Performance Objectives vs. Goals: Which Should We Use?

It’s a common question we receive from WorkDove prospects and clients: Should we use goals or performance objectives, and what’s the difference? The short answer is that ultimately, it boils down to your organization’s specific culture, intended results, and current season of your business. However, WorkDove is equipped to provide you with a clear explanation for both and recommend a next step toward your decision.

But first, it is imperative to define terms. We have built this article based on WorkDove’s definitions of performance objectives and goals.

Performance Objectives

Performance objectives are most closely aligned with job descriptions or role expectations. When you hired an individual employee, they joined the team with the mutual understanding that they would accomplish these (insert objectives) major things. Essentially, performance objectives are what you pay the employee to do every day.

For some organizations, this may look like generalized performance objectives for the purpose of more standardization across larger groups. Think of 3 to 5 general performance objectives for all employees or 4-6 general performance objectives for all managers, for example. Other organizations may choose to be more specific by creating performance objectives that are specific to departments, positions, or even the individual employee. Because of their close association (or maybe even exact duplication) of job descriptions, performance objectives should not appear to be a “stretch” beyond the employee’s designated role. Ideally, the manager and employee schedule time together to go over the employee’s performance objectives at the beginning of every performance review cycle so by the time the actual review conversation occurs, there are no surprises whatsoever. Here is the major takeaway:

Performance objectives are the standard by which the employee knows that they are not meeting, meeting, or exceeding expectations.


Goals are not necessarily directly related to job descriptions. However, they should be directly reflective of the organization’s mission, vision, and core values/workplace behaviors. In contrast to performance objectives, goals tend to be more specific accomplishments that may change frequently based on multiple factors. It is recommended that the process of setting goals should be a conversation that equally includes the employee and their direct manager due to the nature of goals being future-oriented, aligned with organizational goals, and incorporating the employee’s specific talents and professional growth.

While performance objectives are defined by what the employee was hired to do, goals have two very separate drivers: motivation and contribution. When individual team members are able to clearly see that their efforts are impacting people and processes on a larger scale, this naturally breeds the motivation to deliver and also includes a healthy dose of accountability. Of course, goals are most motivating when they are tracked well and consistently! When employees are motivated to accomplish, they also feel a greater sense of belonging and contribution to the mission, visions, and core values that the organization highly values. This, in turn, keeps them inspired and not feeling as though they are doing the same things day in and day out.

For further clarification, below is an example of each:

Performance Objective Title: Delivers Results

Performance Objective Definition:

  • Completes tasks and goals on time with accuracy.
  • Maintains focus and prioritizes tasks based on importance and delegates appropriately.
  • Actively identifies ways to improve.

Goal Title: Increase Online Presence

Goal Definition: Create 3 new blog posts per month over the next 12 months with a total goal of 36 blog posts

In this example, the employee was not necessarily specifically hired to write 36 total blog posts. They were hired, however, to deliver results, complete appropriate tasks on time, and identify ways to improve in their role, aka, their performance objective.

So..Which Do I Use?

The majority of WorkDove clients utilize performance objectives within their performance review process. However, we have seen great success in organizations that choose to incorporate goals exclusively, or even use both! Whichever you choose, the most important thing to remember is clear definitions. As long as goals and performance objectives are clearly defined and the expectations are communicated often between manager and employee, unnecessary stress or overwhelm will be eliminated throughout the performance review process. The review conversation should simply be a summary of the performance objectives accomplished and the goal progression of each individual.

One final thought as you make your decision: Performance objectives keep employees informed and engaged. Goals keep employees motivated and inspired. Both are equally valuable and help to make the performance review more simple and effective. The good news is that WorkDove is always willing to point you to the right resources to help you make your decision!

Still unsure about the benefits of performance objectives and goals? Learn more today!

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