Employee experience, a foundational element of the workplace that lies at the heart of an organization’s success, remains a top talent concern for HR leaders. This isn’t a surprise given that 46% of employees are largely dissatisfied with their overall experience at their organization, according to a survey by Gartner last fall.
Given the importance of employee experience and the attention already being paid to it by company leaders, this dissatisfaction must stem from a disconnect between company leaders and their employees throughout the business. The realities of the day-to-day tasks required to complete a project or achieve a goal can get lost in translation by the time they reach the C-Suite and make their way into a big picture strategic plan.
Track Employees’ Progress to Goals to Fuel Your Company Mission
To improve training and performance, the modern workplace needs to hone in on the crucial connection between employees and their operating environments — and that starts with data. By implementing a framework for data analysis automation and Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), organizations acquire a transformative ability to provide the insights needed to encourage and support successful employee performance.
First developed at Intel and now used by companies like Google, LinkedIn, Adobe and Facebook, OKRs are a powerful way to “cultivate connections among far-flung contributors. The OKRs give rise to fresh solutions, and keep even the most successful organizations stretching for more,” to quote the words of venture capitalist and early backer of Google, John Doerr, from his book Measure What Matters.
Organizations rely on their financial standing, data stemming from numerous efforts around sales and building revenue. Too often financial standing determines all goals communicated to investors, shareholders, and financial markets.
While reviewing and maintaining close oversight on data from the prior quarter or year is important and informative, awareness of whether a company is simply ‘winning’ or ‘losing’ is not enough. Teams need to come together to form a greater whole, breaking down the divisive functional silos, and develop a big-picture strategy to execute their tasks effectively.
Only 55% of middle managers can name even one of their company’s top five priorities, according to a survey by the Harvard Business Review. This fact is problematic and evidence of the siloed structure that exists within many organizations. First, a strategy needs to be articulated. Then, to ensure that employees aren’t spending hours during the workday “OKRing” instead of actually being productive, employ Dynamic Key Results.
Startups are developing software to support the OKR methodology via workflows and integrations with commonly used tools and platforms such as Jira, Salesforce, Asana, Hubspot, Google Sheets, Slack, Microsoft Teams, and more.
By connecting the data tools that people rely on every day into the OKR tool itself, any employee or manager can see updates on progress-to-goal at any given time. These tools allow executives and managers to easily access the real-time analytics and data-driven insights needed to set and revise overarching strategies and focus to ensure the company meets their goals.
Evaluating data on a real-time basis also helps managers to identify where a system or process is working and, more importantly, where it is not.
Leaders, You Are Losing Sight of the Link Between Employees and Strategy
It can be too easy to lose the thread of connection between a company’s top leaders and the people that they oversee, despite their intrinsic interconnections. Often, goals are determined at the top, and they trickle down the employee chain of an organization, dribbling off tasks here and there to various teams and individuals.
Unfortunately, the leaders at the top setting the strategy are not looped into the daily actions that should be focused on achieving those high-level goals. Similarly, employees throughout the company are not always as invested in the end result since they are often unable to see how they fit into the whole equation.
The solution? Flip the system! Enable employees to set goals from the bottom up in addition to responding to the goals determined in the C-suite and sent top-down.
Of course, it’s not as simple as that when you are dealing with organizations at an enterprise level with thousands of employees. Even when organizations are actively highlighting the importance of employee experience, they often lack the requisite insights and framework to encourage and support stellar performance amongst and across employees.
Without a framework to support achievement, it is difficult to recognize each individual’s contribution to the whole and motivate an entire workforce to perform at their best every day.
For organizations that do have systems in place to track progress and provide insights into performance, the challenge can be relying too heavily on the OKR methodology alone. Employees and managers alike have the tendency to “set it and forget it” when it comes to systems like these.
In other words, at the beginning of the quarter they may write out objectives, but too often they don’t check in on them until the end of the period (or when it’s too late to correct problems). The simple fact is that regularly updating the progress around key results, particularly at an enterprise scale, has been arduous. Thus, the default response is to simply not update until a mad scramble at the end of a quarter.
Since simply creating a process to provide insights into employee performance is not enough, it is employee engagement itself that demands focus by company leaders. This area is a promising one, as employee engagement has been steadily on the rise.
According to a Gallup survey from 2018, the percentage of “engaged” workers in the U.S. (meaning those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace) reached its highest point, (34%) since Gallup began reporting the national figure in 2000.
Pay Attention to Employee Engagement, and Start Now
What exactly is employee engagement? It’s more than just workers engaging in their work. It is reached by fostering a working environment where employees are consistently in a positive psychological state. Finding this balance can be difficult and require some core changes to the way in which people think about human experience at work, but the results enjoyed by those organizations that manage it are proving incredible.
After all, in the modern workplace, the employee experience is about more than just fulfilling a contractual agreement outlining an exchange of goods and labor. Employers who ignore the basic human psychological motivators or dismiss their employees’ ‘moments that matter’ forego a key opportunity to support their workforce.
Compensation and benefits alone won’t satisfy people, and attending to external motivators ultimately supports optimal performance at work– so in the end, it’s a win-win.
The Time is Now: Involve Your Employees in the Strategic Plan
The evidence exists that OKRs can increase employee engagement by allowing employees to participate in decision-making at the most basic level. Setting bottom-up goals for the company and also encouraging employees to set their own inspiring personal goals is an effective way to empower individual employees in charting their own courses while also aligning with the greater company initiatives.
Employees who feel caught up in their granular day-to-day tasks can benefit from setting their own goals to highlight the meaning of their daily work. To this end, they’ll be able to use OKRs as both a “personal roadmap” and a way of connecting with the organization’s purpose.
Now, if a company is using an automation platform to aggregate these OKRs, not only will employees be clearer on their goals, but also they’ll spend less time each day deciding between activities and figuring out where they stand.
The whole idea behind leveraging smart technology to track execution of strategy throughout a company is to streamline the tiny bits of data that are constantly collected throughout a worker’s day-to-day tasks.
By integrating OKRs with commonly used software tools and platforms that employees use every day, companies ultimately cut down on time spent ‘tracking,’ build investment in their employees around the overall mission, and increase engagement in the workplace.
To improve employee experience and reduce the quantity of dissatisfaction in the workplace, companies will need to change their practices to rally employees — not just as a company, but as human beings — around a common mission by establishing unique goals and progress markers for each individual.
There is no ‘faking it’ when it comes to tracking OKRs. Employees and teams either hit their marks or don’t; but if it’s a miss then at least the evidence is there to identify the gaps and inform the future. What the OKR method really offers is the potential to create a transparent focus and agenda that unifies a greater team and legitimizes which tasks each individual needs to work towards and achieve.
Tracking progress, identifying gaps, and ultimately celebrating wins– these practices are the future, and it all starts with data.