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The Difference Between Core Values, Mission & Vision Statements, and Goals

One Minute Takeaway

  • Core Values, Mission & Vision Statements and Goals are all important but not identical
  • Your core values and mission & vision statements clarify why you do what you do
  • Goal-setting is putting specific and measurable targets in place

It’s a common experience: you want to build a company culture based on values and meaningful goals. If you can boost your performance management processes along the way, great. But you don’t know where to start and the terminology (core values, mission statements, vision statements and goal-setting methodologies) is confusing. What does it all mean?


Don’t worry—you’re not alone. At first, these concepts can seem to blur. But they are different. And what’s more, the differences matter. When you’re in the midst of strategic planning for the next year, you can’t afford to mix up what motivates the work with how you’re going to get there. This guide will help you align values, mission, vision and goals throughout your organization.

Mission Statement

This is what your company actually does. Keep it short and sweet, and easy to memorize. It’s tempting to use fancy words that sounds good but end up not meaning much. Your mission statement should be specific enough that people understand what you do and how you differ from your competitors. Consider these mission statements of well-known organizations:

  • Public Broadcasting System (PBS): “To create content that educates, informs and inspires.”
  • Google: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
  • Make-A-Wish: “We grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.”

Vision Statement

This is what your company aspires to be. In many cases, this will look very different from a company’s mission statement. A mission statement is what you do now, a vision statement is what you want to be doing tomorrow and in the future. When done right, your vision statement can and should drive decisions and goals in your company. Here are some great examples:

  • Disney: “To make people happy”
  • Ford: “To become the world’s leading Consumer Company for automotive products and services.”
  • Avon: “To be the company that best understands and satisfies the product, service and self-fulfillment needs of women—globally.

Core Values

Mission and vision statements define where you’re going, but core values are all about what you are. What are the defining features of your company and how you operate? These values support your vision and shape your company culture. Try to limit your list of values to five or six. Beyond that, you’re going into too much detail and employees will struggle to remember all of them.

At Paycor, we know the following core values as our “guiding principles” and they help define how we act each and the decisions we make every day:

  • Take Care of Customers First
  • Take Care of Each Other
  • Do the Right Thing
  • Think Big, Dream Big
  • Compete to Win
  • Have Fun Along the Way

Goal Setting

Goal setting is how you take your mission, vision and core values and turn them into a reality. You can only produce results by producing clear objectives. There are lots of ways to do this, but companies are increasingly turning to the Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) methodology. 

Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)

This works by first setting high level objectives, which align with your vision statement. However, while vision statements can be general, these objectives should be specific and measurable. Rather than aiming to “Have the best product ever” consider aiming to “Add two new developers”.

The next step is to set key results, which will be how you know if you achieved your objective. These should be measurable. Don’t write too many—two to four should be good enough. With the previous example of adding developers, key results could be to attend one hiring fair this quarter”, “create one blog post about hiring” and “Use LinkedIn to reach out to five potential candidates”. Suddenly, you’ve taken your broad vision and turned it into actionable steps to get there.

Goal-Setting Best Practices

An important part of setting OKRs is ensuring that they are transparent. This helps align your workforce to your company’s top priorities eliminating wasted hours spent on unproductive and non-impactful work. Your company is more likely to achieve the goals you set out every month/quarter/year and realize your vision.

Another pro-tip is that OKRs cannot be a top down process. You’ll only be able to create the right objectives for everyone by understanding the day-to-day reality of employees at all levels. You can only understand that reality by reaching out and including representatives from all parts of your company in conversations around strategic planning. This is win-win, as you’ll also get buy-in from employees who feel ownership over the process, rather than simply following orders from the executive team.

How Paycor Helps

Paycor creates HR software for leaders who want to make a difference. Our Human Capital Management (HCM) platform modernizes every aspect of people management, from the way you recruit, onboard and develop people, to the way you pay and retain them. But what really sets us apart is our focus on business leaders. For 30 years, we’ve been listening to and partnering with leaders, so we know what they need: HR technology that saves time, powerful analytics that provide actionable insights and dedicated support from HR experts.