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13 Tips on goal setting for remote teams [With OKRs]

As more companies start taking advantage of the remote work trend, it's important to know how you can use this technique to your advantage.
Published 11 Aug 2022
Updated 8 Sep 2022
10 min read
How to Manage Company Goals for Hybrid Teams

OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) are an effective way to manage your remote team goals. They provide transparency across the entire business and allow your team to know how they’re contributing to the broader business goals.

Why should I do this now, I hear you ask? We all know that having goals to aim for keeps your team engaged, motivated and productive.

A study by Gallup explored the impact of managers setting actionable goals for employees. The findings? 69 percent of employees who reported feeling engaged at their place of employment worked with their managers to set performance goals.

Not only this, but as remote working becomes a norm, having a goal-setting process in place will help your business transition to a remote-first workplace with ease. Through goal setting, high-performing teams are motivated to continue reaching their goals even when transitioning to remote work.

How to choose a goal framework for remote teams

Goal setting is more than just a list of ambitious things you’d like to achieve on it. Goals should follow a framework and inspire remote workers to work toward them.

At Employment Hero, we love using OKRs (Objectives and Key Results).

OKRs consist of an objective, which can be thought of as the thing that defines the goal you’d like to achieve. Think of it as the ‘what’ or the ‘where do we want to go?’.

From here, there are up to 5 key results. Think of this as the measurement of your success or the tracking towards your objective (how do we know we’re making progress?’).

Lastly, each OKR can also have initiatives. Think of these initiatives as a to-do list that describe what you need to do to reach your goals.

OKRs, not your jam? Take a look at these other goal frameworks:

  • The Rockefeller habits
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
  • Goal Pyramid
  • BHAG
  • SMART goals

At the end of the day, there are countless goal-setting frameworks out there. The key to creating and successfully managing goals for a remote team comes down to finding a framework that works for you and your team members.

What are the benefits of having OKRs for remote work?

Having clear goals in place also provides structure and alignment to help your entire team stay focused and work towards a common goal.

It’s important to note that somewhere along the way you might realise that you didn’t make goals as ambitious enough and that’s okay. Remember you can make changes to your OKRs when needed.

Getting your company OKRs just right takes a long time and practice.

If you’re looking for more information on how to introduce OKRs into your business, we’ve created this handy blog here.

How to set remote team goals using OKRs

Whether you’re new to the concept of goal setting with OKRs or consider yourself a seasoned pro in performance management, here are eight of our favourite ways to successfully set goals with OKRs remotely.

1. Provide resources to your remote team prior to establishing OKRs

With so many changes occurring to the way we work over the past few years, it’s no surprise that your entire team may have put achieving their big overarching goals at the bottom of their to-do list.

Many businesses have had to adapt their business operations in recent years, throwing business as usual and the company’s goals that come along with it out the window. Now that many of us have started to adapt to our new way of work, it’s a great time to put your company’s goal front of mind.

If your company goals have shifted, that’s fine too – sometimes a ‘reset’ can be the best way to set OKRs. By providing useful resources to your team members, they can quickly learn about setting goals effectively with OKRs.

This goes from each individual right through to the team and company level.

If you’re looking for some resources to set remote employees for success, we’ve put together some here:

2. Reflect on previous company goals you had in place

When it comes to setting goals with OKRs, it’s important to spend time reflecting on previous goals you had in place.

To help get a grasp on their effectiveness of them, you can ask yourself and your team the following questions:

  • Were they ambitious enough?
  • How close did you get to achieving them?
  • What was in your way?
  • What did you learn from the challenges?
  • What did you do well that can be carried over to your new goals?

3. Set a time for team leaders to walkthrough OKRs with team members

It’s no surprise that establishing OKRs and goal setting can be confusing and overwhelming, especially if you have people in your team that are new to the framework.

So with this in mind, it’s important you encourage team leaders to dedicate time with their direct report to brainstorm ideas and create goals.

By doing this, you’ll be able to create alignment with the team member and give them a crystal clear direction on goal setting whilst ensuring their individual goals remain measurable and align with the company BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal).

If you’re looking for effective video call platforms, we’ve rounded up our top communication tools here.

4. Walk through personal goals with the whole team

Communicating effectively is an important factor when it comes to defining OKRs for your team. It’s all well and good to have OKRs in the system that is all connected, but it means nothing if your remote employees don’t understand what they have to do to achieve them.

To build a productive team, schedule a virtual meeting with the remote teams where everyone talks through their OKRs and provides a breakdown of the initiatives that will help them work towards the company’s goal.

This provides clear expectations of team members across the business in regard to what every other team member is working on and how their efforts are contributing to the same goal.

Having this process in place helps employees achieve better alignment and can provide a boost of motivation as they feel connected as a team.

If you’re looking for a system that can set goals and track your OKRs, the Employment Hero Goals feature can help. With cascading goals and a visual chart that easily shows how all goals relate back to the company-wide OKRs, you’ll know exactly what everyone in your team is working on.

To find out more information about effective goal setting, get in touch with one of our small business specialists.

5. Create measurable goals

This is an important factor when it comes to setting goals with OKRs. You may find yourself falling into the trap of setting goals and OKRs that are a ‘to-do’ list rather than specific goals to strive towards.

Set goals should be numerical and ambitious.

Example of OKRs for an HR professional

Objective: Improve Employee Engagement

Key Results:

  1. Increase employee participation by 10% in the quarterly engagement survey
  2. Increase employee satisfaction by 5% as reflected in the quarterly engagement survey
  3. Leadership commit to 4 action items related to feedback
  4. Communicate action items and leadership owners/champions to business through all-hands meeting and internal newsletter by 30 June 2022

Example of OKRs for a marketing professional

Objective: Improve Newsletter Engagement

Key Results:

  1. Increase open rate by 4%
  2. Increase click-through rate by 3%
  3. A/B test each email with different headlines and send times
  4. Create a branded newsletter template by 30 June 2022

6. Ensure individual goals relate company’s BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)

With OKRs, it’s crucial they are aligned back to the BHAG. No matter what role an employee has in an organisation, their contribution helps achieve business success.

Not only does it provide a roadmap as to how an individual’s contribution is related to the overall business goal, but it also keeps your team motivated to reach their own professional goals.

7. Get updates on progress in weekly meetings

When working in remote environments, it can be easy to lose the accountability that became routine when you were working in the office.

In your weekly 1:1s, dedicate 5 minutes to going over your OKRs and create an action plan for that week.

By breaking down the task, it will seem more manageable and allow your remote employees to stay on track. It also means that you won’t have your team members stressing out when it’s the final week of the quarter.

In your weekly meeting, some questions you should ask:

  • Are we on track with our quarterly goals?
  • What are you committing to next week to progress your OKRs?
  • What have you learnt?

8. Reflect on the progress of OKRs as a company

If you have weekly or fortnightly company-wide meetings online, ensure your leadership team is providing updates on your OKRs.

This should include a broad breakdown of the percentage of people who are and aren’t updating their OKRs.

This isn’t to single people out but to act as a reminder that everyone should be aligned to the company-wide OKR and continually be working towards one common goal.

It’s also an important opportunity to let your remote team know how you’re tracking as a company to achieve your BHAG.

How to achieve goal alignment as a remote team

So you’ve taken the first step and set up your goals. Great! But now what? Where do you go from here?

Setting up your goals is the easy part. It’s the steps beyond this that involve the hard yards.

Creating a goal-driven culture can seem like an uphill battle, but with a few little changes, you’ll have it down pat in no time.

9. Put trust in remote employees

Trust and harmonious working relationships are earnt through communication. Using the ‘Employee Productivity Pyramid‘ based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you want to start at the baseline where you provide your remote employees with compliance and trust.

Towards the top of the pyramid is continued development. A huge effort needs to be given to career development and continued success – that’s when you get your happiest, most engaged and most productive employees.

10. Reward and recognise remote team members

Reward and recognition is the activity we engage in to acknowledge exceptional performance and encourage specific values or behaviours.

Why are they important? Because people need to feel appreciated. Leaders can reinforce positive recognition by associating it with clear behaviours that align with the company’s values.

Recognition is all about timing; it shouldn’t be ‘ticked off’ quarterly or annually – it must be done on the day, especially in a hybrid work environment. Rewards, on the other hand, need to have an element of personal value, and this is best done through choice, such as a gift card.

However, never confuse reward and recognition with remuneration – the focus should be exclusively on celebrating your employee. This doesn’t have to be expensive; it could be as simple as a handwritten thank you card.

Employment Hero uses shout-outs through its platform, but for business leaders that don’t have an HRIS system, they can get creative on Slack or Zoom.

Management should take the lead here, ingraining a culture of reward and recognition through their behaviours and encouraging their teams to follow suit.

11. Check in regularly with one-on-ones

A one-on-one is a scheduled meeting in your calendar and in your mental map for open-ended and anticipated conversation between a manager and an employee.

These meetings are intended for coaching, mentorship, context or even venting. However, the value of one-on-ones is for leaders, teammates and peers to connect and communicate. As a manager, effective one-on-ones should leave employees feeling heard, safe and empowered.

Begin with open-ended questions such as ‘how are you feeling, and really listen to your employee. Watch out for roadblocks, especially in this remote world of work, it’s not as easy to walk over to someone and ask how they’re feeling.

One-on-ones also require leaders to be the “facilitator of solutions.” This can be challenging, so it’s important to create a space of trust through respect, being unconditionally on the employee’s side, and showing vulnerability.

Setting aside 45 minutes for a one-on-one, even if you don’t use the whole time. For managers, allow yourself 15 minutes after the meeting for follow-ups to address any employee ‘asks.’

Using a one-on-one meeting template can offer a clear structure for these meetings – just make sure it’s kept confidential.

12. Get regular employee feedback

Feedback is so important to success; without it, you don’t know where to improve. When it comes to engagement, employees who receive feedback – good or bad – are twice as likely to be highly engaged and highly productive as a result.

Feedback is hard in remote contexts, especially when remote teams are spread across different regions and time zones. However, remote employees and managers need to be cross-collaborative to truly see results.

It shouldn’t just be managers sharing feedback; it must be a team effort.

13. Offer incentives for reaching the company’s goals

To create a business culture that’s driven by smashing goals and targets, it’s important you reward and recognise your team when expectations are exceeded.

Looking for some inspiration? You could try…

  • Offering a bonus for achieving company-based targets and goals
  • Setting up a commission structure for employees
  • Holding celebrations to reach quarterly goals and targets
  • Providing additional days off to reach targets

The wrap up

We know that it may seem overwhelming to set up a goal framework when working remotely, but it’s something that can give you that competitive advantage.

What you need to manage company goals for remote teams
A quick summary of setting goals with OKRs

When it comes to establishing OKRs remotely, it all comes down to effective communication.

During these times, it’s important to establish goals that provide light at the end of the tunnel, and a strategic goal framework allows you to do just that.

Want more?

If you’d like more information on how Employment Hero can help you manage your team’s OKRs, get in touch with one of our small business specialists today. They will provide you with a quick demo of how OKRs can help your team set and achieve ambitious goals that will propel your business forward.

Building a global team? Our global EOR services can help. We help hire employees all around the globe, from recruitment to onboarding, all while managing the compliance to local employment laws. Reach out to our business specialists today to find out more.

Alternatively, you can download our OKR ebook below that provides you with all you need to know about effectively establishing your team’s OKRs. 👇

Download now

Your Guide to OKRs

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