Setting Team Performance Metrics…and Making Them Stick
I hate management by nagging. For one thing, it’s usually counter-productive; for another it doesn’t contribute to a great team environment. Managing using scorecards and metrics is a much better approach. It allows everyone to understand the organization’s main objectives. And when scorecards and metrics are properly aligned with company objectives, the results can be incredibly powerful.
I’m not talking about external metrics that you share with investors or in press releases. I mean internal scorecards that you use to make sure your whole team is pulling in the right direction and that everyone’s contributions can be systematically assessed. The metrics you come up with should be specific to your business and to its stage. If you’re an early-stage startup, your metrics might be more focused on just getting and keeping users/subscribers/clients. If you’re in the scaling up phase, they will probably skew more toward consolidating your customer base, expanding into new markets, and developing beneficial business partnerships.
Here are some tips for coming up with your performance metrics and using them to drive business results.
- 1. Set your metrics. — It’s better to home in on a limited set of impactful measures rather than create a laundry list of every possible performance dimension. Zero in on metrics that really drive your company performance. They could include the number of weekly sales calls made, number of accounts closed per month, monthly conversion rates on prospects, or success cross-selling additional services to existing clients. In developing your scorecard, take the opportunity to touch base with your team on what metrics they see as most important. That will help you get their buy-in, which takes me to my next point.
- 2. Communicate early and often. — Coming up with a key set of measures you’ll use to assess performance is doomed to failure unless you make an effort to ensure employee engagement. The key to doing that is to follow that up with transparent communication around why you’re introducing this, clearly describe the process, and provide an opportunity for your team to air concerns and to make suggestions.
- 3. Measure, measure, measure. — As they say, ‘what gets measured gets done.’ You absolutely need to measure your team’s performance against the metrics you’ve set on a regular basis. Measuring and regularly reporting on the results gets everyone focused on the outcome. You should also consider how you want to communicate the results. Will you share them individually—by email, over the phone, or in person? Or do you want to publicly post scorecards — relying on peer pressure and competitive instincts to help spur performance? How often will you communicate performance results?
- 4. Give it some teeth. — Tie results into performance reviews, discussions around raises and promotions, and account allocation decisions. I like to take a carrot and stick approach by balancing rewards with repercussions. You can structure it in different ways: scaling rewards based on the size of the accomplishment or offering greater incentives to individual team members who work together to hit team goals. But make sure that people understand no one is exempt from meeting goals. And be sure you address compliance in a manner that’s consistent with your company values.
- 5. Reevaluate — Constantly track that the measures you set tie into your bottom line — growing your sales and generating cash flow. Even when that’s the case, you’ll probably eventually find that you’ve grown out of the initial metrics you set. Maybe that’s because they’ve become too easy to meet or they no longer reflect your long-term business direction. Once you reach that point, you should go through a process similar to your initial one and come up with new, more relevant metrics.
David Ehrenberg is the founder and CEO of Early Growth Financial Services, a financial services firm providing a complete suite of financial and accounting services to companies at every stage of the development process. He’s a financial expert and startup mentor, whose passion is helping businesses focus on what they do best. Follow David @EarlyGrowthFS.