HR OKRs: All You Need to Know [With 11 Examples]

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HR OKRs: All You Need to Know [With 11 Examples]

HR teams take on more responsibility and projects every year to take care of the organization’s most valuable asset: People. They frequently face the challenge of having too many projects at the same time and trying to do everything at once. Developing HR OKRs is one of the best ways to prioritize initiatives and focus efforts in the right direction. OKRs help establish a data-driven approach to HR achieving their goals and contribute to organizational goals.

Find out what exactly HR OKRs are and why to set them, discover best practices, and read through helpful HR OKRs examples.

What are HR OKRs?
OKRs vs. KPIs
Why should you set HR OKRs?
HR OKR best practices
HR OKR examples
Downloadable HR OKR tracker template

What are HR OKRs?

HR OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) help HR teams set structured and data-driven goals and help them quantify their results. It provides a framework for establishing human resource objectives, observing key results, and achieving goals within the HR function that impact the organizational goals.

  • Objectives – An objective describes a measurable action that an employee needs to take to achieve something in the future. It describes where you want to go. 
  • Key Results – A set of metrics that are used to measure how you are tracking where you are with the objective. It describes how you will get to your objective.
  • Initiatives – All the activities and tasks that will help you achieve your key result.

Teams and organizations typically set annual OKRs and then break them down into quarterly key results.

Good objectives and key results should be ambitious to push the company to the next level. Objectives communicate an ambitious vision, while key results measure your progress towards that objective. This means that key results can be measured on different scales (e.g. from 0 to 1.0, from 0% to 100%, but also in dollars or euro amounts, depending on the KPI that was set).

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In the example from Atlassian below, a 0.7 score indicates that you have met your key result but have not exceeded them. Any score below that suggests that there is room for improvement.

Scoring KRs

If you have a score of 1.0, it means that you either did a very good job or your key result was not ambitious enough. Scoring below 1.0 is not a negative, as your OKRs are meant to be ambitious. These are referred to as stretch goals.

Think of OKRs in the following way: 

TermObjectiveKey Result
PurposeWhat I want to achieve How I know that I achieved the objective

– Qualitative
– Motivating
– Ambitious / Big Hairy Audacious Goal
– Less is more to create focus
– Quantitative
– Easy to understand
– Achievable
– 2-5 key results per objective

OKRs vs. KPIs

We used KPIs and KRs interchangeably earlier in this article. KPIs are metrics that are strategically signed with the organizational objectives. They measure success in terms of output, quantity, or quality of a particular activity. Because KRs are strategically aligned with a higher-level objective (the O in OKR), KRs are always KPIs, as both are metrics that are strategically aligned with what the organization is trying to achieve.

Here’s an example:

  • Objective – Increase employer brand awareness in Q1 across the US
  • KPI / KR – Increase # of LinkedIn followers of our company page by 20%

Why should you set HR OKRs?

HR OKRs provide you with a framework to set strategic HR goals. Using OKRs as a framework offers advantages including:

  • Articulating goals – Setting concrete, realistic goals with your HR team helps you understand what you’re striving for and create a roadmap for how to get there.
  • Keeping focus – Having clear goals helps you stay focused on your priorities. Oftentimes, HR is guilty of wanting to achieve too much in a short time, which can be unrealistic. Human Resources OKRs help prioritizes what is important. It gets everyone on the same page – particularly in a function like HR, which comprises several sub-departments (e.g., Talent Acquisition, Organizational Development, Learning and Development, Employee Relations, etc.). 
  • Tracking and measuring progress – You’re able to prioritize resource allocation by setting specific objectives and key results, track how you’re doing, and make HR’s impact on the business more measurable. Furthermore, using OKRs also helps keep individuals and teams accountable. Because they are measurable and should be transparent, OKRs create a clear outline of who is responsible for what. 

HR OKR best practices

1. Align your OKRs with organizational goals

The first best practice is to align your HR OKRs to the broader organizational OKRs, as your main goal is to add value to the business.

Then translate those to your sub-departments (Recruitment, HR Operations, L&D, etc.). Some objectives (e.g., delivering the world’s best digital HR services) require departments to work together. The different KRs that help realize this objective can be worked on cross-functionally. The initiatives required to achieve these KRs can be assigned to smaller teams or individuals.

Secondly, crucial conversations need to take place at the leadership level regarding which objectives to set. It should be about the priorities for the year and ensure cross-functional collaboration within the HR department.

2. Work top-down and bottom-up

OKRs provide organizations with a framework to set strategic objectives top-down and contribute to this strategy bottom-up.

Annual objectives are set by the board or executive committee. Objectives are then cascaded by middle management into different key results, often with input from their teams. Individual team members can tag onto specific KRs and propose initiatives on how they can contribute to the organizational objective. This means that OKRs require both top-down and bottom-up support to be successful.

This also means that both the senior leadership team and the rest of the organization need to be enabled before effectively working with and implementing OKRs in the organization.


3. Understand what makes a good OKRs

An effective OKR should consist of a meaningful and inspiring Objective and SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound) Key Results that help you achieve the objective.

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In short, a good HR OKR should be measurable, realistic but ambitious, and verifiable. Importantly, it should also focus on improvement and growth. Aim for between 1 to 5 objectives per quarter.

4. Make sure your OKRs are strategic

Your OKRs are meant to push your organization in the right direction. As a result, it needs to have elements of planning, review, and feedback. Workpath suggests a framework to ensure your OKR process is thorough:

  1. Announce your organizational / HR Priorities – Each year, your HR team has to decide on what the focus for the year would be. It gives a rough direction of how each department would draft their OKRs. For example, a priority for the year might be to automate all HR processes. As a result, all HR departments can include automation as part of their OKRs. Each head of the HR sub-department can then develop their OKRs based on these priorities.
  2. Alignment workshop – All heads of departments, OKR owners, and leadership members should have an alignment meeting. This ensures all areas are covered and removes any obstacles to achieving OKRs. It also assigns responsibility for each OKR. For example, one OKR might cut across two departments – and an alignment workshop helps work out those kinks. 
  3. OKR kickoff – An OKR kickoff is used to present all the signed-off OKRs to the entire company. This should be done early into the year to ensure individual HR practitioners have enough time to set their individual OKRs. It should have a festive atmosphere to it to inspire employees to achieve the ambitious OKRs set. 
  4. Check-ins – Check-ins should be organized on an organization-wide and individual level. OKRs are generally set at the start of a year, and sometimes they can slip employees’ minds. Having regular check-ins provides support and continuous learning. 
  5. Feedback and review – As the year progresses, it becomes important to review what is working and what is not working. You should ask critical questions: 
    • Are the OKRs working?
    • Are the OKRs too ambitious?
    • What are obstacles in the way?

5. Define a reasonable number of Key Results per Objective

The Key Results should be quantifiable, and it is typically recommended to have between two to five KRs per Objective. If you define more Key Results than that, you risk your team members losing focus.

6. Assign a weighted value to each KR

By giving a percentage weight to an OKR, you’re able to prioritize daily efforts and activities. It also helps you determine how much of your Objective you’ve achieved and hold various departments accountable. Here is an example of how you might weigh your OKRs. In this case, the objective is to increase employer brand awareness in the industry.

Key resultsWeight
Grown LinkedIn followers for the company page by 5,000 by Q440%
Increase social media engagement by 40%10%
Increase job applications submitted through LinkedIn by 35%30%
Increase brand recognition in the industry by 10%20%

HR OKR examples

What could OKRs look like for different areas of HR? Let’s take a look at examples under different areas of HR:

HR area Objective Key Results
Talent Acquisition Become an irresistible employer Move compensation to 70% of the industry benchmark
Increase employer brand recognition by 10 points to 45
Obtain an offer acceptance ratio of 85%+
Talent Management Become a sticky employer (improve employee retention) Improve overall employee net promoter score (eNPS) from 12 to 20
Improve employee engagement from 30 to 45 points as measured in our survey
Increase employer brand recognition by 10 points to 45
Performance Management Make feedback continuous Have at least three touchpoints will all managers on continuous feedback
Ensure 65% of employees have a personal development plan by Q3
Achieve 95% completion rates for performance management reviews by Q4
Compensation and Benefits Attract better talent / Reward on par with the market Ensure 80% of jobs are aligned to the correct pay bands by Q3
Ensure gender pay equity by Q4
Increase salary satisfaction levels from 45% to 65%
Learning and Development Make our leaders better / Create a leadership development program for managers Design and implement a ‘Future Leaders’ leadership development program
Enroll 100 leaders in a strategic future leaders program by Q4
Ensure 80% of senior managers are enrolled with a mentor/coaching program
Organizational Culture Become a place where people love to work Run three culture sessions to further refine organizational culture
Improve employee happiness pulse survey rating to 55% by Q3
Increase the number of employee referrals by 20%
Employee Relations Improve overall satisfaction with employee relations Reduce turnaround time for dealing with internal complaints from two weeks to five days
Ensure 100% of employees complete workplace safety training
Develop and deploy a workplace conflict management tool to 60% of line managers by Q4
Employee Retention Improve internal employee satisfaction Increase employee retention from 60% to 65%
Develop new career journey maps for 80% of employees by Q4
Ensure 100% of leavers participate in an exit survey and interview
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Create a truly inclusive organization Ensure gender pay equality
Ensure 100% participation of all employees and non-permanent employees in DEIB training
Achieve equal representation of candidates from underrepresented groups in the talent pipeline
HR Compliance Manage risk effectively Ensure 60% of all HR compliance training is completed by Q2
Achieve an 80% rating in the annual HR audit.
Train all HR staff on GDPR
Employee Wellness Make XYZ a great place to work Achieve a top 50 industry ranking in the Great Place to Work survey
Enroll 20% of employees in an employee fitness program
Implement a healthy food policy in the organization

Downloadable HR OKR tracker template

Download your HR OKR tracker template here and get working with HR OKRs right from the start!

Over to you

Fostering a culture of accountability, HR OKRs use success factors to track and visualize your team’s commitment to reaching the highest level of performance. It’s also an excellent way to promote data-driven decision-making within your team.

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