What are Objectives and KPIs?

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LMS Features: Different types of reportsPop your head inside any organisation and you’re likely to overhear managers talking about objectives and KPIs. Also coming under the broader umbrella terms of ‘goals’ or ‘targets’, they’re intended to keep every employee more focused on their tasks than a cat on a laser pointer.

For decades it was thought that a Harvard study had found that people who write down their objectives can be up to 10x more successful than those who don’t!

In reality, it turned out that this study never actually happened (whoops!). Thankfully, a real study by Gail Matthews at Dominican University found that committing to written goals and regularly updating your progress towards them really does let you accomplish a lot more.

Objectives and KPIs

Before we go any further, let’s just make sure we’re crystal clear on exactly what we’re talking about! Here’s the difference between Objectives and KPIs.


These are your overarching goals, the big things you need to achieve. So an objective for a salesperson would likely involve increasing sales revenue by a certain amount.


These are your Key Performance Indicators. These are the individual tasks which need to be completed in order to reach your general objective. So to return to our salesperson, they won’t be able to increase sales revenue without making a certain number of prospecting calls, or by upselling a certain number of new products to existing customers.

Let’s look at an example:

Objective – Decrease employee turnover rate by 25% over the next quarter.

  • KPI 1 – Increase training hours per annum/per employee by 15%
  • KPI 2 – Increase the number of employees who can articulate organisational values to 75%
  • KPI 3 – Reduce time to respond to an internal complaint to 48 hours

Of course, it’s useful to set objectives and KPIs for every individual, so that they have a clear idea of exactly what they should be working towards. But don’t neglect departments or even the organisation as a whole!

Setting objectives for these shows which direction the team should be heading towards, and gives everyone visibility of how their work is making an impact.


Learner has won badge while learning on her mobileNotice anything about the wording of the objectives and KPIs in our examples above? You’re very clever if you do, because they were all written to be SMART!

This little acronym is one to remember, as it will make sure that any objectives you set will actually be useful. So they need to be:

  • Specific – Make them clear and unambiguous
  • Measurable – Make sure you can track your progress, and put a number on your success
  • Achievable – They should stretch you, but they won’t be out of reach
  • Realistic – You’ll have the resources and the skills to get them done
  • Time bound – You’ll have a deadline to get them done by

So let’s look at the example from before — Decrease employee turnover rate by 25% over the next quarter

This is specific because it focuses on employee turnover. It’s measurable because this is something which can be tracked. And it’s achievable because it will require hard work, but it’s not out of reach. It’s realistic because you already have the plans in place. Furthermore, it’s time-bound because it needs to be completed over the next quarter.

SMART goals turn everyone into well-oiled task-completing machines, incapable of leaving a job half-done!

The employees then update their progress as they go along, so a manager can dip in whenever they want and get a real-time assessment of how their staff are getting on.

You can also keep track of departmental and organisational objectives. These are visible to everyone so that they can see how their own Objectives alight with those of the business. There’s even a swanky dashboard so that everyone can keep an eye on their progress at a glance.

So How Do We Do It?

We’re glad you asked! With our robust Performance Centre, we’re taking performance management online! And what performance management tool would be complete without an Objectives and KPIs section?

Using our system, an employee can set their own individual objectives and KPIs. If they’re not up to scratch, their manager can send them back with a comment attached, to make sure that only useful targets are being set!

Keen to find out more about KPIs and how to they can help you to gain long-lasting behaviour change? Check our article today!

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