To KPI or Not? – That Is The Question…

Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) play a large role in the working life for many people. From call times to the swiftness of a response to a customer they can control an individuals working life. But do they actually make any impact on the performance and success of an employee and the business as a whole?

KPI’s are supposed to measure in black and white and provide a very clear indication of if a task is being achieved successfully. But how many of us when asked say that the KPI’s we are measured on have no resemblance on the most key areas of our role and responsibilities?

In a sales role is very easy to measure success. The sales professional has a monetary target which all of the sales and deals they generate are allocated against. It is then very clear if the performance over an agreed time frame meets the expectations of the business and management team. But what about for those in a non-quota carrying role? Almost every company has sales administration, operations or some form of support infrastructure. But is there any clear indication or measure that can show if an individual is being a valuable member of the company.

The 80/20 rule is well known and used in most management training and discussion. But if 80% of the work and success if achieved by only 20% of the employees then surely we need some form of measure to find out whom those 20% are? One sure fire way of identifying those who are integral to the businesses success is when they are not there to do their job. So how about we send people away from the business for a few weeks on paid leave and see if the company still functions successfully without them?! Surely this is the best measure – if the person in question is critical to the business everyone will miss them and will not have the assistance they urgently need? But if the company is big enough then others may simply be able to take up the slack for a short period, but rather like an elastic band they will snap if asked to stretch for too long.

So perhaps KPI’s are the way to go but how do we find those that matter and make them easy to measure?? For many in a supporting or administrative function a good proportion of the job it is easy to identify levels of success – Has the order been process or is the client ring up to chase its resolution? Or does the management team have the documents they need when they are heading out for a visit? A issue does arise for KPI’s in a smaller business. If the support or operations team has to deal with a large number of unexpected requests and changes – i.e. a new training manual suddenly being decided is an urgent requirement then this will take them away from the work they are measured on. So if they do create the new manual as requested are they going to be penalized for not completing their KPI’ed work?!

The easiest way to measure a non-quota carrying team member’s impact and success is by having regular reviews and discussing how the work is going and what the employee requires from their employer – additional training, more resources etc. Only once this has been completed on a regular basis can the management team identify what can be and should be measured as a KPI and agree this with the employee. KPI’s can only be useable if both parties agree that it is an area that is and can be monitored.

Key Performance Indications need to be a collaborative effort from all involved if they are to be of any use to the company’s development and success and for some business perhaps the best method is to not have any at all?

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