What are Goals, Objectives and Outcomes?

In Human Resources, especially when we talk about Performance Management, we use the terms goal, objective and outcome. And often we confuse them because we don’t quite feel there is a difference between them. He is there, however, and can often explain why many employees dislike goal setting and the performance management process.

So what are the definitions of those three basic concepts in performance management - goal, objective and outcome. Because we often interpret their definitions exactly backwards and that can be confusing for people. But what is important is to set up the company in such a way that outcomes are important to the company and these are clearly visible to the employees.

This has an incredible impact on employee engagement because only outcomes can clearly link a person’s efforts to how the company is doing in that area. And it will provide the answer to the most basic and important question of Employee Engagement - why am I here? Is my work meaningful? They then clearly understand what the value of their work is.

So it’s very useful for HR to focus the company on what really matters to employees. In the end, it’s not the goals that matter, it’s the impact on the company’s bottom line. For many employees, the connection between goals and company strategy is very nebulous, but they can connect the specific outcome quite easily. Especially if they have a good understanding of how it impacts other employees in the company.

Brief definition of Goals, Objectives and Outcomes

Goals are observable and measurable end results that have one or more objectives to be achieved. Goals are usually broad in scope, which means they are relatively complex and different paths may lead to their achievement. Thus, for many employees, they may be relatively abstract because they cannot immediately imagine what needs to be done to achieve such a goal. Therein lies their risk of having to work with the employee to determine the path to reach that goal.

And here are some examples of goals:

  • Increase sales by 20%;
  • increase the number of candidates for an open position by three;
  • reduce turnover by 25%;
  • complete an MBA.

On the other hand, objectives are more specific, easier to visualize and more achievable than general goals. Thus, they represent a specific outcome that you are trying to achieve within a certain timeframe and with the resources available.

They are considered more specific and easier to measure than a goal. They can be thought of as steps to be taken to achieve the goal. This means that if a manager sets goals, they must also set aside time to discuss them with the employee and help them break the goal down into a set of smaller objectives. In this way, the abstract goal becomes a fairly clear path composed of several objectives.

So what are some examples of objectives:

  • Sending information about the discount amount to all customers in Q2;
  • selecting three recruitment agencies by the end of Q3;
  • conduct a survey of leavers and identify the top three reasons for leaving the company by the end of Q1;
  • pass three tests by mid-year.

And finally, the outcomes are the most important. Simply put, it’s the measurement of actual achievement against originally planned targets. It means that we have implemented objectives to achieve our goal. And outcomes is about measuring reality. Whether our plan led to the desired outcome. Simply put, outcomes are what you hope to achieve when you meet the goal.

And here are examples of outcomes:

  • 32% increase in sales to existing customers in Q2;
  • the number of candidates per position reached four six candidates and exceeded the target by one candidate;
  • turnover decreased by 10% compared to last year and therefore the target was not met;
  • managed to complete the MBA studies early and was promoted to a new position.

Human Resources often spends a lot of time setting goals and cascading them properly through the entire company, but we often forget that outcomes communication deserves the same care. Employees deserve to know how the company really did and how they personally contributed to the business results the company achieved.

It’s not just about soft targets, but also hard financial results and customer numbers, because targets are set to ensure that the company grows, its profits increase regularly and the company successfully fights direct and indirect competition. Therefore, it is also good to link the announcement of company goals to the latest results, then it will be easier for employees to understand why the organization sets such challenging goals.