Goals and Objectives: What's the Difference? (With Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 4 October 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Employees often use the terms goals and objectives interchangeably, but they contrast in various ways. Goals are more general and refer to the final product of your efforts, while objectives represent the measures you took throughout the process. Distinguishing between an overarching mission and a distinct point can help you create a plan for advancing your career or helping your business expand. In this article, we define goals and objectives, explain the key differences between them and provide guidelines for enacting them to benefit your professional life.

What is the difference between goals and objectives?

The key differences between your ambition and its steps include:

Measurability

Objectives are measurable, meaning there are clear indications of how much work is necessary to reach the target. They often include quantifiable units that enable employees to compare their visions to their actual performances. For example, if your objective is to "reduce employee turnover rate by 88% in six months," then you can calculate the number of staff members who resigned from the company to determine if you've satisfied your ideal.

Goals aren't measurable. For example, the goal of "spreading brand awareness" explains what you want to happen, but there are no parameters for determining if you've achieved it. Accomplishing your goals may depend on whether you accomplished your objectives.

Specific terms

Another contrast between objectives and goals is the specificity of the terms. Goals are general, exemplifying an overall ambition that can boost a company's operations. You can include a clearer definition of your desired product. For example, "hosting a successful event with 200 guests" is more specific than "hosting an event," but both notions are still goals and broader than objectives.

Your objectives can showcase what you want to happen in explicit terms. For instance, if you strive to be a good event host, then your smaller targets can show the individual steps you can follow to prepare for the occasion. The measurable component and timeframe make objectives more specific than goals. Think of your goals as the endpoint and your objectives as the actions that occurred at the beginning and the middle to reach the ultimate result.

Timing

Goals have longer time frames. Once you fulfil them, you may have already completed a series of objectives throughout your journey. The timing you designate for your goals can influence how long you have to meet your objectives. For example, you implement a goal to strengthen your time management skills. Since you want to accomplish this feat in one month, you may have days or a few weeks to carry out your objectives. The shortened time frames enable you to divide your vision into smaller tasks that all add up to your goal's deadline.

What are goals?

Goals are short, broad statements that describe what you want to accomplish in the future. They represent the culmination of your hard work, but not the specific steps and techniques you took to achieve those results. You can establish short-term goals, which illustrate your ideal progress in the upcoming weeks or months. Another type is a long-term goal, where you anticipate your growth years from today. As an employee, it may be beneficial to create and promote goals in the workplace to motivate employees. Here are examples of professional milestones:

  • Growing social media followings

  • Expanding the business to new cities

  • Winning industry awards

  • Increasing employee satisfaction

  • Exceeding competitors in the market

  • Becoming more recognisable to consumers

Related: Career Goals: Definition, How-To and Examples

What are objectives?

Objectives are specific targets with a timeline for you to achieve them. They outline the actions that enable you to reach your goal. For every one goal, there is often a series of objectives that gradually progress until you reach your desired outcome. Organisational leaders may design objectives to show their staff the tasks can benefit the company. For example, if your goal is to increase social media engagement, then here's a list of relevant sample objectives:

  • Hire a graphic designer and social media coordinator by the end of the month

  • Publish content at least three times a week for the next six weeks

  • Gain 100 new followers in three months

  • Increase comments, likes and shares by 25% in six months

  • Maintain consistently high engagement levels by the start of the year

Related: How To Write a Career Objective (With Examples)

Benefits of setting workplace goals and objectives

Establishing goals and objectives in the workplace can have a positive impact on the productivity and morale of your team. Here are examples of the advantages of promoting your goals:

  • Prioritising tasks: Imagining your future can help you identify and complete assignments that are most important to your vision coming to fruition. Prioritise your tasks so you can manage your time effectively and remain productive, two practices that can propel you to reach your goals.

  • Making informed choices: A goal can highlight the right decisions for you and your business. When you have a selection of two or more options, you can choose the path that best leads to your ideal results.

  • Being a source of pride: Pride is the emotion that your actions had a direct impact on a positive outcome for your company. While setting goals can inspire you, achieving them can instil confidence in your proficiency as a professional.

  • Achieving professional growth: When you're inspired to achieve your goal, you may strive to strengthen your skills and overcome challenges, which are testaments to your growth as an employee. Accomplishing your goals can also represent the advancement of your career, where you can communicate to potential employers that you can be an asset to their companies.

Here are the advantages of creating objectives that can make your goals achievable:

  • Tracking how far you've come: The measurability of objectives can make it easier to evaluate your progress as you complete the steps. You can recognise what you have done efficiently, and the steps that remain on your checklist.

  • Directing how to complete assignments: Once you've visualised what you want to attain, you can contemplate the actions that can propel you to your ideal future. Treat your milestone as a destination and discover the directions that can help you arrive where you want to go.

  • Clarifying workplace standards: Objectives can offer clarity on what your manager expects of you as an employee. There's a clear outline of the procedure, which can direct you on what you can do to contribute and how long you have to put your plans into practice.

Related: 15 Ways To Motivate Yourself at Work and Improve Productivity

Tips for creating effective goals

Consider following these tips to write strong goals for your organisation.

  • Differentiate between short-term and long-term goals. Designate a time in the future where you would like to see your aspirations materialise. Number your objectives based on the longness or shortness of your goals.

  • Educate your team on what you're aiming to accomplish. A clear understanding of your goals among your staff members can help them realise the value of their work. Promote your goals in the work environment, such as in internal newsletters, email signatures and assembly meetings, to remind employees of why their competence is important.

  • Review your performance. Regardless of your successes, evaluate your attempt at reaching your goals to identify how you can improve your performance. Contemplate if your established vision encapsulated what you really wanted to fulfil and apply your feedback to future work endeavours.

Related: How To Write SMART Goals for Your Career (With Examples)

Tips for creating effective objectives

Here are additional guidelines for building objectives that can help you fulfil your goals:

  • Match your smaller targets with the overall vision. The relevance of your objectives can offer direction for accomplishing your goals. Make sure every target you establish is a step towards your overarching mission.

  • Identify key performance indicators. Key performance indicators (KPIs) are measurable units that can ensure your production is where you want it to be. Attach your KPIs to your objectives to track your progress.

  • Be realistic. A realistic objective is a target you are likely to reach. To reduce pressure among your teammates, think about their skill sets and availability to determine if it's possible to perform the objective successfully.

  • Use an attainable time frame. Review the month and year you want to fulfil your goals. If the timing of your objectives is too strict, then it may be beneficial to divide a complicated task into smaller targets to make it easier for you to manage.

  • Acquire feedback from your coworkers. Gaining a second opinion about your objectives can allow you to confirm their compatibility with your goal. Ask your coworkers if the steps are realistic and attainable, and receive suggestions on how you can make them more precise or simpler to understand.

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