Being an employee isn’t what it used to be. In a post COVID-19 (remote working) world, employees need to be drawn into the business in different ways than were used at the beginning of 2020. Suddenly we’re working remotely, not interacting socially with our teammates, there’s no ongoing direction, and we aren’t getting in-person feedback or affirmation. With these things missing in day-to-day life, leaders need to make sure they are doing everything they can to engage employees.

In his book Drive, Daniel Pink identifies three intrinsic motivators that engage employees: Purpose, Mastery, and Autonomy. Based on experience using OKRs, we’ve added two more intrinsic motivators critical to engaging employees: Progress and Socialization.

OKRs are a great way to engage employees, but to do so effectively, we need to make sure we are using our OKRs the right way to drive intrinsic motivation:

Purpose 

Employees should have clarity on specifically what work they should do on a daily basis and how it impacts the strategy of the organization.

OKR Recommendation: Create objectives phrased as outcomes and time-bound KRs.

A customer service related OKR:

Objective – Improve customer productivity
Key Result – First time fix 80% in Q2

Using outcome based objectives that link up to their boss’ OKRs allows an employee to see how they are impacting the organization on a daily basis and have the flexibility to work towards it how they see fit.

Mastery 

While working remotely, employees still need the opportunity to improve their skills and see the progress they are making on the skills they are trying to master.

OKR Recommendation: Ensure employees have at least one objective focused on training. As the training progresses, we need the ability to highlight the performance improvements of the related objectives.

Progress

Working remotely, it’s hard to see if you are and achieving the right outcomes at the right speed for the business.

OKR Recommendation: Everyone  needs to have clear visibility of all OKRs in the business and create a safe environment to have low performing objectives. Shift the culture (if it isn’t already) towards assisting others in need, and make sure risk free conversations occur as frequently as needed (daily/weekly/monthly).

Autonomy

Working from home forces employees into making their own decisions on how and when work gets done. As leaders, we need to accommodate the different schedules and provide support to individuals to ensure sure they are making the right decisions

OKR Recommendation: Again, objectives should be phrased as outcomes, and ownership should be made clear for both objectives and key results. This can be as simple as identifying one owner, to something more complex like a full RACI model.

Socialization

Socialization is about making performance part of our daily habits and conversations. This is what John Doerr refers to as CFRs (conversation, feedback, Recognition)

OKR Recommendation: In addition to clear visibility of OKRs across the organization, we need to have an *analysis of the OKRs (not just the raw data), and a safe way to communicate what we are seeing and how we plan to address issues.

An example

The most relatable way to think of employee engagement is through a sports metaphor. Think of your favorite football team:

Purpose – The team is aiming to win each game and ideally reach the superbowl

Mastery – The team is required to practice in order to get better.

Progress – As the team practices, and coaches/teammates help each other in a risk-free environment (CFRs), they can see how their performance in games improves.

Autonomy – Coaches can tell players options on what to do, but the players must make the decisions on the field what they are going to do at each moment. Socialization – Transparent communication on performance during the game allows players to adjust their strategy and decision making.

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