Blog·HR Management

February 23, 2021

Objectives and Key Results: The Key to Remote Teams’ Success

Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) support remote teams: they promote collaboration and productivity. Find out how to use this disruptive goal framework.

CEO Andy Grove came up with the Objectives and Key Results system. He said there were 2 questions to ask when designing shared company goals:

1. Where do I want to go?

2. How will I pace myself to see if I am getting there?

Objectives are our vision for the company – our desired destination. Key results are how we get there, and track our progress along the way.

Objectives and Key results definition

What are Objectives and Key Results?

Objectives and Key Results allow businesses to align company-wide, team and individual targets. They break down broad company objectives into smaller, actionable key results.

It is based on traditional ‘management by objectives’ , but makes progress more quantifiable. Key Results must always be measurable. Google uses a scale of 0.0-1.0 to track progress towards Key Results. 1.0 translates to a completed result, and 0.6-0.7 suggests excellent progress.

Managers should not equate OKRs to performance indicators. Instead, OKRs support remote workers by highlighting their progress towards goals. Where a lower Key Result score is reached, more time or resources may be required.

What are the benefits of Objectives and Key Results for remote teams?

Falon Fatemi, CEO of Node, writes that the benefit of OKRs is their ability to boost morale: ‘By making time to celebrate the milestones, we create the camaraderie needed to tackle ambitious goals.’

When we are working from home, we often complete our tasks in a bubble. We may be unaware of how our work dovetails with important company targets.

Objectives and Key Results improve motivation because they highlight steps forward. They give teams the opportunity to celebrate progress – however small – towards a goal. As remote employees struggle with work-life balance and productivity, it can be reassuring to mark these positive steps.

Objectives and Key Results also bring much needed structure for remote teams. The OKR framework requires teams, managers and employees to check in with each other regularly. Not only does this help teams work towards their goals, it improves collaboration, as employees work towards shared targets.

Objectives and Key Results purpose for team members

OKRs also give the gift that keeps on giving – purpose. Organizational psychologist Wendy Ulrich says that ‘People find meaning when they see a clear connection between what they highly value and what they spend time doing.’ When managers make it clear that an employee’s efforts are translating into company results, they are more likely to feel this connection.

CEOs who create inspirational objectives for their company also create more meaningful work for their employees. Stretch goals challenge us, and when we are challenged in a friendly environment, employee satisfaction often improves.

By making time to celebrate the milestones, we create the camaraderie needed to tackle ambitious goals.

How to write Objectives and Key Results

Start with your Objectives. This is your final destination – your vision of where you want the company to be in the future. Usually these are planned before the start of the year or quarter by the CEO.

Objectives should be inspiring but realistic. A company-wide objective provides the inspiration for all other objectives – so make sure it is relevant for every team and employee.

Each company level (company-wide, team, employees) should set between 3 and 5 objectives. Less is more – too many objectives will confuse employees and hinder goal alignment.

Prioritize inspiring employees – with a broad vision that everyone can work towards. Make it fresh, and avoid phrases such as ‘Continue doing x’ – company-wide OKRs should be about challenging teams to go further.

For example, your company objective might be ‘Launch our new app by the next quarter’.

Sometimes statistics-free objectives pay off. For example, you might have the objective ‘Make our customers love our product’. At a first glance, this seems vague. However, objectives are supposed to clarify a wider vision. Customer satisfaction is an area that all teams can work towards – and your key results can lay out the steps to get there.

Objectives should:

  • Be finite, e.g. ‘by the next quarter’, and specific, ‘expand our services to France’

  • 3-5 objectives per organizational level

  • Inspiring and inclusive of all teams

  • Don’t be afraid to make it broad – if this will make it clear for your teams

Key Results

If your company-wide objectives are the final destination, your key results are the stepping stones that take you there. Each key result should directly lead towards an objective.

Write about 3 results per objective. Key Results should be more concrete and measurable than the objective. For example, ‘Launch a chat service on our website’ helps move towards the objective to improve customer satisfaction.

Key Results should be ambitious but not impossible. During remote work, many employees have reported burnout. The lines between work and home are more blurred than ever. With realistic and actionable key results, you can support your staff.

Break down Key Results if needed, and review them frequently - celebrating each win. Employees feel motivated as they make steps towards those big objectives.

Objectives and Key results employee engagement

Below we look at some examples of OKRs during remote work that can help support your employees – and keep teams on track.

OKR examples

Objective: :‘Create a strong work-from-home company culture’

Key Results:

  • Virtual manager town halls scheduled once monthly

  • Daily check-ins to improve communication

  • Achieve a Pulse score of 8+ in employee surveys

Objective: ‘Boost the number of qualified leads we interact with’

Key Results:

  • Launch email marketing campaign with 30 contact points a day

  • SEO optimize 100 pieces of content marketing

  • Improve website hits by 15% by next quarter

These examples support employees as they link daily tasks to wider company goals. Managers can assign tasks to ensure everyone buys in to team and company objectives.

Objectives and key results example

The OKR process: how to get started during work from home

You may have used OKRs before – and are now wondering how to translate the process to remote work.

Communicating OKRs happens differently in the remote environment. HR leaders must be more intentional about carving out time for employees to arrive at individual and team goals.

The key is to plan the process well in advance, and communicate your progress widely.

1 ) Educate company-wide on what OKRs are and how they support company success

It is especially important to highlight the benefits of OKRs to managers. Managers will be responsible for tracking progress towards team OKRs.

Organize a meeting where you explain how OKRs work, and why they will support company success.

Also ensure you have executive buy-in for an OKRs process. Objectives set by the CEO carry weight for managers and employees- and are more likely to drive long-term changes.

2) Brainstorm company OKRs together with executives and managers

Make sure you provide guidance to executives and managers as they draft company and team OKRs. Are their objectives realistic, inspiring and finite? Are their key results measurable, time bound and actionable?

CEOs tend to announce company objectives in December, just before the new year, so ensure you set aside time to support this process. Employees value having a clear focus as they move into a new year or quarter- they can start thinking about how to align their professional development goals moving forwards.

Objectives and key results manager training

3) Create a system for organizing the process

In normal times, organizing OKRs across an organization is an unwieldy task. During remote work, it can be a headache! Consider using software to streamline the goal-setting process and schedule one-on-one meetings where necessary.

Internal social media can also support OKRs during remote work. This can make your goal setting more visible for your teams.

4) Schedule meetings with managers to arrive at team objectives

Team objectives are the building blocks towards achieving company objectives. Ensure team objectives and company objectives are closely aligned.

You can also set deadlines for managers to complete their team’s goal setting to ensure they stay on track.

Objectives and key results actionable objectives

5) Virtual one-on-ones between employees, managers and HR professionals to draft personal development goals

You cannot set OKRs without consulting employees. Ask them what is a realistic time frame within which to complete their goals. Ask managers what their priorities are for the next year/quarter.

Individual goals or team goals do not always align perfectly with company-wide targets. These goals are instead ‘directionally aligned’ to the company’s objectives.

Try to think creatively about what will best motivate the team and action better results. This often works better than artificially aligning goals to company targets.

6) Present finalized team and company OKRs in an all-hands meeting

You have carefully compiled OKRs from every team, individual employee and executives. Now you need to communicate these objectives and the plan to achieve them.

A virtual all-hands meeting raises awareness of OKRs across the company. This is key to making OKRs stick – so that they inform employee development and company progress.

Draft a presentation – highlighting company objectives first. Make it inspiring and memorable, so that employees working from home have a strong sense of what their priorities are.

Publicise OKRs somewhere that employees will see them regularly – whether that’s on an HR software dashboard or internal social media. Remind managers to set tasks relevant to the Key Results they are aiming for. This is critical for organizational growth and employee development.

Objectives and key results communications

7) Managers follow up on team and individual objectives and key results

OKRs only work if they are reviewed regularly. Make sure managers celebrate the small wins – and especially whenever a Key Result is reached!

Objectives and Key Results help remote teams aim high

Objectives and Key Results provide a roadmap for your remote workers. They enable us to visualize where we want the company to be in the future, and to visualize the role we can play in achieving that.

OKRs provide a cure for many remote work roadblocks - improving employee motivation and collaboration, as goals are aligned across a company. PeopleGoal has a OKRs app in its App Store that allows you to automate the goal-setting process. Why not book a demo today to find out more?

Further Reading

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