A Different Way To Think About Achieving Goals In The Workplace

Top companies use OKRs, short for 'objectives and key results', to align a team of employees to one strong goal, using key results to measure progress in achieving that objective.

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You may be familiar with the term KPI, but have you ever heard of OKRs?


Short for "objectives and key results', top companies use OKRs to align a team of employees to one strong goal, using key results to measure progress in achieving that objective. Essentially, OKRs take on a more holistic approach to accountable goal setting by tracking qualitative outcomes (often quarterly) rather than quantitative KPI metrics.

OKRs work from the top-down and the bottom-up. That is, on a company level every employee right through to the CEO is across a big, bold, business goal. Then individually, employees and teams take control of how they want to go about achieving this goal by setting their own OKRs.

Always keeping in mind the overarching objective, key results are formulated as the metrics required to reach this objective and are designed to be openly measured and tracked to provide transparency and motivation. Key results of an OKR are more in line with KPIs, for example - an internal newsletter open rate.

After originating at Intel during the 1970s, OKRs rose to fame in 1999 when John Doerr introduced them to Google's 40-person-strong team. Fast forward two decades: Google now boasts 60,000 employees, all of whom still use this benchmark as one of their performance management frameworks. They're among many world leading companies like Netflix, Atlassian, Amazon and LinkedIn, that are utilising the benefits of OKRs today.

Here are four of the best benefits for businesses:

Streamlined Teams

You would know the saying many hands make light work - this applies to business objectives too. When everyone is on board with one focused goal, be it for the quarter, month or week, there's a greater chance it will be accomplished.

The best way to keep OKR spirits high is to celebrate the wins, big and small. Publicly recognise team players who are proactively achieving their key results, and at the OKR's end celebrate with a morning tea or office drinks. They help bind large companies together and strengthen bonds in smaller teams alike.

Streamlining every element of your business means you can set blue sky goals that you typically wouldn't think possible. Just the act of thinking about OKRs is an opportunity to identify room for improvement while proactively planning solutions.

Clear Pathways

Having transparent company goals that are visible to every employee opens up a greater understanding about the future of a business. Not only that, it allows for effective allocation of resources, and gives individuals the opportunity to self manage their OKRs to align with the big picture vision of their company.

When your entire workforce is clear and collaborative about the ways they can contribute towards business objectives, it boosts morale and trust by creating a collective mindset. When employees get stuck - having clear visibility of others' OKRs inspires fresh thinking and a cooperative approach to problem-solving.

Starting the day, the week or the month with a set list of key results to tick off means employees are always aware of what's next for them to do, meaning time management and prioritisation can be self managed and planned well in advance.

Increased Productivity

OKRs can be used to boost employee engagement in individuals through empowering them with the responsibility of accountable goal setting. It also means employees can align what they're doing - no matter how menial - with a greater vision.

This helps increase productivity by creating a drive and desire to see the big picture goals achieved as employees know they'll have a hand in the outcome. Never underestimate the power of purpose when it comes to productivity.

As well as this - it feels good to achieve goals. Even when the smallest tasks are ticked off, there's a sense of satisfaction that comes with being recognisably productive.

Greater Insights

Tracking progress can be a motivating force. While OKRs are largely qualitative, there are still opportunities to see tangible results in the stepping stones to a bold objective.

Initiatives are used to describe the actionable work behind driving progress on a key result. These can be tracked to gain perspective into how individual or team initiatives contributed to broader outcomes. Tracking OKRs also provides greater insight into what's working successfully and what areas need improvement, so resources and time are allocated more effectively.

When having one on ones with employees, OKRs are used as a roadmap to discuss progress - highlighting roadblocks and strengths. That's not to say you need to delve into twelve months worth of goals in every discussion, instead you have access to a clear, structured snapshot of accomplishments and progress, taking the ambiguity out of performance reviews.

In order to get started with OKRs and practice management frameworks used by the likes of Google, ask yourself two things: what am I trying to achieve? And how am I going to accomplish it? The answers will build the foundations of your OKR and put your team and business on the path to achieving goals today. OKRs are more than just a buzzword - they're the best way to get everyone in your business on the same page through straightforward and easily trackable outcomes.