Guide To Developing SMART Goals for Accountants

Updated March 10, 2023

The work that accountants do is crucial to ensuring the financial health and accurate reporting of a company or organization. This is why it's important that accountants have an in-depth knowledge of compliance regulations and understand how to best use financial auditing software and data capturing programs.

If you are an accountant for a business or you supervise or support the development of accountants within your organization, you can benefit from finding out how to best design goals and feedback for improving performance. In this article, we define the six core functions of an accountant's job and offer tips and examples for creating SMART goals for company accountants.

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What is accounting?

Accounting is a system of recording a business or organization's financial transactions and expenditures. This process involves capturing data, summarizing and analyzing that data and creating reports and metrics for others to interpret and assess a company's overall financial well-being. An internal accountant manages and oversees the process of data collection and reporting. They are responsible for keeping detailed records, providing timely reports and ensuring compliance with federal and state regulations.

Read more: 10 Types of Accounting and 5 Important Accountant Careers

Six goals and functions of accountant jobs

Here is a list of the six essential goals and job functions of accounting positions within a company:

Measure profit and loss accurately

Profit and loss, or P&L, is a common financial statement that describes a company's costs, expenses and revenue over a specific amount of time. The typical time frame for these reports is monthly, quarterly and annually. One of the primary responsibilities and goals of an accountant within a company is to collect data on income and expenditures, and make assessments on that data to create accurate P&L statements.

Read more: What Is a Profit and Loss Statement?

Ensure company compliance

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires that all publicly traded companies comply with specific rules regarding financial reporting. Part of an accountant's job is to be informed about these rules and regulations and ensure that all financial documentation and reporting is accurate and aligns with federal criteria and standards.

Report on financial positioning

Financial positioning refers to the economic condition or wellness of a business. Accountants develop and use five basic types of reports and financial statements to convey a company's financial positioning. These five report types include profit and loss statements, balance sheets, income statements, shareholder or equity statements, and cash flow statements. The sum of these five reports shows the amount of working capital, liquidity and asset performance that a company has. It also stands as a measure of that company's overall value and investment quality.

Keep meticulous records

Record-keeping is the practice of careful and detailed accounting, organization and filing of information. Accountants keep detailed records by capturing real-time information, reviewing reports or paperwork from other employees to ensure that they are complete and correct, and using digital and hard-copy record-keeping systems. They also keep spreadsheets detailing the completion of tasks at work. Meticulous record-keeping systems are highly organized and often include easy to interpret categories, color-coding and alphabetization.

Related: 20 Simple Ways To Organize a Desk

Complete internal and external audits

An audit is an objective evaluation of the financial statements and company behaviors within an organization. Companies are regularly assessed by external auditors and may be subject to potential Internal Revenue Service (IRS) audits.

One of the duties of a company accountant is to perform internal audits in preparation for those kinds of events. Accurate auditing provides transparency for investors or stakeholders and helps c-suite members, internal strategists, financial officers or external consultants make suggestions for improvements or company-wide changes. Accountants may also need to perform external audits to evaluate companies that a business may seek to acquire, sell or merge with.

Read more: 8 Common Internal Audit Interview Questions

Improve financial outcomes

Detailed internal accounting and reporting alongside the timely evaluation of expenditures and income or profits is very valuable for decision makers and leaders. C-suite members, financial officers and sales managers use this information to create appropriate goals for improvement and can help inform valuable feedback or the sales team.

Accounting records and statements also assist operations managers and external consultants to evaluate and design systems that can save money and improve the overall financial well-being of an organization. These money-saving improvements and strategies create financial security and ultimately protect employees by helping to provide job security.

What is a SMART goal?

A smart goal is a format for setting goals that improve a person's performance, productivity or quality of work at their job or career. The word SMART is a pneumonic acronym in which each letter represents a component of the goal or objective. Here is a list that explains what each letter stands for in the acronym:

  • S stands for specific. SMART goals are specific to one area or element of someone's job. They also typically include or percentages or numbers.

  • M stands for measurable. A goal is measurable when there is a standard to compare results to or when there is a document or metric that can prove or indicate a person's progress.

  • A stands for attainable. SMART goals are feasible and completing the goal should be accomplishable within reason.

  • R stands for relevant. For a goal to be relevant, it should align with the objectives or job functions of the role that someone has in the company.

  • T stands for time-based. SMART goals need to include specific dates or time frames for a person to accomplish their task or goal.

Read more: How To Write SMART Goals (With Examples)

Tips for creating SMART goals for performance reviews

Here is a list of four tips for designing SMART goals as a part of a person's performance review:

Choose the most impactful goals for improvement

If you would like to see five or six things change regarding a person's professional performance, try to identify two or three elements that are the most important. When using SMART goals for a performance review, you should include only one to three goals. People are more likely to accomplish their goals if there is enough time in the day to focus on achieving them.

Choose careful language

Two of the key features of SMART goals are that they should be both specific and action-oriented. Choosing careful language when specifying the area in need of improvement and expressing the actions needed is important. Consider consulting with a colleague to check for clarity, before presenting your SMART goals to a person you supervise. Also, during the performance review, you should check that your language is clear by asking if the person understands what their goal is.

Pair SMART goals with praise

SMART goals are used to improve a person's quality of work and raise company standards—an employee may receive this feedback as constructive criticism. It is important that feedback and constructive criticism is followed by praise for something positive that a person does at work.

Read more: 8 Examples of Positive Feedback To Boost Employee Performance

Remember to check in and follow up

SMART goals involve very specific time frames. To ensure that the time spent developing a SMART goal is valuable, make sure that you evaluate a person's performance after that specific time frame has ended. Also, assessing a person's progress periodically, and checking in on their development and being understanding of their goals, is likely to improve the overall result of using this type of goal strategic improvement system.

3 example SMART goals for accountants

Here are three example SMART goals for improving various aspects of an accountant's abilities and work performance:

Example SMART goal for improving core knowledge

Develop a stronger understanding of the rules and regulations regarding compliance held by the SEC By attending the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission National Compliance Seminar in May of 2021. Use the knowledge gained from this seminar, and any additional personal research, to raise personal internal compliance knowledge testing score by 20% or higher by the end of the second financial quarter of 2021.

Example SMART goal for developing data communication

Complete daily data captures and compile weekly metrics to produce bi-monthly balance sheets for distribution to the operations manager, chief finance officer and the sales team leads. Weekly metrics and bimonthly balance sheets will be checked against the quarterly balance sheet on June 1, 2021.

Example SMART goal for increasing efficiency

Implement newly purchased auditing software by February 15, 2021, to expedite the internal auditing process. Complete and pass three related compliance learning evaluations with a grade of 90% or higher before the implementation of the software launch.

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Jobs similar to accountants

If you're seeking a job as an accountant or in another financial occupation, there are multiple options to consider. Here's a list of 10 jobs that involve similar responsibilities to accountants:

1. Financial analyst

2. Tax attorney

3. Cost estimator

4. Auditor

5. Financial planner

6. Bookkeeper

7. Actuary

8. Loan officer

9. Management Consultant

10. Credit analyst

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