Working Smart: Use OKRs for Better Company Performance

November 7, 2013 - 6 minute read - Posted by

Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Forbes published an article about Why Millennial Women are Burning Out at Work Before 30 couple of years ago and it still resonates with me. With the economic downturn, there is a pressure on employees to work harder. There is this huge misconception that working harder means working more hours. A workaholic lifestyle will get you results in the short run, but it will also make your employees burnt out in the long run. Many companies are offering flexible schedules and working remotely because they are realizing that their employees want a balanced lifestyle. They have come to realize that working more does not lead to higher performance. Working smart does.

Malcolm Gladwell, the author of The Outliers, mentions the “10,000-Hour Rule”, suggesting that the key to success is a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of 10,000 hours. Being highly disciplined mean focusing on the right task and dedicating one’s time to master it. The key is definitely to be priority focused or you will burn out. To be successful in life, you need to strike the right balance between work and personal life. There are several ways that you can organize your company to encourage your employees to work smart:

Set Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) for each employee

Very often, employees find themselves at work not knowing what to do. One substantial problem is that most employees do not know what the company as a whole is working towards. Objectives and Key Results is a goal-setting methodology used by companies such as Google and Zynga. OKRs promote transparency of objectives from the organizational level to the departmental level. Employees can clearly see how they can impact the organization by setting objectives that are well aligned. Knowing what they have to do on a monthly or quarterly basis allows employees to prioritize their time for the most important and urgent tasks. Better time management leads to working smarter.

Strive for results

A key to performance is defining specific goals. Objectives are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound. As an employee who uses OKRs, I have found myself more focused as I know what are the end results that I am held accountable for. Handing your employees a list of tasks to be completed is not ideal for complexed objectives. Set your expectations for the end results and empower your employees to find ways to accomplish the goals. By allowing your employees to create their own action plans, you are taking into consideration that each employee is unique and works differently. Although you would want to focus on whether your employees have achieved their objectives, you also need to look at the How – were they aligned with the company’s core values? Did they demonstrate behaviours that should be recognized?

Create Transparency Across the Organization

Being able to publicly share your objectives and key results with the rest of the organization fosters team work among peers. Working smart is also knowing how to effectively use your limited resources. Seeing what your other coworkers are doing will not only help you understand what other people are doing, but also align your efforts with theirs to make a greater impact. There is a higher sense of urgency when your objectives are interdependent with those of your peers. It is also easier to get support from your peers when they know exactly what you are working on. It creates higher engagement from employees, which leads to higher productivity.

Empower Employees to Set their Own Schedule

Now that your employees know what they need to focus on and have a better idea of how others spend their times, it does not necessarily mean that they will execute at that exact moment. People work best at very different times and in different ways. For example, I work best in the mornings and I manage my time better when I assign my time into batches of 1-2 hours. Other coworkers prefer a late start as they are more productive in the afternoons and will assign block of time dedicated for one task. What I am trying to point out is that forcing employees to work from 8 am to 5 pm everyday may seem like they are putting in the right amount of hours. However, they may be unproductive most of the time during that block of time.

It is important to think about your employees in terms of the hours they put in as there are consequences that affect your business directly. Many employees who feel burnt out lose motivation in the long run tend to be unhappy. Being unhappy at work will lead to them finding another job. The worst is having your employees stay with your company and not deliver the high quality of work because they are mentally burnt out. As a manager, you have the ability to create a productive culture by implementing OKRs in your organization. Happy employees lead to a healthier workplace, which eventually leads to higher productivity.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,