Performance objectives help employees understand what they need to do on a day-to-day and long-term basis to satisfy supervisors' expectations and eventually earn promotion to a more responsible position. Managers and business owners use performance objectives to remove ambiguity from the process of coaching, rewarding or correcting an employee.


Supervisors can design performance objectives based on whether they apply to daily tasks, a short-term project or the employee's long-term future with the company. They also can base objectives on the core competencies needed for the job, such as communication skills or sales skills. All performance objectives, regardless of type, should be specific, phrased in simple everyday language and realistic for the employee to achieve. For instance "Present deliverables in timely fashion" is not specific because "timely" is not defined. In addition, the use of business jargon like "deliverables" makes the objective too ambiguous. "Deliver weekly status reports on all current projects by Friday at 10 a.m." is specific, easy to understand and realistic to achieve.

Everyday Tasks

Performance objectives for all recurring or regular tasks should be highly specific and should spell out exactly what is expected and when. For example, "Return all phone messages from customers within 24 hours" is a clear and understandable objective, while "Get back to customers consistently" is vague. "Meet or exceed monthly sales targets" is a clear and realistic objective, but "demonstrate excellent sales skills" is too ambiguous and "double sales figures from last year" may not be realistic. Objectives also can include tasks necessary for good relations between co-workers, such as "Assist with daily cleanup before leaving the office."

Project Tasks

Performance objectives for short-term projects should clarify the employee's specific responsibility in the project. This is especially important for any team project, because lack of clear expectations or accountability can encourage some employees to contribute much less than others. "Assist team-members in developing new customer database" leaves a lot of room for interpretation. "Update list of customers who have placed orders of more than $1,000 in the past year and present it to the team leader by the 15th of the month" makes the expectations much more clear.

Career Plans

Many employees are interested in moving up in the company, and long-term objectives make it easier for them to know what types of behavior will help them achieve this goal. Long-term objectives are necessarily less specific than short-term objectives, but they still should be as clear as possible. "Demonstrate the ability to communicate with others effectively and respectfully" is less easy to measure and assess than a sales target or a project deadline, but it still gives the employee something clear to work on.