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Mind the Gap

How do You Measure Your Results?

Posted by Sarah Hobbs

Today’s article is based on one that we sent out recently to our Career Audience – but with a manager’s slant.

Do you have hard facts or evidence that shows the quality of the results you’ve achieved in your current role? Many people don’t – you can see this from the quality of most applications and CVs. What’s the benefit for a manager of measuring the impact of the work that you do, and always having hard data at your fingertips? Read on!

Results don’t always have to be numeric (although it’s often good if they are) but it’s important that you’ve thought about the evidence that makes it clear that you and your team have done a good job. Ask yourself, which sounds more impressive? “We’ve been working on improving customer satisfaction” or “The team is on a real high this week – because we’ve halved customer waiting times, and we’ve just heard that the number of Excellent ratings from customers has gone up by 20%.”

Taking the time to measure results gives you something that you can drop into conversation easily – and that builds the reputation of both your team and your leadership skills. For example, you could say “I’m really enjoying work right now, the team has delivered all of the last 4 projects ahead of schedule and below budget” or, at interviews “8 out of the 10 recommendations made by the team in our last presentation were adopted by the Board”.

What’s the approach you need to take?
  1. Start by asking – How will we know that we’ve done a great job?
    Before you start any new project or piece of work, ask yourself this question. “If this work is successful, what is the impact it will have?” It could be that something is saved (time or money or scrap) or something is averted (risk, problems). It could be the impact on an external or internal customer (sorting out an issue that would have affected 10% of our customers, reducing a backlog of work so customers get a quicker response, experiencing an uptick in repeat orders). Or it could be about gaining something (sales, customers, referrals, or improving profitability). Or it might be a positive reaction (like an email from your Director thanking you, winning an award, or other teams picking up your initiative and using it to improve their own situation).

  2. What do you measure already?
    Sometimes we feel we have a good reason for not measuring – “I think it’s going to be difficult” or “I don’t have the time”. If that’s familiar, the easiest place to begin is to look at what information is already provided to you – management information, KPIs, performance data, engagement scores etc. Ask yourself, is there any data already being collected, that you can make use of? If not, you might have to bite the bullet and put some effort in to develop your skills in measuring and assessing impact. Find people who are great at this, and ask what they’d suggest. Or treat it as a challenge and get friends or your team involved. Having hard measures of success is a great morale booster for the team, providing opportunities to celebrate success and work together towards a common goal. One team I know posted its results on their cubicle wall – not the side facing inwards, but the side where everyone else walking past could see the success and would real and comment on it. This recognition of their good work made the team feel like winners!

  3. Reward people who help you
    Often you will need other people’s help to evaluate and create results. When asking for that help, find ways of ensuring that other people get something out of it too. Could you offer to share the finalised data with them? Could you add their research into yours to help them? Are there papers or other information you could share with them to say thank you?

  4. Use the data well
    Once you’ve gathered the data, think about the best possible way of presenting it. If you’ve eliminated a weekly report that used to take a day to produce due to automation, that is better presented as 20% (or a fifth) of your time saved, or 0.2 of an FTE, or – if someone was paid 20k a year (which probably means 30k with on-costs), you have saved approaching £6k per year. Even better, multi-layer the explanation – in this example, it wasn’t just the saving of time and costs, you also improved efficiency, developed an innovative reporting format that others have adopted, and probably received some very positive feedback. You can also think about how to present this visually. When you have a success, think about your internal magazine – they are always looking for good news stories! And they are experts in how to present data well. Might they interview you and your team?
Measuring your results can appear to be difficult or time-consuming, which is why most people don’t bother to do it. However, the payback is huge – it really makes you and your team stand out to senior managers. In addition, if you make a discipline out of measuring success, your team will learn how to do this too – which will help ensure that their CVs are great and their talents aren’t overlooked at interview. You can invest everyone’s careers by being among the few who collect evidence of the positive contribution they make.