The Objective & Key Result (OKR) approach beats tracking and monitoring software in managing employee productivity.

With managers being unable to physically monitor employees in the hybrid-work environment, employers have turned to monitoring and tracking software installed in their employees’ working devices to get real-time data of their employees’ productivity.

But is monitoring software really the best way to do it?

Various surveys around the region have shown that employees experienced a reduction in productivity, highlighting a recurring concern among employers about remote-working arrangements. In turn, sales of surveillance software are rising along with an increase in the options available in the market, targeting the 57% of employers who are not ready to trust their employees to work productively without proper surveillance.

Besides issues related to privacy and stalking, measuring employee’s productivity based on their quantity of hours worked often discourage effective working styles as quantity is preferred over quality.

The need for employers to find an approach that tracks employee’s productivity through their output and outcomes is significantly crucial in improving organizational management, to attract and retain good employees. 

DigiconAsia sought out some insights on employee productivity from Catherine Chen, Founder of OKR Coaches:

Catherine Chen, Founder, OKR Coaches

How have COVID-19 restrictions impacted workforce productivity in Asia?

Catherine Chen (CC): In April this year, the International Labor Organization Monetary Fund report indicates the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in long-term challenges for productivity in Asia.

Statistics from the International Labor Organization also show that, in 2020, productivity was reduced in most countries across the Asia-Pacific region. For example, in Mongolia and Thailand, productivity loss was around 6-7%. In Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore, productivity decreased by 3-5%.

If companies are not ready to adapt to the “new normal” brought on by COVID-19 restrictions, business and operations will continue to suffer from reduced productivity.

What are some key challenges businesses face when monitoring workforce productivity?

CC: How to manage employees remotely become one of the biggest challenges to employers. When the pandemic just started last year, I was invited by some companies to train their employees on how to manage their time when they are working from home. I remember there was a senior manager who told me: “I don’t want my employees to open an online shop during their working time.”

I had remote working experience more than 10 years ago, so I know that it is not practical to track employees’ productivity by monitoring the number of their working hours in the remote working environment. Employers should change their management approach in the new world of work: from managing employees’ time to managing their objectives.

Why and how should organizations build trust between employers and employees?

CC: If employers do not earn the trust of their employees, their employees will only do the bare minimum amount of work. There is no alignment between employees’ goals and company goals.

What’s worse, your employees may become toxic to your company because they do not believe in you and your products or services. In a healthy and trustworthy culture, your employees say good things about your company, and they advocate for your business. This will definitely improve your company’s communication, teamwork, and business performance.

To build trust, there should be a transparent culture in your company. Employees know what is going on in the company: has your company achieved its goals so far? Where is the company heading to? What are the challenges your company is facing currently?

Next, have a conversation with your employees to find out what’s important to them. During the dialog, your employees will feel their voices are heard, and that they are appreciated.

Helping your employees to find the higher purpose of their jobs will certainly speed up the trust in your company.

What is OKR, and how does it help organizations overcome the above challenges without infringing on employees’ privacy?

CC: OKR stands for “Objective & Key Result”. OKRs are simple but powerful management tools for creating high-performing teams and businesses.

OKRs are used by some of the world’s most successful organizations, including Google, Linkedin, Huawei, and many others. If you are a CEO, OKRs are vital for your company’s success because OKRs create an alignment that every employee in an organization should work on precisely what you think is essential, so everybody in your company works towards the same direction to achieve your company’s goals faster and more effectively.

OKR helps organizations to overcome the above challenges without infringing on employees’ privacy in two ways.

First, OKR aligns your organizational goal or department goal with your employee’s goals. When you implement OKR correctly, you create objectives and key results collectively with your employees instead of a top-down approach. This positively impacts your employees’ productivity because they feel they are a part of your company when involved in goal-setting.

Second, OKR helps you create a transparent discipline system where everyone’s objectives, action plan and progress are known by everybody else in the company – or at least within the same department. It has been proven by many top-performing companies in the world that this transparent discipline system can improve employees’ accountability and eliminate low performers.