OKR's: Why Do They Matter? 




What are OKRs and Why Do They Matter?


Famed author Lewis Carroll once quipped that “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” The implication is that without a clear destination or goal, you’ll simply wander aimlessly without purpose or direction. 


For generations, companies have been trying to coax maximum performance and loyalty from their employees without the benefit of a clearly defined plan and objective performance benchmarks. Once-per-year performance reviews and top-down performance directives have consistently failed to deliver the performance, productivity, and engagement companies craved and eventually compelled enterprising business leaders to reimagine their employee performance management strategies.  


Fortunately, the introduction of the OKR framework for continuous performance management by Intel in the 1980s was the revelation enterprise brain trusts needed. And today, with an assist from Google popularizing the model in the late 1990s, OKRs have become the hallmark of virtually all successful employee-driven organizations. 


What are OKRs anyway?

Objectives and Key Results — OKRs —is a goal management framework that emphasizes a clearly defined goal — the Objective — and as many as 5 key results, which are specific measures used to track the achievement of that goal.


The framework’s primary intent is to help employees prioritize, align, focus and measure their work and transform companies into outcome-based organizations. The most successful companies, no matter the size or the industry they compete in, have implemented OKRs because they help align teams to ensure everyone is working toward the same goals and provide clarity across the organization about the company’s priorities and values. 


In particular, they’re adept at getting buy-in from executives to implement the framework and starting with a small number of clearly defined objectives they can pair with key results that align with specific department or organizational goals. And they’ve refined their processes to empower employees to participate in their own OKR plans while regularly evaluating results to keep everyone and everything on track. 


As a result, organizations implementing the OKR framework have reported better focus, higher employee engagement, and greater transparency that’s led to:

  • An average of $520,000 in annual efficiency gains

  • 8.5% lift in sales productivity

  • 4x greater chance of performing in the top 25% of the industry


But those achievements don’t always come easy. In fact, nine out of 10 HR professionals are dissatisfied with their existing performance management strategies largely because the results are either inaccurate or unhelpful. 


Much of that dissatisfaction stems from the performance tools many HR teams have to rely on.  More than a quarter of professionals say there’s just too many tools and technologies to use and over 60% spend more time getting the technology to work than they do on actually executing the tasks. 


Effectively tracking OKRs with HCM and performance management solutions

The key to effectively implementing the OKR framework into your organization is to take advantage of purpose-built continuous performance management technologies. 


Specifically, modern human capital management (HCM) are cloud-based, well-integrated platforms that feature easy-to-use modules for creating OKRs as well as reporting capabilities for accurately tracking progress and development. The best ones will:


Help establish baseline skills and interests

Use skills assessments and self-reported career interests tools in performance management solutions to better understand your team’s current capabilities and professional growth goals. Not only will this help reveal skills gaps or deficiencies among your team, but will also help you determine the appropriate type of results to expect from each individual. 


Make it easy to assign OKRs

Set employees up for success with tangible action plans tailored to their role and your departmental goals. Performance management solutions should make it easy to tie each team member’s profile to your team’s primary objective and assign 3-5 specific measurable results they’re expected to achieve within a given timeframe — usually a quarter.


Promote ongoing engagement and progress tracking

Modern performance management solutions will help you replace outdated annual reviews with more frequent employee-manager conversations. In addition to more thorough quarterly performance reviews these tools also enable weekly 1-on-1 check-ins between managers and team members with full notes for future reference and even notifications to help managers adhere to their weekly check-in schedule. 


Enable consistent, meaningful feedback and recognition

Even as children, people are empowered and motivated by recognition of achievements. But instead of gold stars for completing a homework assignment, employees gain public recognition among their peers and colleagues for excelling in their role, exceeding expectations, and helping the organization as a whole — and everyone that works there — more successful. 

HCMs tracking OKRs companywide make it easier to quickly identify and socialize the success of individual employees to the whole organization, recognizing outstanding achievement beyond just birthdays and occasional tenure announcements. 


Feature real-time analytics to align performance with corporate culture

High-performing employees remain with their organizations when they feel recognized, receive personalized career and development guidance, and believe their work to be meaningful and fulfilling. HCMs can help business leaders analyze the overall health of their organization by evaluating OKRs both individually and collectively in real-time to:

  • highlight strengths and areas of improvement

  • project how changes in either will impact the organizations

  • measure the degree of diversity and inclusion, bias, and career opportunities across the organization for a crystal-clear roadmap for how to unify the workforce and strengthen the company’s culture


HCM: the great OKR enabler

The average American worker will change jobs nearly a dozen times over his or her career. Some leave in search of better pay, others for an employer who’ll value their contributions and their efforts. 


The OKR framework is a powerful tool for retaining, developing, and empowering employees to achieve their personal and professional goals while simultaneously boosting the fortunes of their employer organization by strategically aligning individual aspirations with organizational objectives and giving employees a say in how their role unfolds. 


Modern HCM platforms with robust reporting, collaboration, and communications capabilities are an important amplifier for the benefits of an OKR strategy and can help organizations thrive in a rapidly evolving competitive landscape supported by an engaged, energized, and empowered workforce. 


Click here to learn more about enhancing your OKR framework with a fully integrated HCM platform or schedule a free personalized demo to see SyncHR HCM in action


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John Cuellar

John Cuellar

John is responsible for SyncHR’s product, engineering, and system operations teams. He is focused on streamlining the business processes related to HCM and finance by distributing SyncHR to all members of the workforce and by using patented security and workflow to control these developments. John is also responsible for delivering SyncHR as a cloud based application with “extreme ratio” financial metrics.

He has a background in engineering, workplace applications, and business administration, bringing over 25 years of experience deploying strategic HCM applications. Prior to co-founding SyncHR, John was the CEO of Harbor Technologies, since acquired by Mellon Financial Corporation. Previous to Harbor Technology Group, he spent an internship with the Swiss Bank Corporation in their derivatives pricing and trading group and also worked as a senior manager for the US Navy. John received his Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of California at Santa Barbara, and his Master of Business Administration from the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley.

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