[Free OKR Templates Inside] How to Make OKRs Work for Your Company

OKR meeting photo

OKRs are a great way to keep your company and teams aligned and start accomplishing big goals. But when you’re getting started, you can’t expect instant, smooth adoption from every department.

While the basic formula for OKRs is simple, it’s not a one size fits all system. Your OKRs may need to be adapted to fit your company or department structure. For example, coming up with key results might be more difficult for a department that’s less numbers-focused, like customer service or HR.

Deciding how to measure progress and making sure everyone understands how the tracking system works is another hurdle to overcome. Teams need a clear sense of direction for successful goal achievement.

Read on to find out how to make OKRs work for every department and get ideas on the best way to track your OKRs. We’re also including a free OKR template to help you get started with tracking.

Different Levels of OKRs

Depending on the size of your company and the nature of your business, the hierarchy of your OKRs may be simpler or more complex. 

Enterprises vs. Smaller Companies

For enterprises with many departments and hundreds or even thousands of employees, you’ll have many levels of OKRs if you’re rolling them out across the entire company. On the opposite end of the scale, a new startup may only have a few employees, so there would be only one set of OKRs.

Company Level OKRs

Whatever the size of your company, it’s important to decide on some high-level company OKRs. The objectives should be mission-focused and might include expanding the business into a new market or building a more connected company culture. The key results of these objectives could be ones for the whole company to strive for, or some of them could also be stated as sub-OKRs, which would be taken on by individual departments or teams.

Department Level OKRs

Department level OKRs should keep the company level OKRs in mind. However, if you’re doing a pilot project with only one department before setting company OKRs, this would be the top level. In that case, just stay in line with the general company mission. While objectives are still high-level, they should be specific to the department and backed up with practical key results. When there are several teams in a department, each team could take on achieving one or more of the key results, or they may set their own OKRs that contribute to the department OKRs.

Team Level OKRs

In a small company, departments and teams may be the same, and in that case, you might not need another level. For large companies, each department often has multiple teams, or if you have scrum teams, there may be employees from different departments on each team. All the teams should be aware of the other teams’ OKRs so that they stay aligned

Image of chart for company, department and team level OKRs.
Chart showing OKR levels throughout a company.

How to Measure OKRs

Once you’ve set up the structure for your OKRs, you’ll need to track them to make sure everyone is making progress toward success. Success will look different depending on the department and team, but the most important aspect is that the key results must be measurable.

Ensuring Key Results Are Measurable for Your Business

Let’s look at a few examples of how OKRs apply to various departments.

Sales

Sales departments and teams are often used to working with sales targets. It’s easy to set numbers-based key results for sales, but remember that these should not include every sales target. The key results should only include your highest priority, ambitious targets that are linked to high level objectives.

Example:

Objective: Build a healthy, sustainable sales pipeline

KR1: Achieve a monthly pipeline of $1M
KR2: Sign 23% “Enterprise” deals
KR3: Increase total enriched leads to 75%

Engineering/Product Development

For engineering/product development, good high level objectives would be related to product quality, innovation, or efficiency. Measurable key results might include cutting bugs down to a certain number, setting up a certain number of automated processes, or improving loading time by a certain amount.

Example:

Objective: Improve the quality of our product

KR1: Reduce the average number of new bug reports from 70 to 40 per month
KR2: Reduce average QA rejections per-feature from 2.0 to 1.5
KR3: Increase test coverage from 20% to 40%KR4: Improve initial loading time from 2s to 0.8s

Marketing

A marketing department’s objectives might be to increase leads, boost brand awareness, or improve SEO, with measurable key results under those. An obvious one would be a number of marketing qualified leads. Other numbers-based key results include producing a certain number of quality blog posts, and increasing organic traffic to a specific number or by a certain percentage.

Example:

Objective: Generate more high quality leads this quarter

KR1: Increase monthly MQLs from 400 to 500
KR2: Improve conversion rate from MQL to SQL by 10%
KR3: Increase conversion rate on our top 10 pages by 5%
KR4: Have weekly feedback calls with sales, product managers, and/or customers

Customer Service

While customer service may not seem as focused on numbers as other fields, it is possible to quantify improvements in customer satisfaction. For example, conducting a number of customer surveys or making a list of 10 improvements to customer service and implementing them. Customer service teams should also work closely with development teams to report common problems. That way, they could help with the development team’s goal to reduce bugs.

Example:

Objective: Research and improve customer satisfaction

KR1: Bring our Net Promoter Score (NPS) over 8.0
KR2: Get 500 survey responses to our annual satisfaction survey
KR3: Conduct 50 online interviews with customers (most engaged + recently churned)KR4: Present an action plan of 10 improvement for next quarter

Human Resources

It’s tempting for HR departments to use OKRs as a measurement for employee performance, but this rarely works well. OKRs work best as collective goals rather than a set of achievements for individuals. Examples of good HR objectives include goals for hiring and for improving workplace satisfaction. Key results range from headhunting a number of people with required talents or a number of initiatives for making the company a better place to work.

Example:

Objective: Help the company scale by finding top talents for our teams

KR1: Bring in 10 engineers for a round of technical interviews (phase 3)
KR2: Effectively hire 3 new engineers matching all criteria set by the Engineering Manager
KR3: Hunt at least 20 people with good product background and skills on Linkedin and offer them a position
KR4: Hunt at least 30 people with good sales background and skills on Linkedin and offer them a position

Establish Regular Progress Tracking

Once you’ve established your hierarchy of OKRs and set measurable key results, it’s time to set up a system to measure them. 

Use Excel Templates

A common way to track OKRs is with Excel spreadsheets, with a tab for each department and/or team to track and update their progress on OKRs at regular intervals.

How do you set up the spreadsheets? We’ve done it for you! Check out the free templates we’ve created for you to download. Feel free to customize them to better suit your business.

Consider an OKR App

While OKR templates help organize all your OKR information, making sure everyone has the latest version of the document and remembers to update regularly can be a challenge. Another option for efficient tracking, especially if you’re working in Jira, is an OKR app. 

An app like OKR for Jira allows you to keep track of your OKRs in one place, right where your teams are working. Issues can be linked to key results, and you can update progress as issues are completed. Everyone on Jira can get a clear view of the OKR hierarchy and track progress.

screenshot of OKR hierarchy and progress in OKR for Jira app
View OKR hierarchy and track and update progress in an OKR app.

Conclusion

To make OKRs work for your company, it’s important to take the entire hierarchy into account to ensure that goals are aligned and can be measured across each department and team. When each department understands the objectives, they can start making progress toward success.

Consistent tracking is key from the very beginning. A popular free option is using Excel spreadsheets, but if you’re working in Jira, an OKR app can get you off to a great start.

For more information on implementing OKRs in your company, download Implementing OKRs for Agile Teams in Jira: The Complete Guide.

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