If you are an HR leader working in a fast-growing organisation, you’re often dealing with quickly changing business priorities.
You need to align people fast, get them up to speed on the processes and systems in place and ensure they can deliver on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis.
You’re also looking for a simple system that can give direction and clarity to employees while also inspiring them to give their best at work. Then, the OKR (Objectives and key results) framework for goal setting is a great place to start.
Developed in the 1970s by Andrew Grove at Intel, this framework has been widely used by some of the best companies around the world. Let’s dive deep further.
What is an OKR?
The OKR (Objectives and Key Results) cycle is a dynamic framework for goal-setting and performance management. It empowers organisations to set ambitious objectives and define measurable key results to drive progress and success.
It comprises an objective (a significant, concrete, clearly defined goal) and three to five results (measurable success criteria used to track the achievement of that goal).
Distinguishing objectives and key results
Objectives provide a broad, qualitative overview of what you aim to achieve, setting the direction and inspiration for your goals.
In contrast, key results offer quantifiable, specific metrics that enable you to measure progress and success in a concrete manner.
This differentiation helps readers grasp these elements' distinct roles in goal-setting and performance tracking.
Here's how the OKR cycle unfolds:
- Plan: Organisations announce their strategic priorities. Departments and teams conduct purposeful drafting sessions to crystallise their objectives and key results.
- Align: Like an orchestra tuning its instruments for a symphony; the alignment phase ensures that goals across the organisation resonate in perfect harmony. It's here that refinement and synchronisation occur, setting the stage for unified action.
- Execute: The cycle springs to life with a thunderous kick-off call, launching teams into action. Regular, weekly check-ins serve as navigational waypoints, keeping everyone on track and accountable.
- Adapt: In the ever-shifting landscape of business, adaptability is paramount. Teams flex their agility muscles during regular reviews and adjust their trajectories as needed, ensuring they remain agile and responsive to evolving circumstances.
Incorporating these elements into the OKR cycle enables organisations to channel their collective energy and resources toward achieving audacious goals, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and achievement.
Over the years, there have been several technologies that have integrated goal-setting frameworks. Using technology, one can easily set up performance management tools for the individual. It can be used to track team progress, unlock collaboration opportunities and ensure that the business is making progress.
OKRs & Technology
Using OKRs by leveraging technology doesn’t have to be complicated.
If you are able to define your tangible and intangible outcomes, have a clear understanding of your short and long-term goals, and are aligned with other teams on the business goals, then using this goal-setting framework can be easy to implement.
Here are a few key features you need to look for.
1) Track real-time progress
Without real-time tracking, the data at the disposal of management and teams tends to get stale. This staleness can, in turn, lead to decisions being made with information that's as outdated as last year's fashion trends, casting a shadow of doubt on the effectiveness of the strategies being put into action.
Real-time progress tracking for OKRs provides employees and managers with immediate visibility into the status of objectives and key results, enabling them to stay aligned, focused, and adaptable.
Employees benefit by understanding how their contributions contribute to larger organisational goals, fostering a sense of purpose and ownership.
Keka’s OKR tools enable managers to identify potential roadblocks early, allocate resources effectively, and provide timely support, enhancing team productivity and accountability. This dynamic tracking fosters a culture of transparency, continuous improvement, and rapid decision-making, which is crucial in today's fast-paced and evolving work environments.
2) Insightful Dashboards
Dashboards that cater to the diverse needs of different roles within the organisation can greatly enhance the impact of the employees and leaders. As OKRs often have cascading goals, dashboards can help pinpoint the areas that need focus.
Customisation options for Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs), CEOs, Managers, and Employees, which can help them visualise key issues. These dashboards provide a tailored view of key performance indicators, allowing each user to focus on relevant metrics and information pertinent to their role.
For example, a CHRO may have access to workforce analytics and strategic HR metrics, while a Manager can monitor team progress and individual contributions.
This customisation ensures that users at various levels can efficiently utilise the OKR framework to meet their specific responsibilities and goals.
3) Facilitate insights on corrective action
Insights on progress in OKRs are invaluable as they offer a comprehensive visual overview of how various objectives and key results are advancing across teams and projects.
This accessibility empowers employees and managers to make informed decisions, adjust strategies, and prioritise actions in real time.
These insights facilitate proactive course corrections, foster collaboration through shared understanding, and provide a clear sense of achievement, enhancing motivation and alignment as everyone works collectively towards the organisation's goals.
4) Enable cascading and aligning of goals
The cascading and aligning feature in OKR goals is immensely helpful as it creates a clear and hierarchical connection between organisational objectives and individual/team goals.
In a work context, imagine a large tech company with the organisational objective of "Improving Customer Satisfaction." To cascade and align this objective, the company's product development team could set a key result like "Increase Net Promoter Score (NPS) by 15 points" as part of their OKRs.
Within the product development team, individual engineers might set their key results, such as "Reduce software bugs by 20%," which directly contributes to the team's objective.
This alignment ensures that everyone, from the CEO down to individual engineers, understands how their work connects to the broader goal of improving customer satisfaction, creating a clear and hierarchical connection between organisational objectives and individual/team goals.
Teams can see how their objectives contribute to higher-level goals, promoting a sense of purpose and unity. Managers can effectively manage resources and monitor progress at different levels while leadership gains visibility into the entire organisational alignment.
5) Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) Process in Plan
The PIP process is a structured approach to address and enhance employee performance. This tool facilitates the planning, implementation, and tracking of PIPs within the organisation.
The OKR management tool can be integrated with a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) process as part of its features.
Managers can use the system to set performance expectations, identify areas for improvement, and establish measurable goals for employees undergoing a PIP. The integration of PIP functionality demonstrates a comprehensive approach to employee development and ensures that performance issues are addressed proactively, contributing to overall organisational success.
6) Empower continuous communication
Communication is central to ensuring the success of any goal-setting framework. Make sure the technology you are leveraging allows the capturing of feedback, thoughts and comments on an ongoing basis.
Using Keka’s OKR tool, teams can engage in meaningful discussions, share insights, and offer feedback directly on objectives and key results, fostering a culture of transparency and continuous improvement via the comments and 1 on 1 meeting feature.
This functionality also empowers teams to set their own aligned goals, tailoring objectives to their unique strengths and challenges while still contributing to the larger organisational mission.
7) Ensure regular nudges
Reminders about OKRs are highly advantageous as they keep objectives and key results at the forefront of individuals' and teams' attention, minimising the risk of goals becoming overlooked or forgotten during daily tasks.
These reminders serve as nudges, encouraging consistent progress tracking, timely updates, and proactive adjustments.
By maintaining goal visibility and urgency, this feature ensures that teams stay on track, deadlines are met, and alignment with broader strategic objectives remains strong, ultimately driving improved goal achievement and organisational success.
8) Skills Matrix Alignment
The OKR management tool should include a Skills Matrix feature, allowing organisations to assess and visualise the current skill standings of their employees. This feature enables HR professionals and managers to map out the skills possessed by each employee and evaluate the alignment with organisational objectives.
The Skills Matrix aids in identifying skill gaps, succession planning, and strategic workforce development.
By leveraging this tool, organisations can make informed decisions about training, recruitment, and talent management, ensuring that the workforce's skills align with the evolving needs of the business.
When acquiring OKR software, ensure its simplicity and user-friendliness. It should facilitate effortless check-ins and progress tracking for team OKRs, allowing seamless updates as needed. A straightforward dashboard is essential for departmental or organisational OKR visibility.
Find out more about leveraging technology using OKRs. This article is part of a series on HR technology in emerging businesses in partnership with Keka; find more articles here. Download the ebook on Improving Performance Management and get a comprehensive understanding of the latest workplace shifts.