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Tom Fairey



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Employee experience: why it’s time to ditch job descriptions and KPIs

To retain staff in today’s working environment, you have to offer more freedom. It’s time to ditch KPIs and job descriptions.

The pandemic has presented countless challenges for us all. Employers have had to make some incredibly tough decisions relating to staff employment and hiring, and for existing employees, work-related stress has risen. In fact, 41% of the global workforce say they are considering leaving their job this year as a result of the pandemic.

Although KPIs provide a form of tracking work progress remotely, they tend to stifle creativity and initiative among staff. 

During such bleak and uncertain times, strict KPIs and targets for staff that were based on their roles and responsibilities in a non-remote working environment have further contributed to high levels of stress, increasing the likelihood of workers resigning from their roles. Given all the hurdles employers have faced in the past year, preventing a high turnover in staff, which could lead to a loss of experience and knowledge within the business, should be of the utmost importance.

At Stakester, productivity and staff happiness – and therefore retention – is given the highest priority. New joiners have no job descriptions when they start, allowing them to carve out roles that suit their own goals, as well as that of the business. Instead of being given job descriptions, they work with the team to set their own targets.

We have also completely scrapped staff KPIs. Since implementing these two changes, we’ve seen 300% growth with no additional spend on our marketing budget. This success can be purely attributed to letting the team take initiative and giving them the tools and flexibility to play to their strengths.

Unlocking the employee’s and business’ potential

No matter how detailed a company’s hiring process is, it’s impossible for any employer to immediately know what someone’s strengths and weaknesses are when they join. By removing prescriptive job descriptions from the outset, businesses give them flexibility to design their role around what they do best, meaning everyone wins.

By forcing your own model on them and restricting what they do with a detailed job description, you’re actively limiting their productivity and creativity.

The most important thing I’ve learned is that by looking after your employees and giving them the confidence to say, ‘this is what I’m best at, and these are the ways I can help you grow’, you develop a better and more productive workforce, which can only be a good thing for your business’ growth.

By getting our new joiners to set their own job descriptions once they are settled in, everyone knows exactly what is expected of them, because their job descriptions are exactly what they expect of themselves.

Why staff KPIs limit productivity

Rigid KPIs and targets make total sense from an employer’s perspective, in theory. They exist so staff performance can be measured in a simplistic way and we can keep constant track of everything they are doing. In reality, however, it’s measuring productivity on a spreadsheet, with arbitrary tasks being ticked off.

Stress has been understandably high for most workers over the last year as we adjusted to new ways of working, communicating and achieving objectives that were set in a very different environment. As businesses return in a hybrid format, or even remain working remotely, it’s vital that employers continue to look out for their staff.

It is part of our job remit as employers to ensure our staff feel supported and safe. They need to know they are in an environment where they can make mistakes without the fear of missing out on targets, because that’s the only way they can learn from them, avoid making them again in the future and develop.

The last year has proven why KPIs are outdated. Businesses have struggled with trusting employees to hit the same targets remotely as they had in person before the pandemic. Instead of keeping those strict targets, remove them and give employees the feeling that we trust them to deliver on what they are capable of achieving.

Although KPIs provide a form of tracking work progress remotely, they tend to stifle creativity and initiative among staff. We used to provide our video content team with a very prescriptive brief with set targets and KPIs. We decided we needed to change the way we operated, and the results were fascinating.

The team was given a budget for a YouTube video, and the brief was simply ‘create something you’re proud of, and don’t ask me what I want’. They created something brilliant – a video that has, to this point, achieved 359,000 views.

Previous to our change in approach to KPIs, our best performing video had 13,000 views. In giving the team the freedom to determine what they wanted to achieve, they created something successful that they were proud of, without the fear of making sure it hit all the targets we had set for them hanging over their heads.

Now is the time to adapt

While there is a light at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel, the pandemic has changed the way businesses operate externally and internally for the foreseeable future, and perhaps even permanently. Many businesses may simply revert back to the way things were always done before the pandemic, ignoring the long-lasting impact it has had on so many people.

Instead of doing that, take a leap of faith and remove traditional and standardised methods of monitoring employee development. No individual’s approach to work is the same as another, so why do we provide them with the same job descriptions? Give them the freedom to be creative, take risks and strive for greater things. Not only will this make them more productive and deliver better results, but it will also give them so much more job satisfaction, ensuring you are not only securing, but also actively retaining the top talent.  

Interested in this topic? Read Leadership: why employee autonomy means giving up control.

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Tom Fairey


Read more from Tom Fairey

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