From Strategy to Performance Goals


Employees and Company Boards want the same thing – they want clarity around what you expect from employees, want feedback on how it is going from an outcomes perspective and want to know the steps you will take to fix it, in case outcomes are less than expected.

Most companies use a Balanced Scorecard approach whereby specific performance metrics in key performance or result areas from company strategies are used to set and monitor performance expectations into the company from the most senior roles to the most junior roles.

The benefits of this approach are numerous… for one you can get a good understanding of how well things are going with implementing your strategies in the company, you can make sure that all the initiatives being worked on relate to the strategy, identify organizational units or individual where things are going well or not so well – which mean you can provide support in the form of training for example. A balanced scorecard also helps to ensure you have organizational alignment where it is clear to every employee how he/she impacts the overall results of the company. And when an employee sees his or her own goals, it is easy for him/her to understand what exactly the company strategy and desired outcomes are about in a practical way.

Strategic Performance Areas

Having a cheat-sheet to get started may be useful…Performance Indicators can be set in many different areas. This list shows a few examples which may be handy as you read your own strategy and select the top performance areas that need to be impacted in your upcoming performance period.

In most cases 5 key performance areas would be chosen to balance current operations, growth goals, keeping current stakeholders satisfied and continuing to improve and innovate. e.g: 1) Financial outcome(s), 2) Quality outcome(s), 3) Customer satisfaction outcome(s), 4) Improving upon performance and efficiencies of previous years, and 5) Employee (leaders/specialists?) development and or retention outcomes.

Example

Let’s look at some specific KPIs and how they may translate into performance expectations into the organization. From high organizational levels deeper into the organization the goals become more specific to an individuals’ tasks and activities. In contrast, the goals of managers are typically focused on their ability to influence and lead the outcomes of teams or groups reporting into him or her. Managers ensure that things happen while in most cases the deeper you go into the organization, the more you see performance goals are based on the individual’s efforts to achieve an outcome.

Performance goals typically come in various types of outcomes based on how your KPI would require the right response to meet the company strategy.

Setting Expectations

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Cascading goals

Starting with the company’s strategy (at the highest level) the CEO or executive team can easily identify the top 4 to 7 Performance Areas where focus is needed to drive outcomes needed in the coming year. From there the heads of functions or organizational units can identify what that means for each of their organizations. Then performance goals for each organizational unit manager can be determined . And the same process cascades down until performance goals have been set for everyone at the company. All of the goals finally relate to a big-picture framework of KPIs at the top level of the organization.

Most performance expectations are set as SMART goals and each employee would typically end up with between 3 and 7 (max) performance goals for the year.

The graphic below shows how at individual level the goal may be a specific part of the overall KPI but when it is all “rolled-up” organizationally the full organizational KPI can be achieved in full by all employees contributing to the desired outcome. Not every organization group or unit might support every high-level KPI. Think for example of an organizational unit responsible for the upkeep of facilities, there may not be direct goals that relate to revenue growth for that group.

Note Goal E: It does not relegate to a KPI at the broader organizational level. This happens often – for example that a functional organization has a specific focus which may not directly relate to the KPIs that were set on a company-wide basis. That could be something like finalize implementation of a digital tool which enables better efficiency the following year. If there are no high-level KPIs related to improving on existing performance/efficiency, Goal E would not have a direct link to the overall high-level KPIs set. For this reason, it is important to set the high-level KPIs in a broad and balanced way to ensure that most goals that would be important at a level deeper into the organization to maintain or improve a specific level of efficiency or service delivery can be matched with the high-level need for renewal or continuous improvement. Some companies do not think broader than revenue or growth goals.

Interim feedback

It is important for managers to monitor outcomes along the way – do not wait until the end of the year to discover that outcomes were not trending in the right direction. Spotting issues or delays early means you can rectify or influence rectification of the situation. Give employees feedback throughout the year – make them aware of outcomes that deviate from desired outcomes, train and coach them to improve outcomes that they are responsible for and give them on-the-job coaching and support when they are inexperienced in specific areas. Every outcome matters and contributes to the overall outcome.

Learning

Evaluating outcomes and discussing those with employees is the next step. This step also includes looking at relative performance outcomes among various organizational units and overall outcomes. This can lead to an improved understanding of where further improvements may be needed. Improvements can range from awareness training, making more information available, helping to upskill or cross-skill employees in various areas. It may also lead to understand misalignment with what suppliers can or are delivering or misalignment between customer expectations and what operations is able to deliver right now.

Use what you learn from discussing performance outcomes to influence future performance outcomes and support that might be needed for the next year.

In the final outcome of the performance period you will have individual scores that relate to individual performance. When you look one level higher you see the contributions of various employees in the same organizational unit and how each of them did on their own performance goals. If the goals were created to be an exact match – between goals set for the manager and those set for those reporting to the manager – the aggregate outcome of the team would determine the manager’s score.

Looking at the organization, it is easy to pinpoint where contributions by individuals, teams, managers may not have reached expected results in the outcomes.
Understanding why this occurred would help learning from the past and improving going forward. Answering questions like:
  • Knowing what we know now, were these realistic expectations or do we need to first solve some key issues before we can make more progress in this area?
  • Do people need more training to make sure they are able to perform in new areas or with new outcomes (such as new markets or types of customers)?
  • Is this area so specialized that we need to hire some people with the specialized knowledge or experience that this team needs?

Most companies are on a learning path when it comes to their own performance management process and approach. If you are just starting, do expect it to be a journey and make sure you allow space for reviewing, reflecting and learning as you go. It may lead you to make adjustments to your strategy or the way the organization is structured, to name but a few ways that on-going organizational learning can benefit the greater organization.

Ultimately the goal of your performance management approach is to measure how much the efforts of those in the organization are helping you achieve your goals as a company, where are hidden barriers to succeeding with your organizational strategies and where are opportunities to accelerate results if you leverage great ideas and tools developed in any part of the organization. This makes your company sustainable into the future. Viable today and into the future by continuously evolving, learning and innovating without losing focus of the basic outcomes needed to drive profitability on an on-going basis.

4 Questions to ask about HR metrics


Understand first, then act

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Without the right level of scrutiny, it can be easy to misinterpret a metric (key measurement, KPI) and waste valuable time and resources debating and taking actions to “fix” things that may not be “broken.”

Let’s take an example to illustrate: Employee turnover. Let’s say I show you this number and tell you that this represents Employee turnover at a company:

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I would imagine you would have some questions for me? Let’s go through some questions I expect you to ask me as we clarify what that number means. (Answers in blue from an HR representative at a fictitious company)

  1. How do you define turnover and how did you calculate that?

Answer: The company defined employee turnover as the number of employees who left the company. And they calculate that number this way:

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If you think this number is high or low, hold your horses, we have a few more questions to ask before we can come to a conclusion.

  1. Over what time period was this number calculated?

Answer: It represents the employee turnover over one quarter. 

An unusually high or low number can be an anomaly if it represents, for example, one day or one week out of a year. And that could be for many reasons including possible entry errors or calculation errors. If it is an average over an entire year, an unusually high number may indicate an alarming trend.

  1. What is this metric about?  

Here you would like to understand the reason why they are tracking the metric and how they are using this metric for decision-making.

Answer: “We want to make sure that we retain employees and do not have too many people leaving thereby causing us to have to retrain people on a regular basis. We also want to avoid constantly having to hire and onboard people to replace those who left. We think it is disruptive to the business. We have set a limit of 7% as a reasonable employee turnover maximum.”

Knowing that this is about retention helps to understand the metric more. For example, you could now start to form an idea in your head about the employees that a company would like to retain. To ensure you lose no more than 7% of your employees through resignations, you would want to ensure that internal communication is going well, that employees feel appreciated and that there are development opportunities for them etc. (These would be all the efforts you could make to increase employee engagement and satisfaction).  But it is also immediately obvious that 21.6% is much higher than 7%! So we need to ask more questions.

  1. What is the context of this metric? 

With this question, you are trying to understand if there were any events or special circumstances that may have contributed to this metric being unusually high or low.  It may also highlight how this metric compares to other periods – is it higher or lower than in the past?

Answer: “The metric is much higher than in previous quarters. During this quarter, we had to lay off some people due to losing a large customer. We also let some temporary workers go. And some people have chosen to take early retirement with the incentives that we offered around the reduction in workforce.”

Going back to how they calculated the 21.6% you may now wonder if they did the calculation correctly. If the metric is about making sure that they retain employees then it would be logical to ensure they do not include those who leave involuntarily – due to a lay-off for example. And there was also mention of temporary workers. Workforce planning often includes having a pool of temporary/agency workers who can more easily be let go of in the event of an organizational downturn. From that perspective, it would also not be useful to include those workers in an employee retention metric. It is time to question the number of people who left the company – the 108.  Having obtained more information about the 108 employees, we see that this number represents various groups including retirees, agency workers, redundancies, and resignations.

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In this case, the only unplanned people that the company “lost” = 32

In that case, the metric calculation would result in 6.4% which is below the 7% limit that was set as a goal.  It is important that the definition of the metric is clear about which groups of people who left should be included or excluded in the calculation.

In summary, we can make some suggestions for this  HR team:
  • Clear name and definition. Perhaps the metric should be redefined and possibly renamed if their intention is to capture how many employees (not temporary workers) resign from the company and to keep that % below 7%.
  • Share definition with stakeholders. Just looking at 21.6% employee turnover can be alarming so it would also be very important that the metric is well understood by the team and its key stakeholders outside of the team.
  • Accuracy. To avoid any possible calculation errors, it could help if somebody audits the metrics before the dashboard is finalized and distributed. The credibility of the HR team can be impacted if an executive team regularly sees errors or inconsistencies on the HR dashboard.

Keeping track of key metrics to monitor the success of specific processes or initiatives is important. That way you would be able to easily identify if a project or an objective is in danger of failing to achieve desired outcomes at the end of a year. Early identification also enables you to take the appropriate actions to correct an alarming trend. The key is to ensure that metrics on a dashboard are accurate and easy to interpret by those who view it. Be intentional and critical when you choose the metrics to track and when you define them to stakeholders.

When reviewing metrics, ensure that you truly understand what they represent before drawing premature conclusions. Planning actions to rectify premature conclusions could be a waste of your valuable time and resources when they are based on erroneous assumptions.

Training Needs Analysis


Training departments are usually expected to provide an annual plan showing training classes and learning interventions which will be offered over the course of the year. Managers want to see when they can plan to send employees to attend specific training courses and they also would like to see that the training plan addresses key areas where performance improvement may be needed for their departments or business units. Lastly, there is also usually the need to create a budget for the planned training. All of these focus areas are covered in the templates that can be downloaded below.

What kind of training should you provide?

Consider the following sources of information which could help:

  • Company strategies for growth and developing into new markets or expanding in existing markets – what skills would be needed?
  • Based on current performance – which skills need to be introduced and which skills should be improved upon?
  • Looking at employee career goals, which skills do you need to focus on in order to help move employees to being promotion-ready?
  • Which skills do managers believe would help their teams succeed better given performance targets and customer demands?

Summary of the kinds of Training Needs to Identify

Tools and Templates

Here are three tools that can help you with conducting a training needs analysis. The first tool highlights individual training needs per employee and is based on employee self assessments. The second tool is a training needs view from a manager’s perspective focusing on the top 3 highest training needs for each employee in his/her group/team/department. The last tool helps you budget for the planned training.

  • Self-rated individual training needs. The quality of the results you obtain from this tool depends on whether you have a good career development tool/framework in place, motivated employees who maintain and work on their own development plans on an on-going basis and whether your managers/supervisors provide quality performance feedback to employees on a regular basis.
  • Manager assessment of department/team. Using knowledge of employee performance in his/her department, the manager selects the top 3 courses that each employee would need to improve own performance and/or to grow further in his/her career. Be sure to share course details with the managers too – what is the duration of the course and what aspects of the topic is covered?
  • Training needs and budgeting. This spreadsheet helps you budget for the planned courses. Check actual spending against this estimate to track the accuracy of your original budget and accurate allocation of items charged to your training budget.

Tips for training needs analysis:

  • Create a training needs analysis process that you follow consistently every year. This helps managers get into a rhythm of providing you with the required information on time for you to submit budget requests for the following year/quarter.
  • Be clear with managers which part of the training costs would be booked to their own budgets. For example – where do employees charge their time when they are in a training class? To your budget or to their manager’s budget?
  • Ask yourself how much training does it make sense to provide internally vs using an external vendor. Make wise trade-offs in terms of training costs, best value for money, expertise needed to provide the training etc.
  • Determining the training plan for the following year should also include a good review of the training evaluations and feedback obtained from course participants during the lasts year. Are your current training classes good enough or do they need to be improved or outsourced?