KPI's - What Gets Measured Gets Improved... Right?

What gets measured gets improved…right?

KPI’s, or key performance indicators, measure the success or failure of an employee by evaluating a specific metric. KPI’s may be irritating, but they’re a necessary evil. For management, KPI’s provide the framework that enables leadership to identify gaps and gain insights into employee performance.

For recruiters and salespeople, on the other hand, key performance indicators are often interpreted as numerical hurdles from which their success/failure is defined. These hurdles, including a mandated number for dials, talk time, connects, meetings, etc. lack context in the minds of employees, leading to the use of words like micromanagement. How many times do entry-level sales and recruiting professionals complain about feeling “micromanaged?” Are these employees in the wrong, or is there some truth to this sentiment?


And let’s be honest, in sales and recruiting especially, feeling micromanaged adds unnecessary stress to an already stressful job. We believe that KPI’s are necessary for identifying weaknesses and improving employees’ habits, but recognize that in some scenarios, company leadership enforces KPI’s without having a true understanding of where in the sales/recruiting process the employee is defecting.

Mistake #1 – Harping on KPI’s when a sales rep/recruiter is getting results

If your sales rep or recruiter is hitting their quota, then KPI’s should always take a back seat. No one wants to close a deal and celebrate, only to have their manager get onto them about not hitting their daily dial target. In this scenario, leadership cannot use KPI’s to motivate an employee. Instead, KPI’s can help a manager adjust their approach to what works for that specific employee. When it’s all said and done, the only KPI that really matters is whether or not your sales reps and recruiters are making you more money than they are costing you.

Mistake #2 – Failing to explain the “why”

The most common mistake managers make is simply telling an employee what to do. At the risk of throwing millennials under the bus (again), this new generation of sales/recruiting talent craves direction, but with a purpose. If you implement a new KPI, or increase the expectations for an existing KPI without context, your employees will undoubtedly feel some resentment. Instead, coach for the strategy and not the execution. Define why you want to implement this new KPI, how it aligns with organizational goals, as well as how it will benefit the rep.

Mistake #3 – Misaligned KPI’s

We have said this before, but what constitutes success for one individual or company does not always translate. I know someone who worked in an inside sales role where their KPI’s conflicted with their company’s values. Management modeled their KPI structure as the company’s competitors did, wanting “quick wins” and 100 dials per day, but that same company’s values dictated that employees build meaningful relationships with their customers, taking on a more consultative sales role. Conflict alert! Employees at that organization began to drop like flies. When you decide which KPI’s you want to measure, always take a step back and consider if the KPI’s make sense and align with your company’s goals and values.

Because employees represent both a company’s biggest expense, as well as a company’s most valuable asset, KPI’s are necessary for determining if an employee is meeting and exceeding their full potential. Key performance indicators should always act as a sort of checklist that guides your employees’ activities, rather than a mandated quota of activities they must complete in order to keep their job. KPI’s are meant to guide employees in the right direction, so the manager can glean intel on how and where to coach. What gets measured DOES get improved, but let’s be aware of calling just to call.  We get paid on business closed, not dials made. 


Kate Jacoutot

Spire Workforce Solutions, 5575 Peachtree Dunwoody Road Northeast, Building C, Suite 240, Sandy Springs, GA, 30342, United States