Performance Objectives: What Are They?


Do the managers in your business every ask you – ‘what, exactly, are performance objectives’?

Here’s a simple answer you might find useful:

Performance objectives are written descriptions of what good performance in the job looks like. They describe:

• the quantity, quality and time elements of the job (the quantifiable)

• the behavioural element of the job (the behavioural)”

Objectives: The Quantifiable

These objectives are used to describe what good performance looks like for those parts of the staff member’s job can be counted or easily measured. So they relate to; money, deadlines, accuracy, quality, speed and numbers. Basically they answer three questions:

3 questions:

1. How much / how many?

e.g. improve sales by $2k per quarter

2. What’s the quality standard that needs to be achieved?

e.g. follow the procedures laid down in the safety handbook

3. By when / How quickly?

e.g by 31st June

Many people think that performance objectives relate only to the ‘what’ of the job – the quantifiable. Not so! Performance objectives are a brilliant management technique for describing the behavioural element

Objectives: The Behavioural

Behavioural objectives are used to describe what good performance looks like for those parts of the job that relate to how the staff member performs

Let’s take an example – Jenny

Jenny is a receptionist. One of her responsibilities is to answer the telephone. You have decided to agree some performance objectives with Jenny

So you agree a quantifiable objective:

• Consistently demonstrate you answer the telephone within three rings

Great. Let’s say that’s all that you agree with Jenny

Here’s the good news – Jenny answers each and every call within three rings. Well done Jenny

Here’s the bad news – this is what you overheard Jenny just saying to a caller:

Hello. Who do you wanna talk to? I said which department do you want? What? Look, do you want sales or marketing? What? Can’t you talk more clearly? Who? Managing Director? Not sure who that is. Do we have one? Oh Joe you mean? Nah he’s not here, I guess he’s on the golf course as usual. Opening hours? Err 9 to 5 I guess, or maybe 8 to 6?. Hello? Hello?”

The point is, very few jobs are just about the quantifiable. Behaviours (like the way our receptionist Jenny answers the telephone) are crucially important

Here’s are a range of behavioural performance objectives we could agree with Jenny

Example Objectives

Consistently demonstrate:

1. Answering the telephone by giving the name of the business and your name

2. Asking open questions to gain information and understanding

3. Asking probing questions to gain deeper understanding

3. Reflecting back in order to achieve clarity and demonstrate listening

4. The information given is accurate

5. Checking the other person has accurately understood the information given


Summary – The purpose of objectives

Performance objectives clearly define what good performance looks like for the employee’s job – for both the quantifiable and behavioural parts

The purpose of performance objectives is to ensure that your employees know exactly what they need to do in order for you to consider them to be a good performer and, consequently, what they need to do to help your team / business / organisation to meet its goals. We know from research that performance objectives with effective measures can improve performance by over 30% so as a management tool they’re pretty hard to beat!

Do you want to read more about Performance Objectives?

performance objectivesWhy not take a look at my e-book ‘Motivating Your Staff with Powerful Performance Objectives’ – a step-by-step guide for managers, team leaders and supervisors who want to motivate their staff to high performance. More details HERE

2 Responses to Performance Objectives: What Are They?

  1. […] Management Gap 1. Performance objectives The purpose of performance objectives is to describe what good performance looks like – for the ‘numbers’ part of the […]

  2. […] gap     1. People do what they’ve always done    So we agreed the new performance objectives. Good. And then?  Nothing. On the basis that we haven’t mentioned these performance […]

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