OKRs — also known as Objectives and Key Results — are often viewed as a strategy by senior management and operational executives to execute a critical, integrated, and holistic framework for the entire company. However, workforce supervisors and human resources executives can benefit even more from OKRs when it comes to their function in the entire organization.

First off, it’s worth noting that your OKR strategy and analysis should be riding alongside your employee work management software. There’s no doubt they are distinct from each other — separate programs, interfaces, and initiatives. However, this type of employee software is essential to simultaneously reaching your Objectives and Key Results.

So what are the components of OKRs, and how can they help your workforce management ecosystem?

Workforce Goals: Zero-In on What Matters Most

With OKRs, you’re able to zero-in on what matters most regarding your workforce development goals in any given quarter, facilitating conversations around what’s most important and painting a visual for your team. OKRs offer golden opportunities and can communicate openly how your human resources department will allocate its energy, efforts, and budget for the next 90 days to align with its highest priorities.

“Every so often, we find ourselves chasing opportunities that appear as a must and sound great and promising, but at the end of it, you find yourself dealing with the reality of things — that it is not up to par with your strategy,” states a business executive and CEO in a recent piece in Forbes. “An OKR helps keep you on track, focused and aligned with a defined strategy; it helps you avoid wasting precious time and resources. OKRs represent a better way to holistically think. It offers cross-functional alignment, transparency, and coherence. This framework can help you set a strategy that will touch upon everyone’s perspective and creativity, making sure the team is clear on priorities and are moving in the same direction.”

To define, align, and drive desired outcomes — whether you manage employees with a work-from-home software system (WFH) or not — OKRs provide a common language and framework. Teams can use them to clarify what they want to accomplish each quarter and how they will measure their progress toward achieving it. Aspirational goals, with the help of the OKR framework, are achievable. It’s a framework that can be used to help employees prioritize their efforts, align efforts, and measure outcomes. OKRs are often used and referenced by teams daily or weekly, but when the department is undergoing a period of transformation or change, they can be especially valuable.

Individuals or small teams may also use OKRs to set and rally around intentional goals. They are most often used by departments to execute strategic priorities, but workforce management and human resource functions can benefit as well.

In Which Ways Does an OKR Differ from a Goal?

In one OKR, there are multiple key results:

  • Principles and objective: An organization or team’s objective is a statement regarding its direction and intent. It’s not the purpose of objectives to specify how the team will achieve them.
  • Features of the objective: Focus on purpose and ambition. People should feel motivated and inspired by any objective, which describes an ideal future-state. Teams are motivated to reach higher when they have lofty, aspirational objectives.
  • Not quantitative: It’s not necessary to measure objectives (that’s the purpose of key results).
  • Short-range or comprehensive: It may take months or years to achieve an ambitious, towering objective. Whether the objectives are short-term or long-term, they can last one quarter, several quarters, or even more than a year.
  • No more than five: Team members should be able to focus their time and resources on no more than three to five objectives per quarter in order to maximize productivity.

Important Outcomes and Accomplishments

It’s important for a team to set lofty goals to work diligently and strive for success. The question is, how do you know if you’ve met your objective? Well, for an objective to be met, key results must be achieved.

Focus, then, on the following attributes of key results:

  • Measurable: Each key result has a numerical target indicating the level of completion.
  • Determined and spelled-out quarterly: In contrast to objectives, which may take multiple quarters or years to accomplish, key results are tasks to be completed within the quarter.
  • Four to six key results per objective: To ensure people’s resources are focused, teams should ideally have four to six key results.
  • Results oriented. The goal of a key results document or outline should not be viewed as a list of specific activities, but rather as a description of the outcome to be achieved after the activities are completed. Rather than simply completing tasks, your team should care more about realizing an intended outcome (not activities, but outcomes). A company’s strategy can be achieved more effectively with an outcome mindset.

Why Should HR Departments Use OKRs? What are the benefits?

It is OKRs that can help any human resources department meet the needs of its team, as well as the needs of the company or organization’s entire workforce. The benefits of OKRs for business can be categorized into six categories:

  • Decisive clarity and precision: Everyone knows the team’s strategy and how their work contributes to it. OKRs provide transparency and clear visibility into a unified strategic objective.
  • Arranged vertically and laterally — and aligned: With the team’s expertise and insight, OKRs are voiced into descriptive language, team culture, and hard figures/numbers.
  • Passionate end results: By setting big, bold goals and measuring success by key results, teams can set a clear benchmark for winning.
  • Responsibility and accountability: All team members will contribute to achieving the OKRs if they are fully transparent throughout the department and the organization at large.
  • System and resource alignment: A clear understanding of the strategy eliminates redundancies and focuses human resources on executing it.
  • Standardized education and development: The process of capturing ongoing learning and documenting how team members navigate through roadblocks should be organic. A workforce management department’s OKRs facilitate systematic learning throughout the organization.

Those wanting more insight can read ‘Answering Five Critical Questions Executives Ask About OKRs’ by Bain & Company consultancy.

You’ll want to keep these categories in mind as you implement, build out, and continually develop your workforce management software.

New Software, Platform, & Tools: Achieving Objectives and Key Results

A common-denominator approach is not appropriate for any new business systems or processes. What works for your HR department could very likely not be what works for others, depending on your company, small business, organization, or public agency. Workforce supervisors and human-capital managers must take into account the unique brand, posture, technology stack, and anticipated needs of their organizations when implementing OKRs.

Many first-time OKR deployments are often accomplished using simple processing, spreadsheet, or analytics software when the technical requirements are low. Tools offer a visual evaluation of progress by identifying OKRs, tracking progress scores and verbatims, and calculating averages. Ideally, any tool should serve as a single, reliable source of truth for the entire organization, and it should be accessible and many people to edit when needed. However, adoption of advanced software solutions at a large scale requires more sophisticated solutions.

To keep Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) front-and-center while teams are making progress toward your plan, you need OKR tools that integrate with your current ecosystem.

That’s where the right total workforce management system comes into play. Reach out to VCS Software for more insights and advice.

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