Metrics not micromanagement: how to measure your workforce to enhance autonomy
It’s exciting when your company takes off and starts to grow at an exponential rate. Global expansion means an influx of new team members, new customers and new opportunities for everyone across the business to learn, grow and expand their strategic impact. But that excitement can be tempered by near-constant change and the addition of operational practices that are inevitable for any company following the traditional start-up maturity curve. Naturally, as a business scales it cannot rely on instinct (or anecdotal observations) to maintain momentum, so systems of measurement are introduced – potentially prompting unease among teams.
People may worry that their autonomy is about to be strangled by a new focus on micromanagement or that their potential for growth will be stifled by an insistence on narrowly defined ways of working.
However, as somebody who leads the people strategy in a company that’s doubling in size year-on-year, I know just how important metrics are for team members to reach their full potential while also helping to ensure the continued health and wellness of a company. When implemented and framed correctly, metrics are nothing to be afraid of – if done well, they are an enabler that allows the company and everybody in it to continue to thrive.
Lack of measurement can lead to uneven distribution of workload, burnout, stress and anxiety. Without measurement, team members may struggle to realize their own performance. How do I know whether I am delivering on what’s expected from me if that’s not measured?
Metrics should not mean micromanagement
It is a widely accepted fear that companies implement systems of measurement because they want to micromanage people. The misconception is that growing companies need to have visibility into every aspect of their employees’ working lives, so that they can keep a tight rein on what they do as they strive to squeeze maximum business value from them.
The reality is that hyper-scaling companies like DoiT are just as focused on results as we’ve always been; it's an essential part of our remote-first culture. As we grow, implementing better systems of measurement helps to shine a light on what we are achieving and how we are doing it, while also opening more paths for innovation. In this way it actually reinforces the autonomy we’ve come to cherish. If you are hitting your targets working in a particular way, we want you to continue working in that way. Nobody is going to make you fix what isn’t broken. However, if results are not where we’d like them to be, reviewing the data and key metrics will help deliver insights into what might be worth developing to achieve the desired outcome.
As we see in DoiT, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Take the sales function, for example: We’ve all seen salespeople thrive because of the exceptional depth of their technical knowledge, whereas others rely on their ability to develop strong client relationships to enable their success. Neither approach is wrong if it allows each individual to build momentum and achieve the desired results. We are not going to tell the high-performing technical seller to soften their approach with less detail, nor are we going to force the more relationship-driven seller to invest in dramatically deepening their technical expertise. Regardless of your role, if you are achieving results and thriving by leaning into your unique strengths, measurement will be less relevant to you. If you are not quite there yet, measurement can help get you to your target by improving alignment to practices that most typically indicate a path to success.
Metrics should guide, not dictate
Metrics are indicators of performance, but they don’t tell the whole story. Employees who fear the introduction of new measurement systems believe their career progression is about to be dictated by numbers, but that is not the case.
In fact, metrics are simply a beacon to help us understand where we need to focus our time. They allow us to gather insights and trends to help set appropriate expectations, ensure fair and balanced workloads and make informed decisions about how best to scale the business in a healthy and proactive way.
It is easy to get lost in a sea of data and get carried away by numbers that really don’t mean anything. Instead, maintain a resolute focus on the kind of quantifiable results and patterns that deliver genuine learnings and visibility. Hone your expertise in data storytelling to select a few meaningful KPIs and communicate valid outcomes. Take the time to ensure your team understands your rationale, with plenty of opportunities for them to ask questions and learn from the findings along the way.
Metrics deliver intelligence to mould your future
When a company introduces new measurement systems, data hygiene is the first hurdle on the journey to actionable insights. Gathering enough intel for sound metrics can be seen as a tedious and time-consuming task that produces few obvious benefits in the short term. But ensuring data integrity over time allows us to identify trends, outliers, best practices and patterns that can shape 1:1 coaching conversations all the way up to organizational development and planning at the highest levels.
It is important to be clear about just what you are hoping to achieve with the metrics you produce. Analytics should be targeted and relevant to the objectives both of the company and of every department and role within it. With the right kind of quantifiable information on your activities, you are best placed to proactively manage the health and scale of the business and the experience of the amazing people working to ensure its success each day.
At DoiT, our operational practices are scaling hand in hand with our astronomical growth - we are very much a work in progress. We’ve worked hard to balance the implementation of more systems of measurement with the common sense needed to ensure the healthy and balanced growth of our company. We’re radically transparent with our team, and our approach to analyzing our own business has allowed us to continue experiencing tremendous success in a market where many other companies are struggling. That’s because we’ve chosen to focus on measuring activity and outcomes that allow us to predict what resources we will need to maintain and increase our growth over time.
By getting your metrics strategy just right, you can plan accurately for future hiring in a way that maintains desired staffing ratios and balances workloads fairly. Pairing actionable insights with a culture-led implementation plan will allow you to avoid many of the pitfalls and fears associated with making metrics a larger part of your practice. It requires more time and care to do well, but the result is a data-driven, empowered workforce with more trust and autonomy than ever before.
Kristen Tronsky, pictured below, is chief people officer for DoiT International, a hyper-growth strategic partner, reseller and cloud management technology provider operating across more than 70 countries