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Goals and OKRs Explained

6 min read

We all have goals, both in our personal and professional lives. Goals and objectives enable us to move forward in a methodical way and take purposeful steps towards where we want to be. 

In the world of the workplace, goals and OKRs are critical. Goal setting is not just a tick-box exercise during the annual appraisal. Instead, goals are essential components for achieving organisational success. 

In this article, we explore the meaning of goals and OKRs, why they are important for business success, how they are measured, and how to effectively manage them. On top of that, we outline the roles of different stakeholders in the goal-setting process and highlight key elements for a successful strategy.


What is meant by goals and OKRs?

Goals and OKRs (objectives and key results) are not isolated concepts but rather intertwined. Goals, in essence, are what employees aim to achieve. The process of setting these goals should be a collaborative effort between managers and employees, allowing for the identification of weaknesses and opportunities. Specific objectives are crafted to address these areas. These objectives may encompass various aspects, including performance improvement or professional development, such as acquiring a new qualification.

What is OKR? Objective and key results setting provides a more granular perspective on goal setting. They not only outline the target but also articulate what success looks like through key results. Key results are often quantifiable metrics that enable measurement. For instance, if an employee’s goal is to enhance customer satisfaction, a key result might be a specific percentage increase in customer satisfaction scores. 

Studies show that individuals who are set actionable tasks achieved their goals 40% faster than those who didn’t. This demonstrates the value of not only setting targets but identifying the key results and outlining how employees will get there. 

Why are goals and OKRs important for business success? 

Goals and OKRs are the engines that drive business success. They are instrumental in motivating employees and enhancing productivity. Businesses require a constant competitive edge to maintain or increase their market share. Setting and achieving goals are key strategies to gain that competitive advantage. 

Objective and key results setting can also help bridge skill gaps within the organisation. By setting clear objectives, employees are encouraged to develop the necessary skills to meet those objectives. This not only benefits the individual but also contributes to the organisation’s growth and success.

On top of that, employee retention is another critical aspect where goals and OKR shine. When employees have clear goals and can track their progress, they feel a sense of accomplishment, which can boost their job satisfaction. Satisfied employees are more likely to stay, reducing turnover. Win-win. 

How are goals and OKRs measured?

Ideally, effective goal setting and measurement involve defining key results in a quantitative, rather than qualitative, manner. Quantitative data is objective, leaving little room for subjectivity or interpretation. Either an objective is met, or it is not.

Grading OKRs is a useful practice that allows both managers and employees to clearly evaluate goal achievement. A grading system can often come in handy when a goal is not fully ticked off the list but has been progressed. This grading can be done on a scale, for example, from 0 to 5, or even using percentages. 

How to improve management of goals and OKRs

When a manager and employee agree and set professional goals, that’s not the end of the process. The management of goals for work should be continual and woven into the practices of every organisation. Let’s take a look at some examples of ways to effectively manage employee objectives to maximise the opportunity for success: 

  1. Clear and Communicable Goals

Efficient goal management begins with clear, transparent communication of objectives across the organisation. Research shows us that 42% of employees are more likely to achieve their goals when they are written down, showing us the importance of clearly communicated targets. 

Ensure that every employee understands the company’s vision and how their individual goals contribute to it. This shared understanding builds motivation and engagement, making the company’s mission a daily part of the work culture.

  1. Regular Reviews

Rather than limiting target-setting discussions to annual appraisals, establish a culture of regular, ongoing reviews of goals. These discussions should take place in 1:1 meetings, providing a platform to review progress, offer feedback, and make necessary adjustments. These reviews should be accompanied by the provision of necessary resources and support, ensuring employees have the tools and guidance needed to achieve their targets. 

  1. Agility

The market changes and, because of that, adaptability is crucial. Organisations and employees should be open to change and continuously reassess goals to maintain alignment with evolving company needs. This adaptability should be a thoughtful process, not a constant goal-shifting exercise. It’s about evaluating the impact of changes on current goals and ensuring they remain relevant to the company’s mission whilst remaining responsive to market dynamics.

  1. Technology and Tools

Leverage technology and goal-tracking tools to streamline the management of objectives and key results. Many software solutions are available, such as Factorial, to assist with setting, tracking, and assessing progress toward objectives. These tools can simplify the goal-setting process, facilitate real-time monitoring, and provide data-driven insights. Implementing the right technology can significantly improve efficiency and effectiveness in goal management.

  1. Training and Development

Employees need the right support to achieve their professional goals. Organisations should invest in employee training and development to equip them with the skills and knowledge necessary to achieve their goals for work. Offer access to workshops, courses, and coaching that support professional growth. 

Who is responsible for setting and monitoring goals and OKRs 

It’s not just managers who set goals, and this certainly shouldn’t be done unilaterally. Individual objectives and key results should be a collaborative process to maximise the benefit for both the individual and the organisation. Let’s take a look at some of the key stakeholders who play a role in objective setting: 

Role of Management

Management is responsible for aligning employee goals with company objectives, ensuring consistency in the goal-setting process, and providing leadership. They bridge the gap between strategic company goals and day-to-day employee efforts, ensuring that individual goals contribute significantly to the organisation’s success.

Managers should also be employee cheerleaders and supporters. Managers facilitate the achievement of goals through the provision of the right tools and resources but also, more holistically, employee general wellbeing support. 

Managers also monitor the progress and status of objectives and key results through data reporting and discussions with their team members.

Role of HR

HR facilitates the goal-setting process by providing expert support and guidance. HR professionals introduce and oversee systems and tools for goal setting and monitoring, offer training, and ensure that policies and practices support the process’s fairness and effectiveness.

Role of the Employee

Employees should actively participate in goal setting by aligning their personal goals with company objectives. Employees’ main role should, of course, involve striving to achieve their professional goals and regularly reviewing their progress. Employees should actively engage in open communication with managers and take ownership of their professional development.

Key elements for a successful goal-setting strategy

To build a successful goal-setting strategy, organisations could consider these important elements: 

  1. Alignment with Company Objectives

A successful goal-setting strategy begins with aligning employee goals with the broader objectives of the company. This alignment ensures that individual efforts contribute directly to the organisation’s success. Transparency plays a crucial role in this process, as employees should clearly understand how their personal goals fit into the larger picture. Regular reviews should be conducted to make sure that individual goals continue to support the evolving objectives of the organisation.

  1. Consistency and Communication

Consistency and clear communication are the cornerstones of a well-structured goal-setting strategy. Maintaining organisation-wide consistency in goal setting, implementation, and evaluation is essential to create a unified approach. Clear policies and guidelines should be established and communicated to all employees to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Providing training and support to employees and managers is critical, as it equips them with the knowledge and skills needed to navigate the goal-setting process effectively.

  1. SMART Goals

The core of an effective goal-setting strategy lies in creating SMART goals. These goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Specificity ensures that the objectives are clearly defined, leaving no room for ambiguity. Incorporating measurable metrics allows for objective measurement, enabling employees to track their progress. Whilst goals should be challenging, they must also be attainable to maintain motivation. Relevance ensures that the goals align with both the employee’s role and the company’s objectives. Finally, setting a timeframe for goal completion creates a sense of urgency and ensures that progress is regularly assessed.

  1. Feedback and Adaptability

Feedback and adaptability are vital elements of a successful goal-setting strategy. Introduce feedback mechanisms throughout the process, encouraging open and constructive communication between employees and managers. This feedback loop helps fine-tune goals and make necessary adjustments. Encourage employees and managers to be open to changing goals when organisational priorities shift.

  1. Recognition and Rewards

Achieving a goal is great, but simply moving on and setting another goal may leave employees feeling a bit deflated. Organisations shouldn’t forget the importance of acknowledging employees’ efforts and celebrating goal achievements. Building a culture of recognition not only motivates employees but also sets an example for their peers. Professional goal achievement rewards may include financial incentives or even promotions.

  1. Continuous Learning and Development

A robust goal-setting strategy should incorporate a focus on continuous learning and development, as employees will require the right resources and support to achieve their targets. As well as structured training, providing access to mentoring and coaching is equally important. 

Goals and OKRs with Factorial 

Factorial’s goal-setting software enables your organisation to set and monitor objectives and systematically track employee progress, ensuring that both individual employees and the organisation as a whole are on the path to success. The goal-setting software facilitates the creation of milestones. This feature ensures that everyone within your organisation remains on the same page when it comes to their objectives and can visualise the strides they are making toward achieving them.

Factorial also provides organisations with the tools to define quantitative, measurable KPIs. This data-driven approach allows both managers and employees to objectively assess the progress of targets. On top of that, Factorial allows you to assign custom goals with clear timeframes, adapt objectives to different roles and seniority levels, and integrate OKR into your 360-degree performance reviews.

Amy is a knowledgeable People professional with over a decade of experience across a variety of private and public sector organisations. With a particular interest in employee engagement, Amy is an advocate for employee-centric approaches in all areas of HR which is reflected in her writing. Before a career in HR, Amy read English and Creative Writing at university and later studied for her CIPD, HR Management.

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