingly. Roughly between seven and ten questions will be sufficient. These questions could include, finding out more about the applicants previous roles, duties, accomplishments etc.

• Find a suitable venue for interview, somewhere where there will be no interruptions/distractions and a comfortable environment for the interviewers and interviewees.

• Provide water, (to help alleviate nervous, dry mouths!) and perhaps a pen and paper should the interviewee wish to make any notes following questions at the end of the interview.

It is important to make your interviewee comfortable and feel at ease so that they can perform their best during the interview. Allow plenty of time for the interview, and enough time in-between interviews to make, and tidy up notes that are taken.

During the interview:

• Make your candidate feel at ease by introducing the interviewer(s) and giving a brief overview of the company.

• Begin with questions about the candidate’s present/previous role. This will allow them to settle in to the interview and gain confidence through speaking about what is familiar to them.

• Ask open ended questions (What? Where? When? How? Why?). This gives applicants the opportunity to provide as much evidence as possible to demonstrate that they would be able to complete the duties of the role as outlined in the job description, or meet the personal qualities on the job specification.

• Keep questions relevant to the job role and avoid unnecessary personal questions, to ensure compliance with the Equality Act.

• Take notes discreetly during the interview. Consider having a designated note taker in the interview if appropriate. It is important to remember that interviewees can request to see any notes taken under the Data Protection Act, therefore keep them relevant and don’t write down anything you wouldn’t want them to see.

After the interview:

• Go through your notes making sure that they support your decisions. Interview notes should be kept for a minimum of three months after the interview – the timeframe for complaints to be raised in an Employment Tribunal. If you haven’t kept the notes, then the Tribunal may draw a negative conclusion in a discrimination complaint.

• Write to the successful applicant as soon as possible offering them the job.

If you haven’t found a suitable person for the role, then don’t appoint. In the long term it will be far more efficient to start the recruitment process again, than hire someone not right for the job.

Where to turn if the bank said no and your business is a start up.

Where to turn if the bank said no and your business is a start up.

We all have dreams and aspirations. Sometime these can become goals we want to achieve in life.

It is frustrating when you’re ready to develop your business idea; you need some help from the bank and they say no. They said NO!! Oh what to do?

Meet Fredericks Foundation!  Here in Wiltshire; one of Fredericks 18 areas around the UK, they provide finace via a CDFI (Community Development Finance Institution); and are suppported by a Client Services Manager that will help you with the process.

Dreams are allowed at

Wiltshire Charity provides finance and support to local business

Fredericks Foundation will consider you for a loan if you can demonstrate that you have made a genuine application for funds to your bank or a mainstream lender – and that you have been turned down.

Fredericks loans come as a package – along with the money there is also the opportunity to have an independent free business mentor to help the business be successful. Peptalk is proud to be one of the many volunteers helping Fredericks clients dreams become reality.

Contact me today if you would like more information –

New Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeships starting Autumn 2015

This modern apprenticeship has been designed for employers by employers.  A group of 20 employers from all sectors and sizes of organisations put their heads together to ensure this meets their needs for better managers and leaders across their organisation.

This is a fantastic opportunity and route to develop existing managers who may have significant experience but little formal developments.  It also develops the next generation of talent, providing a new career path option for aspiring managers, who want to earn while learning – and develop their management and leadership skills within the workplace.  An overview the assessment criteria and entry requirements can be found in the link below.

Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship

All apprentices will achieve a degree in business and management and full chartered membership of the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), as part of this apprenticeship.  The programme is available from this autumn and the Government will fund up to two thirds of the cost of the fees to meet the employer contribution. The apprentices will not pay any student fees and will earn as they learn.

Contact Debbie for more information on


Recruitment – hints and tips for a successful campaign

A business’ workforce is it’s greatest asset and this puts pressure on managers to make sure they have the right people in the right jobs.  So what happens when a manager identifies a gap in their workforce? It’s time to recruit!

Once managers have identified a need to recruit there are many questions to be answered; what are the tasks of the role? Is the job likely to be temporary/permanent? Could it be done part time/full time? If there is no one available internally to complete the tasks, then there is a need to recruit externally.

Having an accurate and up to date job description and person specification for the vacancy is an important first this will help managers write an effective job advert.

The job description should include the job title and position within the business and who it it accountable to, location, key tasks and responsibilities, qualifications required, an indication of the type of person the role would suit and any information on salary/benefits. It should give potential applications a good idea of what they would be doing, should they be appointed the role.

A person specification details the ideal skills and characteristics of the person for the role, divided into a list of ‘essentials’ and ‘desirables’.  Managers could include relevant qualifications, previous training or certificates.  The person specification may also include personal qualities such as being able to work in a team, or being self-motivated.  It is important to keep the person specification relevant to the job and remember that the Equality Act prohibits discrimination on grounds of race, sex, disability, sexual orientation and religion or belief.  It is not advisable to ask for a certain number of years experience as you could miss out on excellent candidates if they fall short of the length of experience asked for.  In addition, by specifying a certain number of years experience managers are also at risk of indirectly discriminating people.

Once managers have the job description and person specification, it’s time to write the job advert! Although the aim of the advert is to attract applicants, it is important not to embellish or exaggerate to attract applicants as this runs the risk of hiring applicants who are unsuitable, or become unhappy in the role – this can lead to increased staff turnover and ultimately cost the business. The job advert should include the job title and outline the key tasks and responsibilities of the role, the company name and brief overview of what the company does, the location, any role specific qualifications required, any key personal qualities required, salary and benefits, how to and to whom to apply and specify a closing date for applications.

Once the advert is written, managers need to consider where to advertise the position ensuring that the advert will be seen by the most suitable potential applicants. For example, it is unlikely to be effective to post an advert for an engineering role in a marketing magazine. You could consider advertising via the Job Centre, recruitment agencies, local and or national newspapers, subject specific magazines, social media or even schools or colleges.

Consideration also needs to be given to how applicants should apply for the job and this should be made clear in the job advert.  Are they to email a CV? Complete an application form? Write a letter of application?  There are pros and cons to each method, depending on the type of role which is being recruited. An application form allows you to obtain specific information from applicants, but it is important to remember to only ask for information specific to the job for which they are applying. For a more creative role, a letter of application may give applicants a better way to demonstrate their skills and experience.

By following this process, managers will have optimised the chances of their job advert reaching the most suitable applicants for the role.  The manager’s work is not yet done however, as following the successful recruitment campaign – it will be time for selection and to make sure the best candidate is chosen for the role! Keep an eye out for a future post with hints and tips on the selection process.

The Powerful Referral – and what to do next….

Below is an extract from PR guru Fiona Scott. These words come from her June 2015 company newsletter Fiona Scott Media Consultancy and a reminder about the value of a good referrer and keeping that relationship building.

We often hear in business the phrase ‘it’s powerful to get referrals’. When you start out in business you hear it a lot, and you know it must be true, but seeing a referral in action is something else altogether.

For this reason I want to celebrate someone who has referred me on various occasions to her clients – Debbie Pepler of PepTalk UK.

I first met Debbie face to face at a women’s business lunch a few years ago when she came up to me, said she recognised me and we ought to talk. However, you know how it is, it was busy, she had arranged to meet a few other people and that ‘talk’ just didn’t happen on the day.

Then, out of the blue, she referred me to one of her clients, then another, then another, then another. I now work with a number of regular clients as a direct result of being referred by Debbie.

So what has this achieved? Clearly business growth for me. That is the obvious first result. However, it has also achieved other things too. For example whenever I see Debbie’s posts or stories on social media, I naturally like and share them. It just happens.

I’m conscious if Debbie refers me to any of her clients I want to first thank her, discuss the referral with her and let her know I value the referral – regardless of whether or not that referral leads to business of any kind.

I’m also conscious of the fact it’s good manners to let Debbie know that I’ve followed up on a referral and to let her know what happened. Regardless of outcome of that contact.

I trust in my bones, I will in turn refer Debbie to anyone when an occasion arises because she’s front and centre for me when it comes to high quality business coaching.

Believe me, I know lots of business coaches, I trust and value a handful. Debbie is one.

Thank you Debbie for trusting me with your precious clients and if any of you want to grow your business – try here first.

Tips to help you compile your questionnaire or survey, keeping it simple.

Sophisticated questionnaires and surveys usually require some professional expertise, but here are some tips to help you compile your questionnaire or survey and keep it simple.

What to include in your survey

Start off with an explanatory paragraph outlining the purpose of this questionnaire or survey and how their input will help your business. Use this space to indicate how long it will take to complete and the due date.

Include an exit or screening question – This question can identify if the responder has no interest or knowledge, if there is potential conflict or bias, or if this questionnaire or survey is not relevant to them.

Ask easier questions first – If there are some questions that are more difficult than others, then mix them up. The easier questions are generally quicker to answer leaving more time for the difficult ones.

Be careful how you ask the questions – be clear and give multiple options but avoid the following:

leading questions that encourage a particular response;
ambiguous questions that can be interpreted in different ways;
multiple questions with a question, i.e. would you prefer and tell me why. Your responders may not realise they need to give multiple answers, therefore you may not receive a consistent answer;
complex questions that include technical terms confusing the responder.
Consider the type of questions you are going to ask:

Open ended questions give the person interviewed a chance to explain how they feel about the product or service you are proposing;
Closed questions invite a yes or no response;
Multiple-choice questions must be carefully designed so that the options given reflect the information that is needed, i.e. ‘would you use this service weekly, monthly, other timeframe, or not at all?’
Rating questions, i.e. ‘how would you rate the quality of this product on a scale of one to five, where 1 is very poor, 2 is poor, 3 is average, 4 is very good and 5 is excellent?’
Don’t make the questionnaire or survey too long – try not to annoy the responder by taking up more of their valuable time than they have been led to believe. Try not to ask questions that are not relevant to the purpose of the questionnaire or survey.

Be careful who you ask – friends and family are great, but they are more likely to give answers that are meant to please rather that an answer that will add value to your products and services. If your questionnaire or survey is about business, then ask only the group of people that matter most to your business – your clients.

What additional information would you like? Take this opportunity to obtain additional, or correct contact details from your customers and clients, or ask for demographics to help determine the characteristics of your target market, i.e. age, gender, income, job type, location etc.

Think about how you will analyse the responses – what will you use and how will you interpret the information? – Entering the responses into a spread sheet will make it easier to understand the frequency, averages, percentages and to show the data in graphs and tables. You could also consider using Pivot tables and Google docs.

For more information and advice about compiling your questionnaire or survey, contact Peptalk on 0792 700 8440, or