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BW Businessworld

OKRS: Enabling ‘Business-as-usual’ In This Pandemic

In Conversation with BW Businessworld, Senthil Rajagopalan, COO and President of talks about the new normal in this pandemic and how OKRs can be the perfect solution to the current discord that many organisations may be facing.

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With work-from-home being the new normal—how can companies keep employee morale and productivity high? 
We spend our most productive, waking hours at work.  Work exists not just as a means to earn a living but to give us a sense of purpose and strive for self-actualization.  Hence when people decide to look for a company to work, they look for more than just the salary. Opportunity to learn and grow, Great colleagues, collaborative work environment,  a Progressive culture , Predictable schedule to help them manage  life outside work are some of the factors that people actively evaluate. That’s the reason you find resumes mentioning “ex Google” or ‘ex HP” as people are still proud about their past association with these legendary organizations.  People also want to feel connected to the core purpose of the organization and would like to see their work contributing to the top goals of the organization.

The current environment of forced “work at home” can acerbate the problems for companies that have not adopted these expectations into their work environment. Most people today complain of long work hours as Video conference calls start quite early in the day and can stretch late in evening as people keep working during their “commute hours” and more.  The long hours, increased “screen time”, lack of personal touch and water cooler talks, working alone for long hours has created an unnatural environment for many and have increased the stress levels. Also, people in several roles like Sales, Training, Human resources and Operations, who used to work in a physical environment talking to humans need to adapt to communicate and get work done in the virtual environment. There is a learning curve for these folks to adapt and still perform their jobs.

We in our organization practice the principles of OKRs (Objectives and Key Results). Everyone is aware of the corporate goals and how their team’s goals contribute to the same. As weekly reviews are made across the organization, people check-in with their progress and the results are transparent and available for everyone to see.  Teams that are behind get the required help and this process ensures active collaboration. Also with the uncertainty in the economy, the best motivation that leaders can give employees is to ensure that they execute well and people do not have any anxiety about their jobs. This has allowed us to create a positive work environment for the employees.

Appraisals are a stressful time for both the employee and the manager… How can OKR platforms change this? 
OKRs focus on “outcomes” (Growth, Customer satisfaction etc.)  than ‘output” (Lines of code, number of sales calls made etc.). OKRs also mandate weekly reviews of goals. This ensures that people are able to get early, regular feedback of their work and also get help from peers and managers to solve persistent problems. Also the framework encourages continuous conversations and feedback throughout the quarter. Rewards and appreciation are delivered throughout the quarter rather than waiting for the end of the year.  Hence there is no surprise at the end of the year, problems like the “recency effects’ are also eliminated as continuous feedback” can be recorded in the OKR tool.

This ensures that both the employee and the manager are clear about the contribution of the employee towards the corporate goals and value generated. The transparency of the OKRs gives detailed insights about the contribution of various teams and ensures a sense of fairness. Thus OKRs can eliminate the usual stress involved in the appraisal process.

Can you talk about how Profit. Co’s platform enables businesses? has been helping customers across industries like Tech, Media, IT, ITES, BFSI, Logistics and FMCG to realize their strategic goals through iterative business execution. Profit.Co’s OKR platform is intuitive and helps companies to easily adopt rapidly across the organization. Corporate Objectives and Key Results are cascaded to department and Team OKRs. Teams feel empowered as they can align their goals with the corporate goals.

The software integrates well with common platforms like Slack, Jira, Azure devops, Salesforce, MS teams etc. so that people can work in their familiar environments and do not have to reenter data. This saves precious team for contributors. also improves employee engagement by enabling “Conversations, Feedback and Rewards” as part of the software. Feedback and action items can be recorded in the tool and progress can be tracked,

This helps companies to transform themselves into agile execution machines while improving employee engagement and effecting positive outcomes like increased sales, employee productivity and improved employee and customer satisfaction. Overall it makes companies competitive and out-execute their peers.

Can you shed some light on the future trends around employee satisfaction? 
As we mentioned already today’s employees are looking more than just a “market rate salary”.  Employees want to feel a  sense of “purpose” and feel valued in the work environment.  Employees do not want to wait till end of the year of every quarter for their feedback. They would prefer an open environment that provides quick feedback on their work, high quality peer interactions and access to mentors. Employees and organizations are not looking at life time employment, any more. Companies are looking at employees to be partners and enablers  in their journey to stay globally competitive. Employees are looking at an environment that will help them achieve their learning goals and stay “employable”.

Companies need to promote a culture that encourages teamwork and collaboration.  Practicing OKRs codifies many of these practices and ensures that employees feel a sense of achievement and satisfaction at work.

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work from home Senthil Rajagopalan