How to make your OKRs actually work in your business
Now we’re assuming you’re here because you are fully aware of OKRs and have even tried implementing them in your business already. If this is the case, well done, you’re already two steps ahead of the game. However, before we begin, for those of you who are just starting out, we’re going to break it down in simple terms and tell you exactly what OKRs are. Following this, we’ll tell how to actually make them work in your business to achieve real, tangible results.
What are OKRs?
The purpose of OKRs is to make sure that your entire workforce is working towards a common goal with clear priorities of what they need to get done in order to get there. Think of your OKRs like all the tiny electrical and engine components that it takes to keep a large ship moving in the same direction. If those small parts didn’t do their job properly then the ship would constantly have trouble trying to get to where it needed to go.
Your OKRs should break down your larger organisational goal, such as your mission statement and turn the goal into a small and specific objective. This objective has to be short, snappy and exciting whilst being relevant to each person because one person’s responsibilities will be entirely different from another’s in terms of reaching the larger goal.
Once you have the mini objective for the employee you should create two to five key results (KRs). These should be quantifiable as these are going to measure whether a person has reached their objective or not. It’s important to note that you should only have a maximum of five KRs because any more than that and we can guarantee that they will be forgotten or overlooked.
Example of OKRs
Objective (O) : Dominate the feline fashion market
- (KR) : Increase ranking on Google for the phrase ‘Feline Fashion’ by 5 places
- (KR) : Increase sales by 50%
- (KR) : Create sponsored posts with at least 7 feline influencers
- (KR) : Ensure that our top 5 ranking keywords are feline fashion related
Key results are an excellent way to define exactly what you mean by your objective. It’s very easy to say “I want to dominate the feline fashion market” but what you mean by that and what your employees think you mean by that could be two completely different things.
How often should my OKRs be set?
The general rule of thumb is that they should be set every month or every quarter and you should be religious with the times that you check in with your staff to monitor their progress.
How to make your OKRs actually work in your business
Now that I have given you a brief overview of how to start your OKRs, it’s time to explain how to successfully make them work in your business. So many companies start these OKRs with the greatest of intentions and then after a few months their motivation slowly diminishes and before they know it, they’re back to coasting along, doing things the way they have always been done and seeing the same results.
Expect the start of your OKR journey to be a bit rocky
The concept of OKRs on their own is very simple, however, the hard part is coming up with objectives and key results which you and your business actually care about. What you will find is that you perhaps haven’t set an objective which is important or relevant enough to your business and because of this, the OKRs get pushed to the side when important work comes along. This is normal and the key to combating this is to go back and revisit the OKRs. Ask yourself and the employee to speak truthfully about why they didn’t work, what they didn’t find valuable or helpful about them and from there you can tweak the OKRs or create entirely new ones and test those ones out.
It’s important to remember that everyone will go through this and to not get disheartened and give up. You have to get started to actually find out what works for you and your business, discovering problems and tweaking your objectives and key results are all part of the journey that you and every other company will have to go on.
Pick a date to check in and stick with it
We are all getting busier and busier at work and are all guilty of pushing meetings back because we just haven’t’ got the time. But the key to making OKRs actually work in your business is to be rigorous with your check-in schedule. You should be checking in with your staff every week to see how they are getting on and if there are any hurdles in their way which are preventing them from reaching their goals. By checking in with your employees on a weekly basis it gives them a goal to work towards to achieve their key results.
We don’t mean you have to have a formal 30-minute meeting every week, just a 10-minute catch-up chat will suffice but you always have to make sure that you turn up. If they know that you are constantly going to miss your check-in meeting or push it back, then there will never be any sense of urgency to achieve the key results. When your staff have lost the motivation or excitement to achieve the goal then you have already lost the battle. If they think that you are not taking their OKRs seriously enough then why the hell should they?
Make your company exceptionally transparent
OKRs are fantastic because everyone can see how each employee is performing and progressing. As a result of this, your entire workforce will be able to see the change in results for the entire company. Transparency in business has been proven to work wonders for productivity and performance. It makes everyone accountable for their actions and keeps your entire workforce on track. However, a lot of people find this concept scary because they fear they will be judged or frowned upon if they don’t achieve what they were supposed to.
The key to combating this is to create a culture of encouragement and positivity. Ensure that you are sharing constructive criticism but always avoid negative or patronising language because this will only make your employees feel embarrassed and awkward. They will continue to hide their work away which sets up a negative cycle for your OKRs. You should ensure that management sets an example by also being transparent about their OKRs. They should share with their team when they failed and didn’t meet all of the key results. This will show your team that it’s ok to not get 100% all the time, but it’s crucial that they are open and honest about their results.
Make sure that your KRs are quantifiable
Your key results should always contain numbers. They should never be descriptive or subjective because then it is open to interpretation as to whether they were achieved or not. This then defeats the purpose of the entire exercise which is to make sure that everyone is on the same page and steering in the same direction. If you are struggling to find out how you can measure your result with numbers then the chances are that you haven’t thought of the correct objective for your team member.
Everything can be measured with numbers. For example, if you want to ensure your team member delivers great customer service you can:
- Measure the number of good customer reviews which they receive
- Measure the number of sales which they make
- Measure your NPS
- Measure their call times
You need to think about the indicators which tell you whether the objective is being met, these can be closely related or just loosely linked.
Keep it simple
The beauty of OKRs is how lightweight they are. You can set them and then let your employees achieve the results in the ways that they think are best. OKRs should be empowering, not a way for you to micromanage or control your staff. They should be there as a guiding light to keep your employees moving in the right direction at all times.
If you start to burden your OKRs with lots of meetings, documentation and heavy processes then it takes the joy out of them. They just become another task to try and fit in the day, which makes employees view them in a negative and restrictive light rather than viewing them as an activity which will help them flourish and grow.
Another mistake which employers make when trying to implement their OKRs is adding on more mini key results in their weekly check-ins. For example, they see that an employee isn’t on track to hit one of the key results. They then interfere and add on a few mini key results which ends up confusing and overwhelming the employee and in turn, nothing gets achieved at all. If you want to tweak the key results that’s absolutely fine and is encouraged. But do this in the correct way by getting rid of the old one and replacing it with the new one. Don’t complicate matters by piling on more and more requests because this is overcomplicating the process and damaging your chance of success.
We hope that this article helped you understand how to make your OKRs actually work in your business. Implementing and achieving OKRs is a long process that may be a tad challenging at first. However, if you put these actionable tips into practice we can assure you that you’ll start to reap the benefits within the first year so stick with it.
Hayley Biggs Marketing Coordinator at Ocasta https://www.linkedin.com/in/hayley-biggs/
Ocasta is an employee knowledge-focused technology agency and their mission is to transform how people work. They’ve helped the likes of Virgin Media, Next and Tesco Mobile with their employee knowledge platform.