Metrics For Roles That Are Hard to Quantify

Metrics For Roles That Are Hard to Quantify

According to research from the Gallup organization, employee engagement begins with each employee being able to strongly agree with the statement, “I know what is expected of me at work”. To this end, Metrics (Key Performance Indicators) help to clarify performance expectations for your functional teams and for every role in your company.

In a previous article, “How to Identify Your Metrics (Key Performance Indicators)”, I looked at the importance of getting performance measurement right.

Metrics or KPI (I use the terms interchangeably) are what we use to measure the critical success factors that drive your current business model (current operating model). Your business model comprises the things you do every day to create leads, make sales, provide your products and services, keep your customers happy, grow cash and make profits. Let’s call this stuff “Business As Usual”.

To keep things simple, figuring out your Key Metrics starts by looking at your current business model and asking yourself the following 4 questions;

1. What are the key functional areas of our business model? (eg marketing, sales, operations, customer support, finance)

2. What result or outcome are we looking to achieve in each functional area?

You may need to ask yourself “Why?” several times to really get to the nub of the most important outcomes for each function.

Then, to identify your Key Metrics, I recommend spending the bulk of your time exploring and debating the following questions:

3. What “activities” or “actions” drive this outcome?

4. What “effectiveness” measures let us know how well these activities are being performed?

You can’t “manage” results. What you can manage are the activity and effectiveness measures that drive results. Activity and effectiveness measures are things you have the ability to manage and improve. These 2 areas are where your most powerful Metrics are likely to be found.

Each functional area of your business will have a small handful of Metrics that drive the results you seek. By handful, I recommend that clients whittle down their measures to 4 to 6 Metrics per functional area at most.

What about Metrics (KPIs) for roles that are hard to quantify?

Many functions are easy to quantify thanks to commonly used software systems; Marketing Automation (Marketing), CRM (Sales), ERP (Operations), Customer Service Software (Customer Support). Accounting (Finance) etc. These systems track most of the activities or actions you might want to “count” in these functional areas, and from there it is relatively easy to derive effectiveness measures also.

From there I recommend using a KPI dashboard to display all of your key metrics in one place where everyone can see and discuss them.

Some thought leaders say, “Every role should have a Metric”. In general, I agree with this principle, but in my work with hundreds of client firms, I find it easier said than done. Some roles are much harder to quantify. What do you do when you find a role where there is nothing much to “count”?

This issue occurs most often with creative roles or roles that are predominantly Project-based or Task-based. I see some companies try to dogmatically apply the “Every role should have a Metric” principle and end up creating nonsense measures for staff in administrative and creative roles that don’t drive better results and end up disengaging their people.

My recommendation: Don’t create a Metric just for the sake of having a measure!

If you find that after exploring best-practice metrics for the role in question, and after going through the 4 step process described above you are still struggling to come up with something worth counting, then I recommend you focus on closely managing that person’s Projects and Tasks instead.

Make sure the scope and deadlines for their Projects and Tasks are clearly documented and agreed on upfront so there is no ambiguity about what needs to be done and by when. Due dates should be realistically achievable, and not just based on an optimistic best-case scenario. Let’s face it, “stuff” happens. Nothing goes exactly as planned. There are always unforeseen delays, disruptions and scheduling issues. As a manager, I’d rather have my team members give me a completion date I can count on than a “hoped for” date that someone is not fully committed to keeping. See this article for How to overcome the planning fallacy

For roles with a lot of repetition, set recurring Tasks at the appropriate cadence for the team member in your Task management tool of choice. Most importantly, the manager should set a recurring weekly 1 on 1 Meeting to discuss that person’s progress and results. Any Project or Task that is behind schedule or overdue must be discussed. I call this “weeding the garden”.

Over time, you may be able to create reports every week that show what % of their Projects are on track, or what % of their Tasks get completed on time, as an overarching measure of their ability to scope their work effectively and to keep their commitments. In essence, (as an option to consider) you may be able to measure how well they “get things done”.

I have written before about the manager’s role as being like that of a sports coach. You only win when your team succeeds. Regardless of how you define results, you need to define what “winning” looks like for each role and then coach and support your people to achieve their goals.


Until next time…