Personal OKRs are a variant of the regular OKR framework where employees are required to align their work with that of the vision of the organization. There are contrasting views about their efficacy, with organizations like Spotify listing down their reasons to not use them. The concerns about personal OKRs is that they create unwanted competition between team members, and make individuals in teams work towards their personal goals alone instead of the basic principles of OKR which focus on the growth of the organization as a whole.
Personal OKRs depend on the bottom-up approach, where employees define their objectives and key results based on the overall vision of the organization. As with any process, there are right and not-so-right ways of doing so. Let us explore the benefits of personal OKRs for an individual and their teams, and examples where they can provide results.
What is a personal OKR?
Personal OKRs stem from the need of employees to be autonomous while working under a defined hierarchy. But this autonomy can’t be without structure – and that’s why the leaders of the organization who define the overall vision, are also required to be responsible for the OKRs set by individual employees, either directly or indirectly. With proper guidance and direction, employees can and will set OKRs that are not only beneficial for them, but their organizations too. This helps in elevating the way the employees feel, which then trickles down to customer experience. And if the employees don’t feel valued, customers won’t either.
Should individuals have OKRs?
Opinions differ in this regard – giants like Spotify have decided not to have individual OKRs (and they have listed plenty of reasons for going that route). The problems of individuals focusing only on their OKRs and not on the overall team ones are the main concern.
Personal OKRs measure value and impact, but the tendency is to default to tracking activities that end up being to-do lists. This can be avoided by clearly mentioning the metrics the employee is responsible for, instead of enforcing individual OKRs with team-level metrics. Avoiding activity-based OKRs is a rule of thumb when managers set personal OKRs for their team members.
How do you write good personal OKRs?
Personal OKRs can add value to the employee when they’re derived from company OKRs. This way, managers can track the progress of the projects and individual employee growth. Writing good personal OKRs isn’t difficult, but special attention is required to avoid the process turning into a to-do list. The steps mentioned below can help in creating effective personal OKRs:
- Managers decide on the mission and break the mission down into objectives in association with their team members
- Key results are drafted, based on the inputs and understanding of the team members – who are made to consider the need to achieve each Key Result
- Managers can hold the employees accountable, or the process can be shared among team members
- Managers can check in every 2–4 weeks to see if the key results are on track to be achieved, and offer help or coaching whenever necessary
What is an example of a good OKR?
Good OKRs inspire employees to focus on their work, but also give them a holistic picture of the organization. Good OKRs have many characteristics in common:
1. They help employees stay productive
Organizations using OKRs know that OKRs promote transparency and accountability across all levels. The clarity helps employees to proactively set their personal OKRs while getting help from their managers (in the initial stages at least). Managers can track progress and offer their assistance easily too.
2. They improve employee engagement
Managers can ensure that the personal OKR goals that are set by employees have a specific goal. The discussions after that can focus on setting a viable time frame that pushes employees just enough to up their game, but not over the top where they are paralysed by the scale.
3. They bring up the activity rate
OKRs help in reducing larger goals into small chunks, which can then be easily adapted into everyday work. This breakdown eases the pressure on employees, and when coupled with timely help from managers – they can attempt to identify new solutions that take them closer to their (and the organization’s) objectives.
4. They give confidence to employees about taking more responsibilities
With OKRs, employees spend less time figuring out what to do and more on how to go about the task. The frequency of team meetings and one on ones also allows them to highlight areas where they need help, instead of worrying about how it might make them look less knowledgeable in front of their colleagues.
5. They contribute towards an organized workplace
Having OKRs that clearly identify the objectives and key results that need to be achieved, can make the following tasks easy for employees. Since the results and the progress towards it can be seen due to the transparent nature of OKRs, employees can orient themselves or take the help of their managers to do so – and contribute towards achieving that goal.
6. They automatically prioritise important tasks
As OKRs are defined to have 3 to 5 objectives that need to be achieved within a fixed time frame, employees can prioritize them based on their schedule and the immediate needs of the organization (or customers).
7. They save time
The daily tasks that are performed in order to achieve Objectives contribute towards achieving the goals set by the organization. The clarity provided by OKRs on important tasks also simplifies the problem selection process and lets employees focus on things that matter (to them and the organization).
8. They simplify progress tracking
Good OKRs give a bird’s eye view of the progress made by individuals, teams, and the organization. Managers can help their team members by providing coaching or encouragement as and when required, instead of employees going to them with issues or suggestions.
9. They enable early identification of potential issues
It isn’t necessary that all OKRs reach the desired outcome: some might fail, but they give valuable insights into the working of the organization (or team) as a whole. Transparency and consistent frequency of one-on-ones simplify the identification of issues for managers and team members alike, and remedial measures can be taken before the issue gets out of control.
Personal OKRs help employees to quickly and efficiently reach the goals and progress towards the objectives they’ve set for themselves. This results in employees (and entire teams) becoming better organized and their work getting simpler, leaving more time for innovation and fun at work. The lack of pressure to achieve arbitrary results fosters a content atmosphere where creativity thrives.