Achieving The Future Of Work Using OKRs

The way we work has indescribably changed over the last year, and it’s doubtful that we’ll ever completely go back to the way things were. HR professionals and executives are talking about the future of work: the way things will look as we transition into a more distributed and resilient workforce.

While this may seem like a very nebulous vision, OKRs can help companies further define and achieve these goals by aligning teams and driving action.

Many companies post COVID-19 have faced a reckoning about how to move forward. Remote work has become commonplace, but employees miss in-person interaction. There’s more flexibility on location, but how do they ensure everyone’s technology set up is up to date? Open questions related to performance management, employee experience, and leadership also linger.

OKRs, or Objectives and Key Results, have helped multiple companies break aspirational goals into more actionable steps. Noted for their inherent transparency, they are a powerful way to express the goals of the company to foster alignment.

Employees can see how their efforts contribute to the larger priorities. Using OKRs to set HR goals shows your organization that these goals are not some esoteric HR project but are high-level priorities that impact everyone at the company.

According to Gartner, these goals are top of mind for HR professionals as we move through 2021. By combining them with a strategic OKR framework, you can improve the employee experience at your company as we enter the future of work. We’ve included a sample OKR for each goal to help you think through the structure of your own.

Defining the future of work

To define the future of work, company leadership must determine how the business will move forward. Once that is clear, the workplace experience can be refined, and programs can be implemented to support performance and development initiatives. What permanent shifts will occur? Document these, and then verbalize the overall objective.

Perhaps it’s related to developing connections at the workplace via core value implementation or defining if the culture will be remote-first or hybrid work. Having a clear objective helps you research best practices for KRs to implement them.

• Objective: Define the future of work at our company to engage and empower all employees to do their best work.

◦ KR: Define working and communication norms across the organization to facilitate more effective collaboration.

◦ KR: Empower employees by giving them the tools they need (technical, information, etc.) to do their jobs well.

Critical skills and competency development

Another key area when thinking about future work is defining critical skills and supporting competency development. Managers should be able to outline which skill sets are needed to achieve their team and the company’s goals.

Once defined, managers and HR can work together to develop competency frameworks. This leads to more efficient performance evaluations, improved succession planning, and greater team efficiency. Emphasizing skill development also encourages a culture of learning, which many employees credit as a strong indicator of retention and engagement.

• Objective: Define critical skills and create a competency matrix to give employees a clear picture of what success looks like at the organization.

◦ KR: Meet with team leaders to define critical skills on each team.

◦ KR: Create a competency matrix to inform ongoing performance evaluations and provide clarity on top performance for each role.

Organizational design and change management

Nowadays, organizations would be amiss if they don’t consider their employees’ needs when designing the overall culture and strategy. Successful change management has moved away from the traditional top-down approach and now requires input and support from employees at all levels of the company.

This helps companies design a proactive – not reactive – culture consciously designed for resilience and adaptability. Think of it as open-source change management to get employee feedback on initiatives.

• Objective: Implement strategic initiatives in a phased manner to gain buy-in from members across the organization to lead to greater adoption.

◦ KR: Conduct four focus groups with key demographics across the company to get feedback on strategic initiatives and determine priorities.

◦ KR: Reach out to 6 employees throughout the company to have them advocate for new process changes.

Employee experience

Employees have the power in today’s hiring market. They’re looking for organizations that match their values and will proactively work to engage them in a distributed environment. Organizations need to prioritize building experiences that generate trust and promote collaborative, inspiring environments.

Prioritizing DE&I initiatives is one way to improve the employee experience and create a welcoming place to work. Companies are also focusing on refining their compensation and benefits programs to attract top talent.

• Objective: Create an employee experience that engages and empowers employees to do their best work.

◦ KR: Create a diversity & inclusion committee to support HR and managers on DE&I programming.

◦ KR: Create a best-in-class comp & benefits program to attract and retain top, diverse talent.

Current and future leadership

Current and future leaders will be at the help of these issues for years to come. It’s crucial to ensure that they have the necessary skills to help organizations move forward in positive and productive ways from a personal, team, and institutional level. By equipping remote managers to handle remote teams and growing internal talent to take on leadership positions.

• Objective: Support current and future leadership on a personal, team, and institutional level to upskill and prepare them for the future of work.

◦ KR: Create mentorship programs to match managers to established leaders at the company to facilitate increased knowledge-sharing.

◦ KR: Create a performance management module to measure leaders’ ability to manage through ambiguity and connect teams to needed resources.