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Written by Pete Wilkinson

Last updated 14 April 2022 ·

How to identify high performers with OKRs

OKRs, objectives and key results are simply defined as a method of setting goals that align employees toward the same outcome to achieve better results than if each person were establishing their own goals independently. This method originated from Intel in the 1990s and has grown in popularity ever since. OKRs are a beneficial tool to achieve a tighter focus and faster growth. However, they are also instrumental in identifying high performers in your business as progress, achievements and performance levels become highly visible to others. Furthermore, OKRs can also be used to help those who aren’t achieving their full potential reach new heights. We’ll take a look at both of these uses in this article.

Reviewing the basics

As a manager, one of your top priorities is building an engaged workforce. You need high performers but also team members who want to take on more responsibility and grow their skills. That’s where OKRs come in. They help you create performance goals that are relevant for individual contributors and teams and entire departments, so you can identify those who go above and beyond what’s expected.

Choosing OKRs and KPIs

Its vital OKRs are set initially at the top of the organisation by the business leader and cascaded throughout all teams, so the strategic priorities are reflected across all levels. The focus of a company’s top-level goals and initiatives translates into actionable objectives for frontline workers. For example, suppose your objective is to boost sales. In that case, key results and KPIs should include incremental quarterly and annual targets that prioritise developing the selling skills of those responsible for delivering these goals. Defining OKRs at each level and ensuring they are aligned to the business level strategic priorities is crucial for effective implementation and success.

Setting objectives

Our award-winning 1-3-5® business planning methodology recommends that people set three mission-critical objectives that are specific, easy to understand, and inspiring. These should define the work required to achieve the vision. It’s important to cap the number of objectives set, otherwise, you could end up with 33 objectives resulting in an extreme feeling of overwhelm.

For example, an objective could be to increase sales by 50% in the next 6 months. This is specific as it contains a numerical measure, and it directly relates to the company’s growth goal. In addition, it has a deadline attached to it, ensuring managers will prioritise the objective and not allow for low performance for an extended period of time.

Measuring success

OKRs, objective key results aprovide a way of both identifying hard workers and helping those who want to reach high performance. By setting daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual objectives for your team members, you can quickly identify whether someone is putting in extra effort or if they’re struggling in particular areas. OKRs are set over a specific time period, and key results are clear cut measures of performance that are either achieved or not. There is no grey area. Tracking and monitoring OKRs across all teams allows senior leaders to quickly identify which groups and individuals are consistently achieving their key results within that set timeframe.

Finding rising stars

It’s sometimes hard to find rising stars because they don’t always shine brightly within an overcrowded workplace. For example, in a single meeting, you might only see a high performer who is stellar at public speaking, while another team member may be much better at behind-the-scenes tasks. To identify these high performers more accurately, it’s helpful to consider each worker on different metrics. OKRs tailor the metrics to the individual in terms of their direct responsibilities and allows you to closely monitor progress, performance, and achievements specific to their role.

Giving recognition

People like to be recognised for a job well done. There’s no need for flowery praise here; simply show you’re paying attention and appreciate their efforts. You don’t have to hand out sweet treats every day (though, in small doses, it can work well). Giving a shout-out at staff meetings or writing handwritten notes thanking employees for their contributions will make people feel valued.

Equally, it’s vital to approach any areas of inefficiencies identified with caution. Those that aren’t achieving what’s expected of them may need further guidance, training or support, and OKRs help remember this so it can be resolved.

Working better together

The true nature of OKRs leads to a higher level of transparency and visibility of roles and responsibilities throughout the business. Whilst some may not be keen on this idea initially, there are many benefits. One of which is that it encourages a culture of increased awareness and understanding across different levels and departments. Teams become more aligned towards achieving common goals and are more likely to help each other succeed. OKRs can act as a motivational system that emphasises cross-department cooperation to foster a cooperative atmosphere in your office. You’ll have a workforce that is more engaged and motivated because they understand how their work impacts other departments. This will lead to an increase in productivity, performance and employee retention - all critical components for any successful business.

To learn more about OKRs check out our complete guide - OKRs, objectives and key results: Everything you need to know.

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