Understanding Objectives vs. Goals (Including Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 7 December 2022

Published 16 August 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.

Successful people set objectives and goals to help them make decisions and understand what they want to achieve. Understanding what objectives vs. goals are can help you accurately identify your desired outcomes. Setting clear objectives and goals and considering them in your business strategies can help you advance in your career and increase your business's success. In this article, we provide the definition of objectives and goals and explain the similarities and differences between them.

Definition of objectives vs. goals

To understand the differences between objectives vs. goals, it can help to recognise their definitions. Goals are long-term changes a person or group works towards. They are relatively broad statements. Objectives are more specific and immediate changes that someone or a group works towards. People and groups usually achieve their goals after they've met several objectives.

Related: 9 Personal Development Goals and How To Achieve Them

Similarities between objectives and goals

Objectives and goals are both outcomes that people or groups work towards. Both help people plan for the future. Once people and groups identify their objectives and goals, they can develop strategies to help them achieve them. Objectives and goals can both benefit people and organisations. They can work in conjunction to help people succeed.

Related: How To Set Achievable Business Goals at Work

Differences between objectives and goals

Due to their similarities, many people use the terms objectives and goals interchangeably. However, there are some key differences between these terms. The key differences between objectives and goals lie in the following:

  • Scope: Goals are broad intentions about what you or your group wants to achieve. Objectives are much narrower.

  • Specificity: Goals are general statements about desired outcomes. Objectives are much more specific, with tasks required outlined in clear terms.

  • Measurability: As goals are relatively broad, measuring them can be challenging. As objectives are more specific, they can be measured using quantifiable units.

  • Tangibility: As goals are broad, they can be intangible. Objectives are tangible targets which you can see and experience.

  • Alignment and order: Goals get set to achieve a person or company's mission, while objectives get set to achieve goals. This places goals higher in order than objectives.

  • Timeline: Goals are long-term plans which may take years to achieve. Objectives are more immediate plans which you or your group may achieve in weeks or months.

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

Examples of differences between objectives and goals

Seeing examples of objectives vs. goals helps you understand the differences between them. Here are some examples of objectives and goals that professionals or businesses may set:

Individual objectives vs. goals

As a station chef, becoming a sous chef within the next five years is a good goal. It is a SMART goal, because it is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based.

The station chef can increase their chances of achieving this goal by setting several objectives. These are the specific things they plan to do to make themselves more likely to get promoted. These objectives might include:

  • Prepare a meal at home every Sunday that uses a new ingredient or technique

  • Find an experienced chef to mentor them within the next two months

  • Enrol in Le Cordon Bleu's online Gastronomy course next year and complete the course around restaurant shifts

Related: SMART Goals: Definition and Examples

Business objectives vs. goals

A business wants to become a better global citizen, so its leaders set the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2025. They then set several objectives that can help them achieve this goal of reducing carbon emissions to a zero level. Their objectives may include:

  • Partner with an environmental organisation that plants trees to offset carbon emissions from operations in the next financial quarter

  • Install solar panels on all company buildings in the next three months

  • Switch to compostable mailer bags and cornstarch packing products for shipping products by 2022

  • Eliminate all single-use plastic from the business by 2023

  • Replace all company vehicles with electric vehicles by 2024

Related: How to Create an Individual Development Plan (Plus Benefits)

Benefits of setting objectives vs. goals

Setting objectives and goals has several benefits for you, your career and your employer. Some of their shared benefits include:

  • Motivating you: Objectives and goals give you outcomes to work towards. Wanting to achieve your them and observing your progress can help you stay motivated.

  • Aiding decision-making: Your objectives and goals can help you make decisions for your career and business. With clear objectives and goals in place, you can judge which decisions help you move towards your desired outcomes.

  • Driving success: Objectives and goals help you focus your attention towards achieving what success looks like for you.

  • Clarifying expectations: Companies and departments also set objectives and goals for employees. Reviewing these objectives and goals can help you understand the professional areas that other people want you to focus on.

  • Giving you a sense of achievement: It feels good to achieve your objectives and goals. This sense of achievement is important for job satisfaction and mental well-being.

Other benefits of setting objectives include:

  • Providing a strategy for achievement: Setting objectives gives you a strategic path that can help you achieve your desired outcomes. Creating this strategy can help you feel confident that you can succeed.

  • Giving you small wins: As goals are long-term plans, achieving them can sometimes seem challenging. Setting objectives provides smaller achievements to work towards and celebrate.

  • Helping you measure your progress: As objectives help you achieve your goals, they can help you measure your progress. Every time you achieve an objective, you're closer to achieving your goals.

Other benefits of setting goals include:

  • Providing direction: A goal is similar to a final destination on a journey. Once you set your goal, you can feel confident you're moving in the right direction to reach it.

  • Helping you set priorities: Your goals are the most important things you want to achieve. When you know what's important to you, you can prioritise actions that help you achieve your goals.

  • Helping you achieve your potential: Setting goals encourages you to consider your ultimate dreams and work towards fulfilling them. They ensure you spend your time moving forward in your career rather than staying in the same place.

Related: How to Create Strategic Priorities for a Strategic Plan

How to set objectives and goals

These steps can help you set objectives and goals for yourself, your team or your business.

1. Consider what you want to achieve

Knowing what you want to achieve can help you set your goals. If you're setting goals for yourself, identify your career aspirations. Your ambitions can help you naturally identify your goals. When setting goals for professional groups, consider your company's vision and mission. Relevant goals naturally align a business's vision and mission.

Related: How To Set Achievable Business Goals at Work

2. Plan how to achieve your goals

Once you've identified your goals, plan how you can achieve them. Each step in your plan is an objective. Speaking to others who've achieved your goals and researching them online can help you identify relevant objectives.

For example, a solicitor who wants to specialise in insurance law may speak to another lawyer practising in this area. Becoming an insurance lawyer is their goal. They may learn the insurance lawyer completed a Master of Laws and chose insurance law electives. Earning this degree may become an objective that will help them achieve their goal.

Related: How To Write an Action Plan To Help Achieve Your Goals

3. Refine your objectives and goals with SMART principles

The best objectives and goals are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time framed. Remember these principles and refine your objectives and goals so they match their criteria wherever possible. While time frames are optional for goals, adding a time frame can make you feel more accountable and motivate you to work more efficiently.

Related: How To Set Career Goals

Tips for achieving your objectives and goals

Consider the following tips to achieve your objectives and goals:

  • Write your objectives and goals down: Writing your objectives and goals down reinforces them in your mind. You can also easily refer back to your written objectives and goals to remind you what you want to achieve and when you want to achieve it.

  • Believe in the process: Setting objectives and goals and then working towards achieving them is a proven method for success. So long as they are achievable, trusting the process should help you achieve your desired outcomes.

  • Stay accountable: Setting objectives and goals is only the first step towards success. Note your timelines, and work steadily towards achieving your goals to stay accountable to yourself and your team members.

  • Ask for help: Whether you're working towards individual or team objectives and goals, getting help from others may be beneficial. Whether you need a supportive ear or expert advice, identify people who can help you and ask for their assistance.

  • Regularly assess your progress: Refer to your objectives and goals regularly and honestly assess how close you are to achieving them. If you have made little progress, escalate your efforts so you can reach your objectives and goals in a reasonable time.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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