Working From Home With OKRs

An Ex-Googler’s advice: Combine goals with measurement.

remote work desk with mobile phone, laptop and water bottle

Many people dream of working for one of the world’s top tech companies. Adam Naor has worked for three. He spent several years at Google in various roles ranging from team lead to manager, while living in Mountain View, California; Sydney, Australia; and Munich, Germany. And then, Naor was a member of the corporate development team at Indeed. Now, he’s a senior partner manager at another one of the Big Five companies in the U.S. information technology industry.

And he took the information he learned to start his own company. Naor is also the founder and CEO of WFHAdviser, which he started at the beginning of COVID-19 to help individuals and companies working remotely.

Along the way, Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), which combine goal setting and measurement, have been essential to the companies that he’s worked with.

With OKRs, knowing what to measure… matters

“Google has used OKR systems at a corporate level and team level basically since its inception,” Naor says. “One of the early investors in Google, John Doerr (you may have heard of him), had a history of using OKRs from his time at Intel and brought those over to Google.”

Not surprisingly, Google is an ambitious company, and it shows in how they use OKRs. “One of the things that was very important to the culture of the teams I was on was how to set really aggressive, ambitious Objectives and how to measure those Objectives in the form of Key Results.” Naor’s teams would set Objectives around building products to help users and taking products to market. “And then the Key Results would be how many people used the products and how they were able to achieve success using those products.”

It’s easy to get off track when developing new products, but using OKRs provided guard rails to keep the teams on track not only by influencing what they built, but also how they measured the launch and success of the product.

Indeed also uses OKRs. In fact, Naor says one of the reasons the company embraces them is because they’ve recruited several senior managers from Google who are bringing the OKR culture with them.

So, what are some of the ways that Indeed uses OKRs? “Indeed exists to help people — that’s the Objective” Naor says. “The Key Results can be measured in different ways: How many people got jobs? Where were these jobs based? What kinds of jobs did these people get? What type of work is now being done by these people once they got the jobs?”

While at Indeed, Naor worked on the Corporate Development Team, investing in and evaluating Future of Work companies. It provided the impetus for his new venture. “I saw a gap in the market and thought I could use goal tracking, market awareness, and my unique technical skills to help people.”

Naor started in early 2020, when he came to realize that the way people would work as a result of COVID-19 would change profoundly. And his extensive OKR knowledge has served him well with his startup. “WFHAdviser is deeply embedded in the OKR culture and I think this gives the company a competitive advantage in the marketplace and enables us to better help users working from home.”

Having spent years and years writing OKRS, Naor says he has an incredible amount of clarity identifying that North Star, and that has allowed him to build something quickly. “We are profitable, and growing 1% every three days.” And he already knows what metrics to use for OKR measurement, and by identifying the right metrics he can add value to people by building tools that will actually be useful.

“For example, when the average person is starting a website or company, they don’t know what to prioritize. They’re torn between focusing on products, users, growth, revenue, profitability, etc. But because I have over 10 years of experience using OKRs to measure and set Objectives, I knew from the very beginning exactly what mattered,”

Objective: Building a product that helps users work from home

KR1: number of people who come to the website

KR2: number of people that get advice on their career

KR3: number of people who get advice on how to manage remote relationships with their staff or boss

Adam Naor, CEO of WFHAdviser

Comprehension + compliance make OKRs work

While Naor has experienced great success using OKRs, he understands that not everyone has the same outcome — and he understands why. “OKRs are part of the culture and management of people and how they build them — and it is possible that people don’t know how to use OKRs.” Naor admits that when he has worked with teams on which it was not successful, “Part of the reason is because people didn’t always understand how to measure things, and if you can’t measure things, you don’t know what your Key Results are.”

For some people, he says it may take a little more effort to help them understand that the Objectives are the goals, and Key Results are what happens if you reach that goal. “So, for a lot of companies that don’t know how to measure different aspects of performance, it’s difficult to have Key Results that will be successful.”

One interesting trend he’s noticed since launching WFH Adviser is that many companies are reaching out to ask him how to think about strategic priorities for remote workers. “They want to know how to measure the impact that remote workers have. They want to know what it means to have culture and to set Objectives around culture and participation and engagement.”

And his knowledge of OKRs and how to set and track effective measurements help companies create a better experience for their staff and be more successful at innovating and adding value, regardless of the industry. “People are struggling with this, and I’m able to help them understand some of these new paradigms of work and how to measure them, especially in these new remote times.”

Naor discovered that one of the things people working from home want the most is to see how their OKRs can be used to show that they’re having a value-added impact on their work. “So it’s very interesting to see how OKRs went from being used within companies to manage internal work flows and cultures and processes, and is now being used by remote workers to demonstrate value add.”

And so, Naor has come full circle, using the knowledge and best practices that made him successful at some of the largest companies in the world to advise other organizations and employees. “We have helped over one million people improve their WFH environments and office set ups,” he says. By helping them work more efficiently and effectively while creating an engaging company culture that can thrive in a remote environment, Naor is helping to shape the workplace of the future.

If you’re interested in starting our OKRs 101 course, click here.

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