Measure with Meaning: The Five Work Performance Indicators

measure metrics

As the digital economy evolves, so do the methods we use to measure success. Succeeding in business is no longer about cutting costs, or coming in on time and under budget on projects. Although these metrics are important, the future of how we manage work will demand more. We need a set of new and relevant metrics.

From the number of steps we take in a day to the average temperature in our homes by week, technology allows us to measure our world. We’re in a measurement craze right now, making it hard to know how to get meaningful measurements.

Where should you start?

Take a look at the work your own team or organization is doing, and ask yourself these questions:

These questions provide insight into our work and work environments.

Every leader wants to know that resources and work efforts are aligned with strategy. Simultaneously, employees want to know why they are doing what they’re doing and how they can provide better outcomes.

As Alex Shootman, CEO at Workfront, says, “We need to pull ourselves out of the engine room and up onto the bridge of the battleship.”  A new set of metrics will put us and our organizations on the right path. These metrics—or five Work Performance Indicators (WPIs)—are mix, capacity, velocity, quality, and engagement.

The Five WPIs

1. Mix

How much of your work, or workforce, is dedicated to running the business versus changing the business? This differs across companies. In marketing, you refer to this as new versus existing work. And in IT, it’s keep the lights on (KTLO) versus new development. The key is knowing your allocation proportions—whether by count, percentage, or total hours.

To measure mix, consider the following:

  1. Add a metadata tag or drop-down field (e.g., run versus change) to all of your projects.  (If you’re using Workfront, you can use a Custom Form.)
  2. Once projects have been tagged, create a report that shows total project count, or total hours allocated across the organization.
  3. Assess how many projects or how many hours are dedicated to this type of work.

Imagine if Apple hadn’t changed their approach to work since the 1980s. We would not have iTunes, or iPods, or iPhones. If Amazon had focused only on selling books, they wouldn’t be the conglomerate they are today. Each organization is different, but as you can see, it pays to know where time and effort is being spent.

2. Capacity

Can it get done? For the past 50 years, average capacity utilization averaged 80 percent. Separate studies by Workfront and McKinsey found that modern worker utilization is less than 40 percent. That represents more than $3 trillion of wasted human capital investment each year. We’re talking pallet size stacks of cash.

In short, it’s no longer a luxury to know total available capacity or utilization—it’s a necessity. If you ran a manufacturing company at 40 percent capacity, you would be fired. A change management expert I know shared that the number one question in 2019 keeping CEOs up at night is: Does our organization have the capacity to change like it needs to?

3. Velocity

How fast are you working? This WPI is defined by total work cycle time and work-to-commit ratio. Total work cycle time is how long it takes to complete a piece of work. Work-to-commit is how frequently work is done in the time originally committed. Both can be tracked easily inside Workfront.

We live in an “I want it when I want it” culture, so being able to look at total work cycle time and work-to-commit is critical. Ultimately, velocity tells us how long it takes to get things done in your organization.

4. Quality

What is the perception of work quality within the organization?

Now you might say, “We already measure quality and don’t need any help here, thanks!” However, traditional quality measurements is not what we’re referring to. This WPI is about making sure the work that you and your teams are producing meets the needs of the stakeholders they serve.

For example, as the manager of learning programs at Workfront, I know our customer-facing learning content is more on point if we are crystal clear about audience, performance goals, and objectives. For you and your organization, defining quality will be different, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore it.  For example, companies like TripAdvisor and Amazon have influenced millions of consumers based on quality ratings and would be nowhere near as successful as they are today if they ignored these ratings.

5. Engagement

Do people take pride in their work? Are they committed to the organization’s goals?

According to a new meta-analysis of 1.4 million employees conducted by the Gallup Organization, organizations with a high level of engagement report 22% higher productivity. Highly engaged organizations have double the rate of success. This WPI focuses your team members on three simple questions:

  1. Did you understand what was expected of you?
  2. Did the work you were assigned make a difference to the organization?
  3. Did you do great work?

Work aside, another recent article showed how engaged students came out on top.  Now think what truly engaged employees could do for your business.

Integrating All Five WPIs

The five WPIs are paramount and most valuable when combined. One Workfront customer tracks “touches” on collateral to hone in on the correlation between velocity and quality. She uses these measurements to master modern work. Another Workfront customer secured an additional $1 million in funding by exposing the capacity issues within their organization. Another customer of Workfront used mix to figure out how much of their time was being spent on non-revenue generating work. They turned this around from 77% non-revenue generating to 66% revenue generating.

These five WPIs give you a clearer view of what’s happening inside of your organization. You’ll learn what you need to fix and where you’re winning already. You may have to adjust course, stay on path, and fan the embers of motivation. Pick two WPIs to start off with and pave your path to greater success.