Pro Tips for Using KPIs to Drive Performance

The health of the data impacting key performance indicators (KPIs) will dictate a manager’s ability to deliver useful feedback.

As the adage goes, you can’t improve what you don’t measure. The use of key performance indicators (KPIs) across many different facets of business proves this point. Managers have come to rely on carefully curated metrics to determine the effectiveness of their teams, and ultimately their teams’ impact on profitability.

But how can managers derive the most value from their KPIs? In other words, how can KPIs be used to enhance individual and team performance? Let’s look at some practical examples of how senior and mid-senior leaders can leverage the insights extracted from KPIs to help their teams achieve success.

Look for Holes First things first: You can’t make process improvements based on an analysis of your KPIs if they are inconsistent or inaccurate. The data stream that feeds the metrics you’ve chosen to track as KPIs is instrumental to the cycle of analysis, feedback, and improvement. In order for this cycle to function at maximum capacity, the data points you’re tracking need to be complete and correct for all team members.

Bad data is problematic because it taints the results of KPIs. For example, if a sales director is tracking “opportunities opened,” but reps are unclear about what constitutes an opportunity, there will be discrepancies in productivity on paper. Similarly, if “calls made” is a KPI of interest, but reps are using myriad tools to track their work, then cohesiveness in reporting becomes a challenge.

To remedy this, management first must communicate the parameters of a KPI to their team so everyone is working toward the same goals. Second, it’s important that teams working toward a specific set of KPIs are using the same system to track their progress. In doing so, managers can rest assured the data they’re viewing is accurate, and thus, actionable.

Provide Data-Driven Coaching If your KPI data is free from holes, it serves as the basis for constructive conversations about employee performance. KPIs can be applied in several different ways to equip team members with tactical feedback, including:

  • Identifying which metrics are most closely tied to increased revenue (i.e., “leading indicators”) and encourage team members to hone in on those activities.
  • Discovering obstacles faced by team members that are affecting their performance. If certain team members are not reaching goals, managers can inquire why that is on the basis of their output relative to other employees.
  • Pointing out efficiency issues revealed by the data. For instance, you could find that some reps close more deals while making fewer calls, and hence you can encourage those with high call volumes to focus on quality rather than quantity.

Employing data as part of a management style helps employees to visualize their achievements, as well as areas for improvement. Taking it a step further, effective KPIs have the power to inform about bigger picture business issues. 

Discover Telling Trends Part of driving performance is identifying trends that potentially could impact your team’s ability to reach goals. An analysis of KPIs could reveal a number of interesting insights, including:

  • Seasonality: Consider the example that your KPIs show a teamwide drop in activity during the summer months. Conversely, sales per representative might be exploding during the winter holiday season. 
  • Competitive influence: In some cases, the intrusion of a competitor will be evident in KPIs, particularly those that deal with retention rates or satisfaction surveys.
  • Geography: Perhaps team members who work remotely have a higher output than those who work from the office. Or maybe a particular region of the country is proving more profitable than another. 

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg for what KPIs have the power to expose. Harnessing this intelligence can help managers make adjustments as necessary to ensure each team member is reaching his or her full potential.

Takeaways What’s important to remember is that the health of the data impacting KPIs will dictate a manager’s ability to deliver useful feedback. Good KPI data is also advantageous for forecasting purposes. Finally, keep in mind that the cycle of data input, coaching, and revising is an iterative process that should be continuously refined to drive success.

Victoria Vessella is a Marketing associate at Repsly, a retail execution software that empowers consumer packaged goods (CPG) teams to make data-driven insights and achieve peak performance in the field. She leads the company’s P.R. and social media efforts, as well as its event management. A New England native, Vessella has spent time living in Italy and traveling throughout Europe before settling back in Boston.

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