Developing human talent with OKRs
Bill Yetman is the Chief Accountability Officer at BY Design Training – a US based professional training and coaching company, that offers world-class one-on-one sales skill development, content development, leadership coaching, and presentation & facilitation acuity. In this Voices of OKR piece Bill talks about the hidden power of OKRs – developing human talent.
I appreciate the ability to add context to the many people and organizations that speak to how OKRs have helped turn goal setting into an integral role of enterprise-wide success. As a “talent” person who focuses on boosting sales operations, I want to approach the topic from a different tangent though – the sales skill and competency side.
MBO & SMART goals
In a recent LinkedIn post, I spoke about the evolution from MBO to where we are today with OKRs. Stretching back to the 80’s – I have worked for two of the largest hotel companies in the world. A new version of goalsetting came into the corporate office with each brief tenure of a consulting company ex-partner. Yet, at the property level, SMART continued to be the framework of choice. Goals were delivered to the field at the end of January. Approved by regions in February, enacted in March. Reviewed the following December. This is the reality of a checkmark, fragmented, and opaque goal-setting practice – and oh, how it can fail!
Goal setting with OKRs
No matter the stage of evolution – goal setting has two bookends: previous performance and expected performance, the “you can’t get where you are going without knowing where you have been…” element of the process.
In between, you have the human talent and their skills, tactics, and strategy, dovetailed to the organization with processes, culture, and vision.
The real question might be this: How does the automation of OKRs raise and align the organization’s productivity – by elevating its talent?
That is my focus today – what is often neglected in the framework, playbooks, and manuals. The fact that OKRs should be considered just as much a talent management tool – as it is a productivity tool.
OKRs & human talent
Talent acquisition, development, and retention will always be the most important area for most organizations. Period. As long as the organization has people processes, especially client-facing processes (e.g. Sales, Customer Success), well-focused talent will win even when competing against cutting-edge innovation.
Great productivity software can level the playing field with marginal talent but it’s a transformational force multiplier with great talent. When you gain buy-in on an automated productivity and goal setting platform, you impact the organization at the cellular level, injecting growth hormones to your high potentials, identifying areas for improvement, and learning how to leverage strengths like never before.
As I asked a CEO recently, “Would you invest $5 a month to 2X a seller’s production? How about $5 a month for 10X?” The answer was obvious. The purchase was inevitable. “But wait!”, I said. “There’s more!”
A great goal setting and productivity sales ecosystem has always had alignment and execution as the foundation of their OKRs. From there, you extend your strategic reach by:
– identifying trends within submarkets along with objective testing potential,
– identifying similar productivity (positive/negative) within accounts and the creation of customer advisory groups, and
– building/testing new value propositions within key vertical markets.
For that same investment though, a sales culture and their talent management team can:
– identify the right mentor opportunities based on similar market pulses and rhythms,
– leverage positive tensions between peers, further propelling their potential,
– help stretch goals become more palatable, and
– feed the right talent, and yes – weed out the weak.
Organizations that have visible and transparent OKRs have the most productive 1:1s. There are no surprises. Meetings are not report-outs, rather collaboration around execution. Meetings don’t have “gotcha moments”, rather “lift-ya’ moments.”
OKR Sales culture
For those that have not experienced it – a great OKR sales culture feeds itself, fueling its own form of kinetic energy. As a learning and instructional design professional, working with organizations who have integrated OKRs within their company requires an elevated skillset – a deeper toolbox. In most cases, we are not fixing hiring problems but instead elevating hiring successes.
So, the next time someone from HR asks: “Hey Sales, what have you done for me lately?”, simply point to your OKRs and say: “You’re Welcome!”.
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