At this time of year, all business owners are thinking about what the New Year could bring. Make the unknown more known though with a renewed focus on performance and objective setting.
This year being 2020 is so apt in many ways. At a time when the business landscape around us feels distinctly blurred and unclear, what differentiates great from good will be those that can somehow navigate their way through it all; those that have greater clarity, or perfect 2020-vision.
Having 2020-vision for 2020 should be the watchword all firms serious about their future bottom lines. But it’s hardly surprising the ‘somehow’ part of it (and what the solution really is) can feel daunting. It’s tempting to think, for instance, that attention to softer elements of the employer-employee contract need fixing first. Data from Aviva, for instance, finds 22% of staff have changed employer because they seek more flexibility. Bingo, that’s the answer. Well…no, maybe not.
Staff want feedback
It’s worth noting that while staff clearly want their workplace to be adaptive, deeper investigations are revealing a more nuanced picture. Recent research by Investors in People, for example, actually sheds more light on the most common reason staff are unhappy in their current role – and the overwhelming answer is actually poor management (43%). In fact, nearly a third (28%) of employees it polled said they would rather have clear career progression, while a quarter (24%) wanted more investment in their training and development.
Perhaps employers are afraid to have tough conversations about how their employees’ performance might need improving (especially with millennials) but this is also a generalisation. New management theory points to staff preferring to hearing tough news and be given clear performance reviews – as long as they can be given the support they need to overcome these issues, to further their careers.
Empowered leaders and managers
Findings like this join the ever-growing tower of data which appears to show employees would rather they know where they are going in their organisation, what role they stand to play in it – including what learning & development and performance conversations they need to address their weaker points. Academics have coined this the desire for more ‘Empowered Leadership’ – getting those around them skilled and trusted to make their own decisions that contribute to an overall stated aim or outcome. This way, work becomes more meaningful, to more people, more of the time.
OKRs – measure what matters
A key part of empowered leadership is the breaking down of a problem (or a strategic direction), into more manageable chunks. It’s this guiding principle that also lies at the heart of OKR (or Objectives and Key Results), theory – and which why some believe that if organisations really want to ‘see’ well into 2020, this is the solution they should seek first.
Unlike KPIs, OKR theory is all about ‘measuring what matters’ (this was the title of the book first popularizing OKR by John Doerr in 2018). In this goal-setting system, it’s objectives that define what employees need to achieve. Key results are simply how these top-priority goals will be attained with specific, measurable actions within a set time frame. In such a system, everyone's goals, from the new joiner to the CEO, are transparent, and are available to see by all.
OKRs are literally transforming how businesses – including the likes of Google – now operate because they focus effort and foster coordination. Best of all, they also keep employees on track. And they link objectives across silos to unify and strengthen the entire company. They empower managers too, and along the way, OKRs enhance workplace satisfaction and boost retention.
It goes without saying that an OKR-reliant culture requires the right level of IT and software support to automate progress towards goals, and flag up under-performance early. But once in place, reaching objectives and giving an outstanding performance quickly becomes part of the everyday narrative of working. Now isn’t that what you’d rather have as your greatest New Year gift?
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