Do KPIs cut the performance mustard?

Metrics abound in business, all with enviable acronyms and mind-boggling data attached; a well touted one is key performance indicators (KPIs). They serve as quantifiable measures of progress towards an intended outcome and can be tailored to most jobs. Intrinsically they are linked to the overarching business objectives but does the theory still play out or are they fuelling the opposite of what they are setting out to achieve?
HR Grapevine
HR Grapevine | Executive Grapevine International Ltd
Do KPIs cut the performance mustard?
KPIs can fuel burnout, stress and anxiety

Metrics abound in business, all with enviable acronyms and mind-boggling data attached; a well touted one is key performance indicators (KPIs).

They serve as quantifiable measures of progress towards an intended outcome and can be tailored to most jobs. Intrinsically they are linked to overarching business objectives, but does the theory still play out or are they fuelling the opposite of what they are setting out to achieve?

The doctrine sets out that they can help improve productivity by focusing efforts on specific goals, progress tracking by allowing continuous monitoring of performance against predefined benchmarks and guide teams towards desired outcomes. Yet, when we brush the theories aside, do they work, or are they a source of anxiety, burnout, and a bone of contention between warring and competitive employees? Are the results of this a burgeoning company culture that springboards into one of toxicity in which colleagues are pitted against each other by their outcome tally, rather than any objectivity over quality or indeed the potentially amazing work that is being done, yet is possibly falling between the KPI cracks and going unrecognised?

What gets measured, gets managed

This popular quote by the famous management theorist, Peter Drucker points to an idealistic, arguably utopian view of work in which everything that is determined as an output can be analysed and categorised into data. A smorgasbord of performance by which we can assess someone’s effectiveness. Yet, employees are not perfect and the intricacies of being a living, breathing human means we have many unique smatterings of flaws and imperfections that make us real and subject to failures.

We are great at producing data and not always the best at using it. I would suggest that paying the right attention to data and tracking the right KPIs is helpful to decision making in an organisation

Nicky Clarke | Chief People Officer, NHS Northern Care Alliance

So, what’s happening in reality? Nicky Clarke, Chief People Officer, NHS Northern Care Alliance says that the data should be carefully selected, “We are great at producing data and not always the best at using it. I would suggest that paying the right attention to data and tracking the right KPIs is helpful to decision making in an organisation.”

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