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The Empuls Glossary

Glossary of Human Resources Management and Employee Benefit Terms

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Key performance indicators are used to monitor performance, track trends over time, identify areas for improvement, and make data-driven decisions to drive organizational success.

What are key performance indicators?

Key performance indicators are measurable values that organizations use to assess their progress toward achieving specific objectives or goals. KPIs are quantifiable metrics that provide insights into the performance and effectiveness of various aspects of the organization, such as operations, processes, projects, or initiatives.

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What are the features of key performance indicators?

The features of key performance indicators are:

  • Relevance: Key performance indicators should be directly related to the organization's strategic objectives and critical success factors. They should measure aspects of performance that are essential for achieving desired outcomes and driving progress toward organizational goals.
  • Measurability: Key performance indicators should be quantifiable and measurable using objective data or metrics. They should be specific, concrete, and capable of being tracked and analyzed over time to assess performance trends and changes.
  • Validity: Key performance indicators should accurately reflect the performance of the process, activity, or area being measured. They should provide meaningful and actionable insights into performance and help stakeholders make informed decisions.
  • Timeliness: Key performance indicators should be updated and reported regularly to provide timely performance feedback. Timely reporting allows organizations to identify issues or opportunities quickly and take appropriate actions to address them.
  • Benchmarking: Key performance indicators may be compared to benchmarks or targets to assess performance relative to predefined standards or expectations. Benchmarking helps organizations gauge their performance against industry peers, best practices, or historical performance levels.
  • Ownership: Key performance indicators should have clear ownership and accountability within the organization. Stakeholders responsible for achieving the KPIs should be identified, and roles and responsibilities should be clearly defined to ensure effective performance management.

When should a company review and update its key performance indicators?

The reasons why a company should review and update its key performance indicators are:

1. Strategic planning cycles

Companies typically review and update their KPIs as part of the strategic planning process. This may occur annually or periodically to align KPIs with evolving business objectives, market conditions, and organizational priorities.

2. Organizational changes

Significant changes within the organization, such as mergers, acquisitions, reorganizations, or changes in leadership, may necessitate a review of KPIs. New strategic directions, business models, or priorities may require adjustments to KPIs to reflect the updated focus and objectives.

3. Market shifts or industry trends

Changes in market conditions, industry trends, competitive landscape, or regulatory environment may impact the relevance and effectiveness of existing KPIs. Companies should regularly assess whether their KPIs adequately reflect external factors and adjust them as needed to stay competitive and responsive to market dynamics.

4. Performance assessments

Regular performance assessments provide opportunities to evaluate existing KPIs' effectiveness in driving desired outcomes. If KPIs are not effectively measuring performance or driving improvement, companies may need to review and update them to better align with performance goals and objectives.

5. Performance gaps or changes in results

If performance results consistently fall short of targets or if there are significant changes in performance trends, companies should review KPIs to identify potential issues or areas for improvement. Adjustments to KPIs may be necessary to address performance gaps and drive better outcomes.

6. Continuous improvement culture

Companies committed to a culture of continuous improvement regularly review and update their KPIs to ensure that they remain aligned with changing circumstances and evolving best practices. Regular reviews and updates help companies stay agile, responsive, and focused on driving performance excellence.

Who are the key stakeholders involved in setting and monitoring KPI’s?  

Here are the key stakeholders who should be involved in the process:

  • Senior leadership/executive team: Senior leaders are responsible for setting the organization's strategic direction and objectives. They provide guidance and direction for KPI development and ensure alignment with overall business goals and priorities.
  • Department heads/managers: Department heads and managers play a crucial role in translating high-level strategic goals into actionable KPIs for their respective departments or teams. They provide input on department-specific objectives and performance metrics.
  • Finance and accounting: Finance and accounting professionals provide expertise in financial analysis, budgeting, and forecasting. They play a key role in identifying financial KPIs, such as revenue, profit margins, and return on investment (ROI), and ensuring that KPIs are aligned with financial objectives.
  • Human resources: Human Resources (HR) professionals contribute to the development of KPIs related to employee performance, engagement, and retention. They provide input on KPIs such as employee satisfaction, turnover rates, and training effectiveness.
  • Sales and marketing teams: Sales and marketing teams are involved in setting KPIs related to customer acquisition, revenue growth, and marketing effectiveness. They provide input on KPIs such as lead conversion rates, customer acquisition costs (CAC), and customer lifetime value (CLV).
  • Cross-functional teams: Cross-functional teams bring together representatives from different departments or functions to collaborate on setting KPIs that span multiple areas of the organization. They ensure that KPIs are holistic, integrated, and aligned with overall business objectives.
  • Employees: Employees at all levels of the organization should be engaged in the process of setting and monitoring KPIs. They provide frontline insights, feedback, and perspectives on what KPIs are meaningful, achievable, and relevant to their roles and responsibilities.

How can key performance indicators help in employee performance?

Key performance indicators can play a significant role in improving employee performance in several ways:

1. Clarifying expectations

Key performance indicators help clarify performance expectations by defining specific goals, objectives, and targets for employees to achieve. Clear and measurable KPIs provide employees with a clear understanding of what is expected of them and what success looks like in their roles.

2. Setting goals and priorities

Key performance indicators help employees prioritize their work and focus their efforts on activities that contribute most directly to organizational objectives. By aligning individual goals with broader organizational goals, employees can better understand how their work contributes to the overall success of the organization.

3. Monitoring progress

Key performance indicators enable employees to track their progress toward achieving performance targets and objectives. Regular monitoring of KPIs allows employees to assess their performance, identify areas for improvement, and take corrective actions as needed to stay on track.

4. Providing feedback

Key performance indicators serve as a basis for providing feedback to employees on their performance. By comparing actual performance against KPI targets, managers can provide constructive feedback to employees, recognize achievements, and identify opportunities for development and improvement.

5. Motivating performance

Key performance indicators provide employees with clear performance targets and incentives to strive for excellence. When employees understand how their performance is measured and rewarded, they are more motivated to perform at their best and achieve or exceed performance targets.

6. Identifying training and development needs

Key performance indicators help identify areas where employees may need additional training, support, or development to improve their performance. By analyzing performance data, managers can identify skills gaps or deficiencies and provide targeted training and development opportunities to help employees improve their performance.

7. Supporting performance reviews

Key performance indicators provide objective data and evidence to support performance reviews and evaluations. Instead of relying solely on subjective assessments, managers can use KPIs to evaluate performance objectively and have data-driven discussions with employees about their performance and areas for improvement.

8. Driving continuous improvement

Key performance indicators serve as a basis for identifying opportunities for process improvement and performance optimization. By analyzing KPI data, organizations can identify trends, patterns, and areas of underperformance, and implement strategies to address root causes and drive continuous improvement across the organization.

How can a company identify the right KPI’s for business outcomes?

The ways in which a company can identify the right KPI’s for business outcomes are:  

1. Understand business objectives

Start by gaining a clear understanding of the organization's overall strategic objectives and priorities. What are the key goals and targets that the company aims to achieve? Identifying high-level business objectives provides a framework for selecting KPIs that align with these goals.

2. Define specific goals and outcomes

Break down the broad business objectives into specific, measurable goals and outcomes that the organization wants to achieve. These goals should be specific, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). Consider both short-term and long-term objectives.

3. Identify critical success factors

Identify those essential for achieving the defined goals and outcomes. Critical success factors are the key areas or activities that have the most significant impact on the success of the business. These factors provide insight into the aspects of performance that are most important to monitor and manage.

4. Brainstorm potential KPIs

Brainstorm potential KPIs relevant to the identified critical success factors and business goals. Consider both quantitative and qualitative metrics that can provide insights into performance across different areas of the organization. Involve key stakeholders from relevant departments or functions in the brainstorming process to ensure comprehensive coverage.

5. Evaluate KPI candidates

Evaluate the potential KPI candidates based on several criteria, including relevance, measurability, validity, reliability, timeliness, and actionability. Assess each KPI candidate against these criteria to determine its suitability for tracking performance and informing decision-making.

6. Prioritize key performance indicators

Prioritize the identified KPIs based on their importance, relevance, and impact on business goals. Focus on selecting a manageable number of KPIs that provide the most meaningful insights into performance and align closely with strategic priorities.

7. Consider leading and lagging indicators

Consider both leading and lagging indicators when selecting KPIs. Leading indicators provide early warning signs of performance trends and future outcomes, while lagging indicators measure outcomes or results after the fact. Balancing leading and lagging indicators provides a more comprehensive view of performance.

8. Test and refine

Test the selected KPIs to ensure that they effectively measure performance and provide actionable insights. Monitor KPIs over time, gather feedback from stakeholders, and make adjustments as needed to refine the selection of KPIs and improve their effectiveness in supporting business goals.

9. Document and communicate

Document the selected KPIs, including their definitions, measurement methods, targets or benchmarks, and responsibilities for tracking and reporting. Communicate the selected KPIs to relevant stakeholders across the organization to ensure alignment and understanding of performance expectations.

10. Monitor and review

Continuously monitor and review KPIs to track performance trends, assess progress toward goals, and identify areas for improvement. Regularly review KPI data, analyze performance drivers, and take proactive actions to address performance gaps and optimize performance.

Employee pulse surveys:

These are short surveys that can be sent frequently to check what your employees think about an issue quickly. The survey comprises fewer questions (not more than 10) to get the information quickly. These can be administered at regular intervals (monthly/weekly/quarterly).

One-on-one meetings:

Having periodic, hour-long meetings for an informal chat with every team member is an excellent way to get a true sense of what’s happening with them. Since it is a safe and private conversation, it helps you get better details about an issue.


eNPS (employee Net Promoter score) is one of the simplest yet effective ways to assess your employee's opinion of your company. It includes one intriguing question that gauges loyalty. An example of eNPS questions include: How likely are you to recommend our company to others? Employees respond to the eNPS survey on a scale of 1-10, where 10 denotes they are ‘highly likely’ to recommend the company and 1 signifies they are ‘highly unlikely’ to recommend it.

Based on the responses, employees can be placed in three different categories:

  • Promoters
    Employees who have responded positively or agreed.
  • Detractors
    Employees who have reacted negatively or disagreed.
  • Passives
    Employees who have stayed neutral with their responses.

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