Key Differences Between Goals And Objectives In The Workplace

By Jack Flynn
Oct. 5, 2022

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If you’ve spent any amount of time in the workplace, you’ve probably heard the terms “goals” and “objectives.” Often these words are used interchangeably, but they actually refer to two different but equally important concepts.

This article will examine key differences between goals and objectives and their distinct benefits in the workplace.

Key Takeaways

Goals Objectives
Goals are brief statements that pertain to the desired outcome (often long-term). Objectives are detailed plans and strategies put in place to achieve short-term targets.
Goals can last a few years to a decade. Objectives usually last less than a year.
Goals are usually broad and overarching. Objectives are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-sensitive.
Goals are a hopeful result. Objectives are the actions and strategies used to achieve goals.

Key Differences Between Goals And Objectives In The Workplace

The Nature of Workplace Goals (and Their Importance)

Generally speaking, goals are brief statements that pertain to the desired outcome (often long-term ). In the workplace, goals can range anywhere from a few years to nearly a decade in the future.

Partially due to the ambiguity of this long time span, goals are usually vague and overarching, being delivered as a broad statement that focuses on a hopeful result rather than the methods used to achieve that result.

Here are some common examples of goals set by employers in the workplace:

  • Increase productivity. Your employer may make a broad statement about the desire to increase the company’s efficiency and overall productivity.

    As a goal, this statement addresses the company as a whole, rather than making a detailed game plan for employees to follow.

  • Providing quality customer service. If your company provides customer service, in person or on the phone, they’ll always want to increase the quality of their customer service.

    Your employer might make a general statement about improving customer service tactics in the future.

  • Maximizing profits. When an employer outlines this as a goal rather than an objective, there won’t really be any detailed percentages or specific strategies in mind. Rather, the company might set a goal for where they want to be financially five years in the future.

  • Brand recognition and leadership. Companies will always want their brand to stand out and rise higher in the corporate world’s ranks. Therefore, your employer might discuss goals for the future of the company’s brand and increased status among other companies.

  • Recycling and carbon footprint. With an ever-growing and changing world, many companies want to find ways to become more sustainable while also cutting costs.

    With that in mind, goals to recycle more, leave less of a carbon footprint, and become more energy efficient are becoming more common.

Additionally, these are examples of useful goals you might set for yourself in the workplace:

  • Improved time management. Arriving to work on time, finishing projects before their deadline, and giving yourself adequate time to relax are good goals to set in your career.

  • Better active listening. If you’ve struggled to remember information in the past or find yourself talking over others, you might set a goal to become a better active listener in the workplace.

  • Increased organization. Having organized thoughts and materials in the workplace can go a long way, so if you sometimes struggle with keeping clean and categorized spaces, you can set a goal to become more organized.

The Nature of Workplace Objectives (And Their Importance)

In the context of work, objectives are detailed plans and strategies put in place to achieve short-term targets. Typically, an objective will cover a time span of less than a year.

Objectives are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-sensitive. In a way, objectives are the actions and strategies used to achieve goals.

Here are some examples of company objectives:

  • Achieve at least $25 million in revenue from new stove products, yielding a minimum 15% return on investment.

  • Answer at least 50 calls per hour while following new customer service protocols.

  • Send email messages to at least 150 customers per week to promote new deals and products.

  • Reduce electric operating costs by a minimum of 20% by next year.

  • Increase revenue from new sources by no less than $40 million this year.

Given that objectives are much more specific and numerically involved, it can be a bit harder to set personal objectives over a long period of time. Instead, you can set daily or monthly objectives for yourself to help achieve your goals.

For instance, if you’re writing for a company or creating important documents, you might set an objective to write at least 1000 words per day. While these kinds of objectives aren’t as grand as those put out by a company, they can still bring you closer to your long term goals.

The Key Differences Between Goals and Objectives

Understanding the difference between goals and objectives can be boiled down to a few key aspects. These include:

  1. Order. Often, meeting an objective or collection of objectives leads to the achievement of a goal. In this way, goals are higher in the order of accomplishment than objectives are.

  2. Timeframe. Due to the order of objectives and goals, the time frames for achieving them are different. Typically, objectives can be accomplished in a year or less, whereas goals can take several years to achieve.

  3. Measurability. Unlike the broad and vague nature of goals, objectives usually rely on percentages, statistics, or other measurable values. The detailed measurements in objectives can be used to achieve broader goals.

  4. Specificity. Goals typically serve as generalized statements and desires, whereas objectives are more specific, actionable tasks.

    The generalization of goals can be seen in the presence of a single, desired accomplishment, while objectives outline specific actions to take over a certain timeframe.

    In a way, goals don’t specify the tasks needed to achieve them because objectives do.

  5. Thought processes. There are also key differences between the semantics of the two terms. When employers talk about goals, they generally use broad, conceptual thinking and language.

    On the other hand, objectives are talked about and thought about in a more tangible, specific way.

The Strategic Bridge Between Goals and Objectives

In the workplace, there can be countless benefits in implementing and connecting objectives and goals.

As mentioned previously, objectives can serve as a pathway toward broader goals, and using the two concepts can be beneficial for collective organizations and individuals such as yourself.

Here are some examples of how goals and objectives provide workplace benefits:

  1. Goals motivate you to act, and objectives measure your progress. When you initially set a goal, you’re inherently telling yourself that action must be taken. Luckily, giving yourself objectives allow you to monitor your progress.

    Therefore, setting objectives gives you the strength to persevere and achieve goals that may seem unreachable at first.

    For example, if you have a goal to increase the number of cookies you sell, you’re much more likely to accomplish that goal when you set an objective to sell at least 50 cookies per month.

    In this way, objectives and goals work together strategically to reach greater accomplishments.

  2. Goals give you direction, and objectives make decisions. When you set a goal, you’re giving yourself a direction to follow going forward. Usually, the path to achieving your goals requires decision making, which can be aided by what you learn in your short term objectives.

    For example, if you have a goal to improve your public speaking, and your current objective is to attend at least three public speaking training or events, your objective is to help you make decisions that lead to your goal.

    When in doubt, when you’re faced with a difficult decision that may affect your goals, your objectives can help guide you.

  3. Goals outline your potential, and objectives produce achievements. One of the great benefits of setting goals is that they allow you to realize your full potential. Often, you are much more capable than you may believe you are, and your goals allow you to believe in yourself.

    Luckily, setting objectives that are tangible and achievable will allow you to taste that sense of accomplishment. In this way, accomplishing your objectives will give you the motivation to achieve your goals.

The Benefits of Setting Goals and Objectives

Whether you’re setting them for yourself or your team, there are a number of benefits that come with setting goals and objectives. Here are a few of them:

  • A clear direction to point your efforts.

  • Help establishing your priorities.

  • Increased confidence in being able to achieve success.

  • Improved decision-making.

  • Improved performance.

  • A way to measure your progress.

  • A stronger sense of achievement.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to semantics, we all know that the smallest differences between terms and concepts can significantly impact their overall meaning. Even when these meanings become muddied or remain similar, it can be useful to re-examine key differences.

Especially in the context of careers and the job market, knowing important differences between two similar terms can give you a professional edge. After all, communication is key in the workplace.

That being said, you’ve probably heard the terms “goals” and “objectives” thrown around a lot by companies and employers. While both of these words refer to the ideal outcomes you or your employer aim to achieve, there are still consequential differences to keep in mind.

When you know the detailed meanings of the terms, you can set goals and define objectives in the workplace that will help your performance and allow you to communicate effectively and intelligently with co-workers and higher-ups.

Overall, implementing objectives and goals in the workplace is a worthwhile strategy for employers and you. Regardless of what needs to be improved, it costs nothing to throw a positive goal or objective out there.

So you should never be afraid to set goals and objectives for yourself, and you should be proud of the goals and objectives you’ve helped your company achieve.

So what are you waiting for? Set some goals and allow them to motivate you to achieve your full potential!

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Jack Flynn

Jack Flynn is a writer for Zippia. In his professional career he’s written over 100 research papers, articles and blog posts. Some of his most popular published works include his writing about economic terms and research into job classifications. Jack received his BS from Hampshire College.

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