Article: How to design OKRs for remote teams

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How to design OKRs for remote teams

As the world of work shifts towards a hybrid model, here’s how you can rethink OKRs for your remote teams.
How to design OKRs for remote teams

The effective management and engagement of remote teams is one of the topmost challenges facing HR leaders today. The sudden shift to remote working last year created an all-hands-on-deck situation wherein business continuity took precedence over everything else. It also enabled many companies to take a deeper look at how business goals trickle down to the employee.

Today, organizations are acknowledging the opportunity and challenges of managing remote workers. They are reimagining policies, strategies, and models to fit a hybrid future. In this context, the OKR framework offers compelling opportunities.

What is the OKR framework?

The Objectives-Key Results (OKR) framework is a widely used approach for goal setting, implementation, and measurement of growth in the business world. Market leaders such as Google, Twitter, Spotify, Dropbox, and LinkedIn deploy the OKR strategy to improve their financial performance. It is also used to achieve other business objectives, like building an engaged and motivated workforce.

As the name suggests, the framework essential has two parts:

Objectives - This is the goal-setting phase of the framework where aspirations are converted into definite objectives. These goals can be regarding sales growth, implementing changes, or even increasing innovation within the organization. For example, an organization can set the goal for increasing customer acquisition or executing its digital transformation journey.

Key Results - The second step in the framework involves breaking down an aspirational goal into measurable outcomes or results. These results help provide a roadmap to navigate otherwise overwhelming goals and tasks. For instance, the goal of increasing customer acquisition can result in a key result of onboarding X new customers. Usually, each objective is linked to three to five key results to ensure that different aspects of the goal are achieved.

What are the benefits of the OKR framework for remote teams?

Improved communication

Since the entire framework is a group activity and mutually agreed upon by everyone in the team, it helps align all team members towards the same goals, planning, and results. Furthermore, since the OKR approach is time-sensitive, it requires regular discussions and reviews to ensure that the team is heading in the right direction. This facilitates regular dialogue and feedback between the remote workers and teams that helps everyone work together with lesser conflict or miscommunication, which is extremely critical in a remote work arrangement.

Simplifies progress tracking

Tracking progress is a crucial feature of the OKR approach. This is also because the initial goals and key results decided by the team are clear and unambiguously measurable in quantitative ways. The design of the model is such that there is clearly defined data to check the progress at both the team and the individual level. This dual focus can especially help remote workers as it clarifies their own goals viz a viz the team effort.

Helps prioritize effectively

Time and task management can go for a toss for employees used to working in teams or physical proximity with each other, especially when they’re not used to working alone. And add to that interruptions and distractions are the norm while working at home. It becomes challenging to manage the work-day effectively in isolation. The OKR framework helps employees identify pressing needs and expectations so that the team can function seamlessly. Using the OKR framework has been shown to improve productivity levels by up to 3.5X.

Maintains momentum and drive

With set goals and dedicated time-bound tasks, all members of the team work in unison to achieve collective results. This instills a sense of discipline and focus that eventually fuels motivation. And as tangible progress becomes visible, the drive to succeed rises.

How to implement OKRs across your organizational functions

  1. Discuss the concept and components of the framework: To begin with, introduce the idea of OKR to all the remote teams and help them understand the philosophy behind it. Managers and leaders should lead the process in laying the vision and groundwork for the implementation.
  2. Undertake individual and collective goal setting: Next, begin identifying goals at the organization, team, and individual levels. Depending on the workplace culture, this can be a top-down or a bottom-up approach.
  3. Classify and prioritize goals: It is possible that a variety of diverse goals will be identified in the previous step. The next stage is to prioritize them according to urgency and importance. You can assign a certain percentage of the goals for specific themes and functions if needed.
  4. Formulate the key results associated with each goal: With the team and employees now aware of what they are aiming for, start breaking down the key results and parameters of success. Try to be as specific as possible and quantify the key results in all goals.
  5. Fix a realistic timeline: The larger goals and key results should be broken down into smaller time-bound tasks and activities. Initiating the entire OKR framework before a new month/quarter is ideal to calibrate the time properly.
  6. Create communication and discussion channels: Once the teams begin working on their goals and results, be sure to set up communication channels, discussion forums, and check-ins regularly. This is the most critical part of the process as it will help in timely course correction, help identify challenges, exchange of information, and promote innovative solutions.
  7. Continuous monitoring and improvement: Finally, track progress, and challenges to identify what goals were successfully met. The end goal is to create a cycle of regular feedback and improvement.

Implementing the OKR framework is not frills free if it isn’t supported, especially in a remote work context. The increased effort on communication in a remote working culture may lead to challenges in goal setting, and issues may arise due to the lack of collective effort. If all the effort is directed solely towards achieving the established goals and result with minimal oversight of review and check-ins, the framework will eventually falter.

Finally, setting off to achieve immeasurable or vague results, or using the wrong technology tools can create obstacles. The tracking, measuring, and reporting part of the process should be seamless and deploy smart tools to simplify the load of administrative work.

The OKR framework for goal setting and execution can help remote teams stay focused, driven, and productive. Leading HR and human capital management tools can be integrated with the approach for increased efficiency. At the end of the day, it is the determination of the leaders, managers, and employees that will determine the success of the OKR approach and help organizations prepare for the future.


This article is part of a series on preparing for a flexible future of work in partnership with Zimyo. Get access to a detailed e-book on OKRs for remote teams. 

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Topics: Employee Relations, #TheHybridWorkplace

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