Recalibrating KPIs

Change, as we have now learnt more than ever, can happen at any time. While change in business is constant, abrupt change can pose great challenges to businesses and its employees. It is for this reason that Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) or metrics that were set in early 2020 might have no longer applied to the current business scenario and approach.

Adjustment has been key to the success of organisations. This also meant that managers’ expectations had to be adjusted, along with the way that they gave feedback to their subordinates.

This has been the case for many businesses we work with. Managers were concerned as to which, when and how KPIs had to be changed. This was more straight-forward for businesses that were made to temporarily close. For instance, there was no way for salespeople to reach their sales targets if the only way to sell was through face-to-face selling. Measuring employees’ KPIs using old and outdated KPIs will not only be unjust for the employee but will also fail to identify how they contributed to the overall success of the organisation.

So, what can be done?

Managers need to go through each metric and clearly identify whether the originally set SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timeframe) metric is still, in fact, attainable and realistic.

Once the managers identified which KPI is still useful or not useful, managers need to set new KPIs. However, this has also been a great challenge for many managers, with some questioning how to set a KPI in such uncertain times. A suggestion here is to focus on KPIs which relate to the employee’s abilities, skills and adaptability to today’s situation. Can the employee:

  • invest more time to developing a new skill, possibly needed for the new way we are working or doing business?
  • aim at coming up with innovative ideas, that also meet the new way we are doing business?
  • focus on building new relationships with clients, or keeping in touch with clients throughout this change process?
  • learn how to manage his/her time better, such as when working from home?

KPIs may not necessarily be hard metrics. We must also keep in mind that now that remote working and flexibility is being more applied in businesses, managers must be looking at output and results and not just activity or number of hours worked.

What approach should we take?

The performance review and goal setting must take more of a holistic and forward-looking approach. It is ever-so important in today’s employer and employee relationship to focus this meeting on:

  • The struggles that employees are facing. Everyone’s ability to adapt to situations such as these times is different. Therefore, it is important to use this time to discuss and understand their struggles.
  • Discussing realistic goals for each individual person. For example, if an employee is working from home but is also dedicating time to home-schooling, the employee’s goals must take that into consideration.
  • Celebration of success and areas for growth. Do look back at the year 2020. Conversations may focus on what was accomplished and what could have been done better.

Performance reviews have never been a one-size-fits all approach. It is now even more important to tailor each meeting and set metrics according to the business and employee’s situation.  Frequent check-ins are also crucial as employees also need to have feedback on their performance throughout the year, and not just at the end-of-year review. In fact, the end-of-year reviews are becoming close to irrelevant considering the rapid change we are going through, and regular conversations are becoming more relevant. Setting priorities, according to the changing environment, together, should be the focus of the conversation.


At SurgeAdvisory, we advise businesses on how to best approach and practices on performance management and managing difficult conversations with employees. Contact me on [email protected] to discuss how we can help you.

About the author

Maria Bartolo Zahra is Co-Founder and HR Advisor at SurgeAdvisory. She has over eighteen years of human resources and business advisory experience.