Performance management is an important topic and one that is discussed regularly by business regulators and managers alike. Within every business, if you are expected to succeed and achieve in a particular manner, there will be targets and objectives that have been set for you to achieve. These targets can be set individually or else as a team target – smaller stepping stones building up to a larger organization based goal. That said, measuring performance isn’t set in stone and there are barriers to effectively managing performance. You need to be able to understand exactly what your staff are doing to achieve your long-term goals and have the data to back this information up. As a person within a managerial position, you need to be able to assertively claim that your staff is working effectively on the right things as a means of achieving the outcomes that you would expect them to achieve – and if not, what should be done to ensure that this is a short-term issue. That’s where KPIs or Key Performance Indicators can come into play to help you answer the questions. Individual and business based goals are quantified to an extent where you are able to effectively evaluate the performance of your employees. Understanding KPIs can be tricky at first, so this article will give you the information you need to fully understand the concept, what they are used for and ultimately how you can use them effectively within your workspace. What is a KPI? A Key Performance Indicator, otherwise known as a KPI, is a measurement tool that allows you to reflect upon how well a person or a business is achieving its objectives. KPIs take performance goals into consideration and allow staff to reflect effectively on what can be done to ensure that the goal is met. As an example, if you have set yourself and your business the goal of ensuring that you always deliver excellent customer service to your potential customers, you can look to use a KPI to achieve this – for example, through targeting any unresolved customer relations requests on a weekly basis. Setting goals is useless if you are unable to see progress – KPIs allow for progress to be measured effectively. KPIs allow for a link to be made between the business as a whole and individuals – individuals hitting targets consequently results in advancements being made on a business-wide scale and a KPI allows for this advancement to be monitored and measured. Critical Success Factors (CSFs) are the areas where your organization must perform well in order to be effective and successful. KPIs are the ways in which you can measure your CSFs – the actions you take out as a long-term means of achieving those success factors are done as a direct process for achieving the KPI. How to Set Organizational KPIs To set KPIs, you need to ensure that you and your organization have specific goals in mind. You need to make sure that your KPIs measure the necessary activities for each area of the business. Some KPIs are much more difficult to calculate than others – in terms of financial performance, measuring net profit is a standard means of calculating a KPI. This is an easy enough process and it’s easy to quantify the results – total revenue minus total expenses. As a business, you know that the higher your net profit, the better you are performing from a financial perspective. On the other hand, monitoring customer satisfaction as a KPI is difficult and requires a lot more time invested into it – through the use of customer relations surveys, regularly and numerous, that allows you to build up a good amount of data to analyze. Upon analyzing this data you will be able to decide what score you expect for your business to be achieving, setting yourself a benchmark that allows for smaller goals related to the KPI to be achieved. If your score falls below your expected benchmark, actions can be put into place to ensure that things return to normal – following up on customer inquiries as an example. When setting KPIs, you need to consider whether the goals are sensible and smart goals or not. You need to make sure your KPIs are specific – be clear about exactly what they are measuring and why this is important to your business requirements. Ultimately, KPIs need to be able to be measured to a defined metric – if you can’t measure progress on the KPI then there’s absolutely no point in having it there in the first place. Your KPIs must be achievable and reasonable – you have to be able to deliver on them so setting yourself unrealistic KPI targets is advised against. You need to make sure that everything you measure is relevant to your business and your performance – if it doesn’t measure performance then there’s no point to it. Consequently, KPIs should also have a time-limit on them – you should be able to say exactly when you will achieve the goal and this should be within an agreed time-frame. As an example, a smart KPI could be to ‘increase your email list on the website by 30% by the end of the year.’ The KPI has a goal, a time to have been achieved by, as well as a quantifiable measure. When constructing your KPIs, you should consider what the vision of the organization is and how exactly you’re going to go about achieving that vision. You have to understand how you use data and what data will allow you to prove to the higher powers that you have achieved this vision. You should be clear on how many metrics you’re taking into consideration and how you’ll be using the data. Understanding every aspect of your business and the business needs is key. You should also consider how people could use metrics such as these fraudulently – can they be faked? If so, how will you ensure that this doesn’t happen? How your team can consistently hit their KPIs Consistency is key – you need to have a plan in place to explain exactly how you’ll acquire the information you need and what you’re going to do with it once you have. Different pieces of information naturally need different methods to gather data and different systems will likely be used. Different types of data will also be collected at different frequencies to each other – sales data established on a daily basis, whilst other KPIs, with different sourced data required, may only be collected monthly or weekly. Time frames depend entirely on the type of data collected and there’s no single answer as to how often you should monitor KPI data. To succeed using KPIs, they need to be clearly communicated. Everyone needs to be on the same page and understand how they will contribute to each KPI’s individual success. Measuring KPIs can be beneficial to your business – something that is measured regularly and for which people are responsible for declaring regularly usually gets done – ‘what gets measured, gets done’ is a popular managerial phrase. Managing and measuring progress towards a particular goal means that it is much more likely to happen – setting a goal around an outcome gives it much more scope for success. Individual KPIs should align directly with the company’s strategy, otherwise, they won’t be achieved. Daily activities should be well-aligned with the overall goals of the organization – working on things outside of your major goals is important, of course, but you should not find yourself distracted away from the main goals. If you want to ensure that KPIs are consistently being met – and you have put meaningful, specific KPIs in place that accurately measures your business and team’s performances – then you could consider how things get done effectively should be rewarded. Incentives and rewards are definite ways of ensuring that progress is made towards the goal you have envisioned. Rewards should directly relate to KPIs that you have set – counterproductive actions should not be rewarded as this can be confusing. Generally speaking, employees aim to achieve their KPI targets because they want to be better and improve in their role. Targets should be realistic and positive – if they deflate your team’s momentum, then they’re not likely to be achieved quickly. You should ensure that any targets you set should be reviewed regularly and goals should be reset where necessary – performances should be managed and evaluated at regular intervals – but make sure you give yourself and your business enough time to get going and have some influence on the numbers themselves. The key to actioning on KPIs is communication- a lack of communication between employer and employee leaves absolutely no scope for progress and success. Managing your team is a difficult job – and monitoring and communicating progress and performance regularly makes that job all the easier. No one wants to be told that they’re doing a good job all year and then be told otherwise at an important meeting – be consistent, stay on top of things and know exactly where excellent performance is coming from.