4 minute read – Last updated: May 5, 2020

Shifting to performance goals in our current circumstances

Ask the Expert with Robert St-Jacques — Episode 7

Our GM of Professional Services Robert St. Jacques has been answering the questions we continue to receive about HR and people management changes during the health crisis. 

Q: How to shift to performance goals?

RSJ: This is what I do pretty much every day, as I help organizations transition and shift towards more performance goals. What do we mean by performance goals? What we’re talking about here is focusing more on outcomes, rather than outputs. If you think about it, you’ve got your outputs — these are the things that you do every day. Your tasks, your projects, your initiatives, your activities. When you’re looking at performance goals, what you’re doing is asking the question, “why am I doing this? To what end? What am I trying to achieve with this?” 

When you’re starting to shift towards performance goals, you need to get out of the mindset of a series of tasks or activities and move more towards outcomes. This is where the OKR (objectives and key results) framework comes in handy. If you’re writing a goal, what the science tells us is that a well-written goal usually includes some sort of qualitative aspirational statement, and also includes some quantitative milestones attached to it.

The important piece is that these are outcome-oriented. There’s a reason why we focus on outcomes or the end result of a series of tasks or projects. I’ll give you an example. You can have an objective that you want to improve customer experience. Great, everybody can agree that’s a good thing. One of the milestones you may have is that you want to increase your net promoter score with customers from 40 to 50. That is not a single project — it is probably a set of initiatives, activities, and projects that are related to that. Some are outputs that are related, things that you’re going to do daily in terms of improving the customer experience, like improving your processes, improving the communications, improving staff training. So you can see there’s a lot of activities or outputs that are related to focusing on the outcomes, which in this case is an increase in net promoter score, which is evidence of improving the customer experience. 

In terms of getting started with it, it starts from the top. In OKRs, we say it’s top-down, bottom-up. The leaders set out to provide the three, four, maybe five outcomes — the main performance goals that you’re looking for and cascade those down. I don’t mean cascade in terms of forcing people to follow, I mean cascade in terms of communicating them to people. And then the bottom-up aspect comes in, where individual employees or teams come back and say how they would like to contribute to those outcomes. 

In terms of shifting to performance goals, just remember a few things: 

  • Top-down, bottom-up
  • You’ve got to have well-written goals themselves that include an aspirational qualitative statement, and some quantitative milestones
  • Make sure that you wrap that all into an ecosystem, which is reinforced by transparency, regular one-on-ones, and feedback.

Do you have a question that you would like Robert to answer? Send it in and we may include it in an upcoming episode.