Goals vs. Objectives: The Simple Guide with Examples

Many organizations spend a ton of time and energy in order to set the goals and objectives that keep their company moving. It’s often quite difficult to set business goals.

A 2022 study conducted by the Columbia Business School stated that, despite roughly 70% of organizations saying they use employee empowerment practices, that claim is likely a gross overestimate considering how little organizations involve their employees in the goal and objective-setting processes. 

What things should you prioritize? What kind of figures are you aiming at? How do you get your employees involved?

From contributing to your long-term career progression to helping you set new skills to meet targets, we’ll teach you how to set great business goals and objectives to help your company grow.

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What is a Goal vs. an Objective?

Goals and objectives often seem similar to most people. And there’s some truth to that! Looking at goals vs. objectives there’s a lot of overlap. For example, goals and objectives both refer to what you want to accomplish as a business in the long term. However, there are also some key distinctions between them such as how specific and measurable they are. 

What is the difference between a goal and an objective? 

The difference between a goal and an objective usually boils down to specificity and measurability. Goals are achievable, long-term, and broad. A company might use goals to inform yearly strategies for each department. An objective, on the other hand, defines specific and measurable actions that each team or employee must use to achieve the overall goal. 

goals vs objectives

When setting a goal, you don’t have to worry what the actual details of obtaining them are, but instead, focus on what your aims are. Objectives are more specific and short-term. If your company has an overall goal of becoming an industry leader in your field, your objectives would be how you can see that realized on a quarterly or yearly basis. 

Keep these definitions in mind when you look for the difference between goals vs. objectives in business.

Goals and Objectives Examples

Remember: The goals of a business are usually short and sweet and detail a general trajectory for your company. 

Some examples of business goals include:

  • Maximizing net profit
  • Becoming an industry leader in your field
  • Obtaining brand loyalty from desired consumers
  • Providing top of the line service

Since Objectives are more specific and usually have specific teams or departments in mind, Objectives need to give more context and measurements on how to achieve them. Likewise, you really need to ensure your company objectives are empowering for your teams.

Some strategic objectives examples include:

  • Increase company market share
  • Improve employee input by conducting 1:1s once a week
  • Increase overall conversions through all channels
  • Increase completion of weekly tasks by deadline
strategic objectives

Types of Goals

When looking at the goals vs. objectives examples, you might wonder if you should set your business goals for a quarter, year or five years.

Well, goals can usually be divided into two main categories: short-term and long-term. Such time-based goals focus on the time allocated to accomplish the goal:

  • Short-term goals are the ones your team plans to accomplish in the near future. This is usually one quarter but may extend to two quarters or even a yearly goal. 
  • Long-term goals are those that require more extensive planning so you can map out the steps needed to achieve them. Within your company goals and objectives, this can be as short as a yearly goal or as long as the goals of the business have existed. This is especially true when thinking of why you formed the company in the first place.

Types of Objectives

If we think of objectives as the steps you take to reach your goal, then these objectives link to the kind of goal you set. However, since objectives are generally designated to a specific team or department, it is easier to think of objectives based on the makeup of your company.

These include:

  • Sales Objectives
  • Marketing Objectives
  • IT Objectives
  • Quality Management Objectives
  • HR Objectives

The nature of these objectives will vary depending on the department/team. For example, Sales will want to set objectives that track things like the number of sales closed, cross-selling, lead generation, and the quality of leads. Marketing may have objectives that focus on brand engagement, brand recognition, customer satisfaction, and market research. 

How to Measure Goals and Objectives?

Measuring is key to achieving company goals and objectives. However, goals aren’t usually inherently measurable. So, you need to set objectives that are and ensure that you know how you’re going to measure those objectives. (This is where things like KPIs and KRs come in!) These are all good to keep in mind when looking at the difference between goals and objectives including examples. 

The one thing to note no matter how you choose to measure your objectives and your goals, you need to ensure that everyone is measuring progress based on what they’re actually seeing. And to do so often. Trusting your gut doesn’t really work well as you can easily lose sight of the big picture. For example, if you work in sales and want to improve your email conversions, you wouldn’t count the number of cold calls you do as progress towards that specific KPI or KR. 

Below, you’ll find different ways how to measure goals and objectives in your team.

Using KPIs

KPIs are probably the most well-known way to quantify long-term performance both in terms of objectives and larger goals. Likewise, KPIs help you get a good picture of where your company is at in relation to the competition. 

Like Objectives, KPIs are usually department or team specific, but are broken down into three categories: 

  • Financial KPIs
  • Customer-focused KPIs
  • Process-focused KPIs

Financial KPIs can include anything from net profit to generated revenue to looking at stakeholders.

Customer-focused KPIs focus on customer satisfaction, how easily customers interact with staff or the product, and the ability to retain customers.

Process-focused KPIs evaluate how long something takes to get done, how much it will cost, and the quality of the overall output.

KPI Goals

Using SMART goals

In case you need a refresher, SMART goals stand for:

  • Specific: making sure your goals are well-defined, clear, and focused.
  • Measurable: ensuring you have specific criteria to measure overall progress.
  • Achievable: not impossible to obtain. 
  • Realistic: relevant and within reach. 
  • Timely: making sure you have a clear timeline including both start dates and target dates. 

Generally, you’ll want to ensure everyone uses the basic journalist questions to ensure your SMART goals are specific and measurable. Think about who is involved in a goal, what you want to accomplish, where will the goal be achieved, when will the goal be achieved and why you want to achieve that goal. 

Likewise, you will want your teams to consider how much progress is going to be made/how many of whatever variable you plan on using to quantify your success. 

👉 For further help on setting SMART goals, use this free worksheet.

Using Balanced Score Card

A balanced scorecard (BSC) is supposed to improve things internally within your teams so as to better their external outcomes when developing your strategy vs. objectives. First introduced in 1992 by David Norton and Robert Kaplan, BSCs have really taken off in recent years. 

There are 4 key areas for BSCs:

  • Learning and growth: for training and learning resources available to staff. 
  • Business processes: for how products are manufactured or how services are offered.
  • Customers: for overall customer satisfaction based on quality, price, and availability. 
  • Finance: for sales, expenditures, and income. 

The benefit of BSCs is that all information is in one place. All of these different categories can be measured and assessed in relation to one another. That way, managers can identify what’s holding back business performance and make appropriate changes moving forward. 

Using OKRs

Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) is a business management method that helps you set strategic objectives. OKRs, likewise, serve as a guide for business goals and objectives examples. Using OKRs, you can set some high-level objectives at the company, department, and team level and assign those objectives some specifics on how you plan to measure them (your key results).

OKR Goals

You need to ensure your objectives are motivating and aspirational. They should be achievable, but not too easy. If you’re achieving 100% of your objectives, then you need to be setting more ambitious ones. You should usually aim for the sweet spot of a 70% achievement rate.

The key to your Key Results is that they must be measurable. Instead of stating that you want to increase conversions via email campaigns, you should specify what percentage of overall conversions you want to be from email campaigns or a target of how many conversions from email campaigns you want to reach. 

👉 The best way to manage your OKR goals is by using a designated OKR software. However, you can also use OKR templates to set them in excel/google sheets.

5 OKR Goals Examples

Here are some OKR examples to help you understand how to set goals and objectives:

Goal Example 1:

Objective: Become an industry leader in bookkeeping software 

  • KR: Increase site visitors by 5,000 per month through increased SEO optimization 
  • KR: Improve product accessibility and offer 2 new package deals to support independent beekeepers as well as larger honey farms. 

Goal Example 2: 

Goal Objective: To be known to the public as the #1 platform for tracking clothing brand sustainability and sourcing in the US

  • KR: Rank pages on the most sustainable clothing brands on the first page of Google (top 10)
  • KR: Create the ultimate cornerstone article on 2022’s most and least sustainable mainstream clothing brands

Goal Example 3:

Objective: Create the lowest carbon footprint in paper production

  • KR: Supply chain and shipping systems incorporate 100% zero waste policy
  • KR: Ensure 80% of all products are compostable

Goal Example 4:

Objective: Make the company an industry leader in innovation

  • KR: Land within the top 5 of either Venture Atlanta’s or The American Business Review’s most innovative startups for 2022
  • KR: Double the number of job-seekers our recruiters reach out to with paid technology training

Goal Example 5:

Objective: Increase the company’s financial longevity 

  • KR: Reduce team fund variance from 10% to 5%
  • KR: Spend 80% of grants from prior fiscal years

👉 You can find more OKR examples here and a comprehensive guide on how to set good OKRs.

Set Effective Goals and Objectives for Your Team with OKR Software

Despite the fact that goals and objectives are often used interchangeably within the business world, it is still really important to highlight the distinctions between the two.

Goals are meant for setting the overall company direction and they could be either short or long terms ones. Whereas objectives are good for narrowing down the goal and specifying how the goal could be achieved with a more practical approach. 

The best way to ensure that everyone is on the same page when setting company objectives is to use goal-setting software. Goal-setting tools are different and have their own goal tracking methods. One of the most transparent and aspirational goal-setting software is OKR-based tools.

goals and objectives

Weekdone, for example, offers weekly planning on top of OKR software so all your business management practices are in one place. Likewise, Weekdone offers free coaching so everyone within your company feels prepared to move to a new tool. 

However, always remember that the most important element of setting goals (or objectives) is to get the work done and have the results to show for it!