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Hard Goals vs. Soft Goals: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Need to Be in Business

Every business has goals. Whether you want to make more money, improve efficiency or increase customer satisfaction, you’re working toward something. However, shifting from your current position to the one you want to be in isn’t always simple. Creating the right kinds of goals can help you get there.

Hard and soft goals are two different frameworks for helping you turn your desires into reality. They’re intentional, specific and action-driven, so you can understand what you need to do and how you’ll measure it. In business, both types of goals are necessary, and one can even lead to the other.

Let’s take a closer look at hard and soft goals and how you can use them for achieving your plans.

In This Article

What Are Hard Goals?

A hard goal is one that’s easy to measure. It’s specific and challenging and serves as a guidepost for everyone in the organization. It relies on a clear metric, such as a key performance indicator (KPI), that tells everyone when they’ve reached the goal.

For instance, you might set a hard goal to increase traffic to a specific webpage by 1,000 visitors a month. There’s no question about when that goal is complete β€” it offers a simple metric for employees to work toward. Other examples of hard goals might include decreasing turnover by 5%, improving customer satisfaction ratings by three points or generating two additional leads for each salesperson.

How to Set Hard Goals

If you know what SMART goals are, this next piece of information might sound a little familiar. Like SMART goals, we can split up hard goals β€” or HARD goals β€” into an acronym to guide your goal-setting:

    • Heartfelt: A hard goal should be meaningful and offer extensive value you want to achieve. You need to care about whatever you’re working toward.

    • Animated: Hard goals should be vivid and easy to imagine. Take some time to create a mental picture of you reaching your hard goal. Consider what it’ll look like to both meet your goal and work toward it.

    • Required: These goals should feel necessary. If you don’t think you need to meet the goal, it won’t have quite the same impact. Necessity also adds a sense of urgency to help you hit the ground running.

    • Difficult: While you don’t want to make a goal too difficult, you need it to be challenging. When goals are too high or not reached, they might cause the person to give up. Yet when goals are too low, employees may not feel engaged or pushed enough. Find a sweet spot that has enough difficulty without being unattainable.

When you’re setting hard goals, remember to keep the above elements in mind and aim for something specific and measurable, like a KPI. Be sure to avoid common pitfalls people face when setting goals, too.

What Are Soft Goals?

What Are Soft Goals?

In business, soft goals are usually used to investigate your relationships with customers and prospective customers. Often, a soft goal is a broader goal that can be used to zero in on hard goals.

Say you’ve noticed your customers tend to struggle with using your app, so you set a soft goal to teach your audience how to use the app better. While that goal isn’t very specific or clear-cut, you can use it to create a hard goal that’s much more actionable, like creating and adding five how-to articles to your resource section.

Soft goals aren’t called soft goals because they’re any less important than hard goals. Depending on what you’re working toward, they might be even more important. Soft goals are simply difficult to measure and might entail broader, overarching or complex topics.

Here are a few other examples of soft goals:

    • Improving relationships at work

    • Staying motivated

    • Writing funnier communications

    • Responding to stress better

    • Becoming more productive

    • Getting in shape

    • Conducting higher-quality meetings

    • Being more creative

How to Set Soft Goals

Soft goals can be a little trickier to set because they can be hard to pin down. They’ll require some creativity, so get ready for some brainstorming.

Some tips for identifying and executing soft goals include:

    • Soliciting employee and customer feedback: Both customers and employees can tell you a lot about where you have room for improvement. Reach out to them to learn more about their experiences and issues.

    • Keep a list: It’s easy to forget these broader goals, so if you come up with something you’d like to improve, find a spot to write it down. Keep it front and center as you work, so you don’t lose sight of your master plan.

    • Create a plan: Just because a soft goal isn’t very measurable doesn’t mean you can’t reach it. You may need to set β€œsub-goals” or schedule a time to come back and review your progress, but remember to create a plan for your soft goals.

    • Celebrate small wins: Since soft goals are often long-term, don’t lose sight of the progress you make. Recognize employees who are working toward the goal, and give yourself a little celebration when you make progress. It’s an important part of staying engaged.

    • Use your data: Use your business software to your advantage and go through the data you have available. You might be able to find new insights. If not, consider a platform geared toward helping you reach your goals.

Hard Goals vs. Soft Goals: Which Ones Achieve the Best Performance?

The truth is that neither one is better than the other. Choosing between soft and hard goals simply depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. Hard goals help get your organization on the same page and work toward specific achievements, while soft goals help you organize your desires into an overarching plan. You might create hard goals from your soft goals, but both are critical for getting yourself and your business where you want them to be.

Reaching Your Hard and Soft Goals With AchieveIt

Reaching Your Hard and Soft Goals With AchieveIt

AchieveIt is a plan management solution designed specifically to help businesses create and achieve their goals. The AchieveIt platform is packed with tools for streamlining and empowering progress, and our strategy services put execution experts on your side. From project management to business transformation, AchieveIt brings organizations to new heights.

Reach out to us today to request your demo and see AchieveIt in action!


Meet the Author  Chelsea Damon

Chelsea Damon is the Content Strategist at AchieveIt. When she's not publishing content about strategy execution, you'll likely find her outside or baking bread.

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