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OKR Ideas for Your Recruitment Team

What is an OKR?

When discussing performance reviews, annual interviews, or objective management, the OKR method is often used.

OKR stands for Objective Key Result.

The idea is to set only realistic, quantitative, and easily observable objectives.

Let's follow an example to explain how this tool works

As a Talent Acquisition Director, you decide to give one of your recruiters the following OKR: Increase the volume of recruitments by 10% over the next quarter.

In most organizations, at the level of an individual contributor, 10% seems feasible, hence realistic (this is a hypothetical example, it doesn't mean it will be suitable for any situation).

A specific volume to increase, 10%, has been set, so it's quantitative and not subjective.

We didn't say "Increase the volume a little" or "Significantly increase the volume," which could lead to interpretation.

We've put a concrete figure: 10%, over a specific duration: the quarter.

And an increase in recruitment volume is easily observable, provided that the chosen evaluation criterion is well defined in advance: is a recruitment considered done when the candidate says YES to an offer? When they sign the promise of employment? The employment contract? The day of arrival? Or the end of the probation period?

So an OKR is easy to use, provided that everyone agrees at the beginning and the end:

  • On what is precisely expected,

  • On the period that will be measured,

  • On how the achievement of the objective will be evaluated.

OKRs for talent acquisition

So, what OKRs to choose?

Well, it depends on you, your company, and your collaborator!

1. Cascade OKRs

As a team manager, or at the company level, do you have an OKR to achieve?

Then you will think about how each individual contributor of the team can contribute to the collective effort to achieve it.

The purpose of OKRs is often to bring collective coherence to individual efforts.

Example: Increase the volume of recruitments made

We might be tempted to simply take the overall objective and consider that this increase will be achieved by a simple "effort," or in other words: everyone puts in a bit of their own and we will achieve the objective together!

But it's not just about elbow grease, and if your team already feels they have a significant workload, just asking them to "do more of the same" could frustrate them or fail to meet their need for intellectual stimulation.

We can then ask the question differently, and say:

What could we do differently to increase the volume in your team?

Is it a question of efficiency? Organization? Tools?

Can we communicate differently with our targets? What are our possible margins for improvement in sourcing?

2. OKRs at the Initiative of the Collaborator

OKRs are a good excuse to solicit collaborators on their development wishes.

In which direction would they like to direct their efforts?

What effort would seem relevant to them at their level?

The role of a manager is then both to help formulate the OKR correctly and to ensure that it meets both individual wishes and the collective needs of the company.

Example: "I would like to structure my interviews more. Making it an OKR will motivate me to take the time."

It could then be formulated in this way: "Objective of XX% of interviews that are conducted from a structured framework, with at least 3 situational questions."

Knowing that if we start from zero, the objective is not to have 100% of the positions under a structured interview format in a quarter, but to build this practice progressively.

It is often in this way that we realize the contribution of the structured interview compared to others, when we practice both systems, structured and unstructured, in parallel.

3. OKRs for Personal and Professional Development

Some OKRs can have a purpose that serves both the company and the function of the collaborator, while allowing them to develop their skills.

For example, for a recruiter who needs to rely less on incoming applications and do more direct sourcing, the following OKR could be proposed:

"XX% of candidates in the pipeline must come from direct approach channels"

Conversely, if a recruiter needs to develop their skills in writing job ads, the objective could be:

"Increase by 10% the proportion of shortlisted candidates coming from ads"

Of course, any OKR linked to personal and professional development must be accompanied by means allowing skill development on the subject, among which we could imagine: training, support, coaching, mentoring, dedicated time, coherent objectives, etc...

4. Quality OKRs

If OKRs must have a quantitative dimension, does that mean we must exclude all measures of quality?

No, there are plenty of ways to measure quality.

The quality of a candidate pipeline can be evaluated by its conversion rates.

The quality of a candidate experience can be evaluated by a measure of satisfaction at the end of the process.

Beware of NPS (Net Promoter Score) and Satisfaction Rates which can be biased. For example, a manager's NPS can be biased by the relationship they have with a recruiter. And while a good relationship is an asset, it says nothing about the recruiter's ability to staff the manager's teams.

To measure a satisfaction rate, we will therefore use standardized and precise questions that will limit relational biases.

OKRs are a powerful tool for managing a recruitment team, both collectively and individually, but it is an even more powerful tool for helping teams develop personally, while serving the collective effort necessary for the professionalization of a Talent Acquisition department.

Differences between OKR and KPI?

An OKR should not be seen as a KPI.

A KPI is a consequence, a finding. It is followed regularly.

An OKR is an encouragement oriented in a certain direction.

It also has a specific duration in time; it's a punctual action.

A good OKR

A KPI pulls the collaborator, the OKR is supposed to make the collaborator push to achieve it.

An OKR represents an effort, so it can only be an increase or a reduction: this means that it applies to something that has already been measured in the past.

If we have never measured what the OKR is about, then it's a KPI.

But it must be measured to know where we start from, otherwise it is impossible to have an idea of the effort demanded from the collaborator.

Examples of OKR for Talent Acquisition

To conclude, here are some examples of OKRs that I have already used as a Recruitment Manager:

  • Increase the proportion of candidates coming from a specific channel;

  • Increase the proportion of candidates who are former candidates reactivated in the database;

  • Increase the rate of positive returns following direct approaches; (focus on quality - be realistic by setting a low percentage increase to start);

  • Participate in X industry events per month to source candidates on the ground;

  • Reduce the duration of the Time To Hire (or other stages of the process) by XX%;

  • Increase the candidate satisfaction rate at the end of the process by XX%...

OKRs to Avoid for Recruiters

All objectives related to turnover.

Turnover is a very important business issue, but the role of recruiters is to FIND candidates for managers to RECRUIT.

We often think we should hold recruiters responsible for the success of the probation period.

The truth is that it is extremely demoralizing for them. It is normal to want to objectify recruiters on the quality of the candidates presented, but this objective could be formulated rather in this way: "Rate of applications selected that are validated by the Hiring Managers", because the responsibility of recruiting a candidate, then integrating them, lies on the shoulders of the managers, not the recruiters.

Objectives that could create too much disparity between two recruiters

...with equivalent scopes.

It is normal for all OKRs to be individualized, depending on the experience and level of each.

However, keep in mind that these differences must be perceived, understood, and explained to your collaborators.

Well, here you go!

And if you ever want to chat about your OKRs and your TA strategy, please do not hesitate to contact me: I love these topics.

Some sources for further reading:

Bock, L. (2015). Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead. New York, NY: Twelve.

Lehong, J., Van Biljon, J., & Kock, E. (2018). A usability and relevance evaluation of a computer science mobile mentoring system prototype. South African Computer Journal, (60), 1-28.

Timchenko, I. P. (2022). Methodology of OKR (Objectives and Key Results) in Strategic Management of IT Companies. Investments: Practice and Experience.

Stray, V., Gundelsby, J., Ulfsnes, K., & Moe, N. B. (2022). The daily stand-up meeting: A grounded theory study. Journal of Systems and Software, 172, 110907.

Zhou, H., & He, Y. (2018). Comparative Study of OKR and KPI. DEStech Transactions on Economics, Business and Management.


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