X icon white, transparent background.
X icon white, transparent background.
Goals & OKRs

How to write OKRs | Our step-by-step guide

Leapsome Team
How to write OKRs | Our step-by-step guide
Build a high-performing and resilient organization with Leapsome
Request a Demo

A well-designed system for setting and communicating goals company-wide is pivotal to keep everyone in your organization focused on the big picture. Unfortunately, that’s something many employers need to work on, with 42% of employees reporting that their company’s processes for goal-setting are “bad.” (1)

If you want to stay resilient in a turbulent economy, then your HR leaders and managers need support in making sure department objectives and key results (OKRs) are aligned with high-level targets. If they don’t understand your specific approach — or know how to write OKRs —  you risk making work more challenging during an already trying time for managers. Currently, 79% of team leads say they’re at risk of burnout, and 55% say that an overly heavy workload prevents them from being more productive. (2)

Top leadership should prioritize verifying that every employee understands the OKR framework and knows how to write OKRs. They should also collaborate with team leads to make department OKRs relevant, specific, and effective. 

Future-oriented companies rely on a streamlined, repeatable OKR writing process, which is what we explore in this step-by-step guide to OKR creation. In this article, we explore:

  • What good OKRs look like
  • Our fail-proof OKR formula
  • Common mistakes to avoid when developing OKRs
  • How to write OKRs in eight steps

For better visualization, we also included a shareable infographic and template that illustrates the OKR methodology.

  1. Leapsome State of People Enablement, 2023
  2. The Predictive Index, 2023
🔥 Boost your organizational alignment

Leapsome Goals leverages AI, customizable templates, and feedback tools to make OKR building easier for everyone.

👉 Learn more

What do good OKRs look like?

Good objectives and key results (OKRs) are ambitious, measurable, specific, and deadline-driven. They strike the perfect balance between difficult-to-achieve and realistic, and should be possible but challenging to reach within your specified timeframe. 

Let’s break down how to develop OKRs by examining their two components: The ‘objective’ is your overarching goal — it should be qualitative, easy to understand, and motivating. The ‘key results’ are the action steps you have to take to reach that goal — they should be quantitative, clearly measurable, and time-bound. Moreover, the most effective key results should follow the SMARTspecific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound — framework for goal-setting

Unlike initiatives, key results indicate if and when you’ve reached your goal, not how to reach it. 

For example, imagine that you want to improve your employee onboarding program. One of your initiatives might be to assign a dedicated mentor to new hires to help them navigate their new role and organization. Your key result should include a measure showing when your initiative has succeeded, so you might write something like: “Our onboarding survey shows that 90% of team members rate our onboarding as excellent.”  

As for your success rate, the purpose of OKRs isn’t 100% success but to make meaningful progress. You’ve hit the OKR sweet spot when you achieve around 70% to 80% of your target.

Writing OKRs: A formula for success

When developing OKRs, each of your objectives should have three to five specific key results. The following example shows a basic OKR formula you can follow. Note how the ‘objective’ statement has a time frame and highlights what success looks like. Also, keep in mind that every ‘key result’ needs a target metric to help you calculate achievement objectively. 

Objective | Employee engagement is so high in the next six months that employees actively promote our company within their network.

Common mistakes when creating OKRs

The OKR framework is effective for reaching even the most challenging goals because it helps you break them down into smaller tasks, making them more achievable. Still, getting OKRs right requires planning, patience, and collaboration. Be mindful of the following challenges when writing them: 

  • Not providing enough time or training In a hurry to implement company-level OKRs, people ops professionals and team leads may fall into the trap of assigning team members OKRs without explaining how the framework works. When employees don’t have the time to learn about, absorb, and reflect on what makes a good OKR, they won’t be well-equipped to set meaningful objectives independently.
  • Being overly prescriptive There’s no such thing as a perfect OKR, so striving for perfection when writing an OKR puts you at risk of not making genuine progress toward your goals. Remember, they’re a tool and shouldn’t become an end in themselves.
  • Not communicating or collaborating enough Leadership should avoid simply handing their OKRs to team leads. Cascading OKRs have to start with leadership, it’s true. However, once they decide on their goals for an upcoming period, the leadership team needs to work with management to create departmental OKRs that work for everyone.
  • Confusing OKRs with KPIs Key performance indicators (KPIs) are basic performance metrics teams use to measure their progress regularly. Common KPIs that companies track are revenue growth, engagement rate, absenteeism rate, and customer satisfaction rate. OKRs can’t replace KPIs, but you can use KPIs when writing OKRs.
  • Taking too much inspiration from others Competitive research should be part of the OKR brainstorming process to help you identify benchmarks and best practices. However, the best sources of inspiration for OKRs are your business priorities, mission, and core values.
📈 Develop OKRs with Leapsome and stand apart from your competitors  

We know how much your goals matter to your organization. 

We have the OKR templates, workflows, and analytics you need to achieve them. 

Learn more
Photo of five employees in a meeting.

Collaboration is integral to writing effective company-level and team-level OKRs

How to write OKRs in 8 steps

Your leadership and executives likely have a baseline understanding of how to write objectives and key results. Still, implementing OKRs across your entire organization should be a collaborative, instructive, and engaging process. 

Here are eight steps you can take to create OKRs that drive outcomes and increase employee alignment and commitment within your company.

1. Select a dedicated OKR tool to make collaboration easier

Screenshot of Leapsome's Goals & OKR Management Module
A platform like Leapsome lets you store and share your OKR data with all stakeholders

Top-tier OKRs require collaboration between individual team members and departments. In addition, the prevalence of remote work requires organizations to have a centralized place for all objectives, key results, communications, and feedback.

There are a few ways you can approach this. If your organization is new to setting OKRs, an OKR template might be a solid, no-cost solution. OKR templates are useful because they’re highly customizable and great for teams who have experience with Google Sheets or Excel. They let you set OKRs, assign team members to specific objectives and key results, and score your OKRs. 

For fast-scaling companies and enterprises that need a more streamlined, user-friendly OKR writing system, we encourage using OKR software

A dedicated OKR platform allows you to

  • Make use of detailed, customizable OKR templates
  • Automate OKR grading and progress tracking
  • Communicate and give feedback on key results and progress
  • Visualize your data with reports and analytics
  • Sync your OKRs with performance reviews and career development frameworks
  • Get automatic OKR progress updates

2. Have leadership collaborate on company-level OKRs

A screenshot of company goals within Leapsome's Goals module.
Use Leapsome Goals to set and track top-level business targets that everyone in your company can access

Your C-level executives, managing directors, and team leads need to take part in creating OKRs at the organizational level because collaboration drives alignment and company-wide transparency. It also prevents certain goals — like those related to revenue or acquisition — from being prioritized over others.  

In addition, team leads and managers will have to establish team-specific goals that align with the business-wide OKRs, so collaboration from the get-go is crucial. You’ll need everyone’s input at the leadership level to create objectives that make sense for all your people.

3. Reflect on your most important company values & objectives

Most companies plan parent goals for the entire year and use them to establish OKRs for every subsequent quarter. Still, how do they prioritize the long-term business objectives for that year? Leadership gets together to brainstorm ideas and decide on the objectives, values, and initiatives they want to focus on. 

Here are some things to remember during the brainstorming process:

  • Your vision statement, which is what your organization strives to become. Your company’s vision typically encompasses high-level, long-term goals. Businesses often communicate them in a single sentence: “We aim to be Europe’s go-to provider for residential real-estate expertise.”
  • Your mission, which speaks to both the present and the future. Company mission statements can be more specific and describe your industry, clients, and what kind of service you provide. For example, “We offer beginning-to-end logistics solutions for medium-to-large ecommerce brands."
  • Your values, which have to do with your company’s internal culture. To give you an idea of how they can look in real life, our values at Leapsome are:
  1. Listen and learn
  2. Challenge the status quo
  3. Take ownership and pursue excellence
  4. Seek impact
  5. Be honest and transparent
  6. Be kind and humble
  • Your purpose, which looks outward. It encompasses what you want to do for others, for example, “make work fulfilling for everyone.”

Aim to develop five to seven tentative goals in this brainstorming session, which you’ll pare down further in the OKR writing process.

Photo of five employees in a planning meeting.

Rely on your vision statement, mission, values, and purpose to inform your company-level OKRs

4. Identify your long-term business goals & set them for the year 

With your tentative goals as a starting point, it’s time to identify your main business objectives and decide what you want to focus on during the upcoming year.

Here are some examples of potential business objectives:

  • Expand into a new geographic area
  • Provide new products or services
  • Boost profit margins
  • Increase revenue
  • Venture into a new marketing channel
  • Create a new website or rebrand an existing one
  • Prioritize hiring and recruitment efforts
  • Become a coveted place to work

And here’s how you can turn some of those high-level aspirations into more specific goals for the year:

  • Expand into a new geographic area
    → Prepare a business plan for potential clients in San Francisco
  • Boost profit margins
    → Spend 3% less on overhead
  • Venture into a new marketing channel
    → Devote more resources to email marketing efforts
  • Become a coveted place to work
    → Increase Employee Net Promoter Score from 15 to 20

5. Write your OKR objective statements

Objective statements are the foundational components of your company OKRs, and you should use your yearly goals to create them. 

As you brainstorm how to turn your yearly goals into objective statements, think about the specific results you want and how much time you’ll need to achieve them. Using goal-setting software to collaborate and visualize which departments own which objectives will help you be more realistic with your timeline.

Here are some sample objective statements based on the yearly goals above:

  • Craft a comprehensive business plan that serves as a practical roadmap for client growth and partnership-building by the end of Q1.
  • Streamline processes and pioneer efficiency measures to slash overhead spending by 3% within the next six months.
  • Increase engagement and employee satisfaction at more touch points throughout the employee lifecycle and make our company an even better place to work by the end of Q3.
Photo of an employee presenting data to two other employees.

Your objective statements should be more specific, time-bound, and feasible than your high-level annual goals

6. Provide OKR training on company, department & individual levels

You’ve established your company-level objective statements, but before you start setting up team OKRs, ensure everyone in your organization receives adequate training and has the opportunity to practice and experiment with developing OKRs first.

Here’s what you should emphasize in your OKR training:

  • Team-wide contributions Whether you collaborate in meetings or ask team members to share their thoughts asynchronously, everyone should play a role in determining what objectives to prioritize each quarter.
  • Your team’s areas of growth — Determine what issues or gaps need your attention and address them in your OKRs. Not all OKRs need to be about solving problems, but that can be a good place to start.
  • Alignment with company-level OKRs — Help your people understand that collaboration with leadership is vital to creating the best OKRs. Ensure every team considers the organization’s parent goals when creating department- and team-specific OKRs. Doing so is crucial for aligning company initiatives.
  • Broad objective statements first, then key results — Avoid getting bogged down in the details and trying to set key results from the outset. Strive for high-level thinking first, then get more specific later.
  • The importance of practice — All team members should expect trial and error in the OKR process. If they don’t meet specific key results or objectives, that’s okay. Learning is part of the process. You can leverage the lessons from each OKR cycle, and many organizations dedicate an agenda point to missed targets during quarterly OKR reviews.
  • 100% success isn’t the end goal — The goal with OKRs is steady progress. A 70% to 80% success rate is suitable and worth celebrating.
⭐ Every OKR needs an owner or directly responsible individual (DRI) to oversee its progress.

You can assign DRIs to specific key results or entire OKRs. And while it’s not this employee’s job to lead the initiative or manage the project, it’s their responsibility to monitor the OKR’s progress and follow up on any potential obstacles.

7. Work with teams to set individual & department OKRs

Once your team has received training on the OKR basics, it’s time for them to put what they learned into action. However, writing good OKRs takes practice, so you should collaborate with department leads and team members to ensure they’re implementing the framework properly.  

Just as leadership did with their company-level objectives, use cascading goals as a guide to help your team determine their department and individual objectives. Then, assist team members in turning those goals into objective statements and key results for the next quarter and beyond.

For instance, one of your HR team’s goals is to improve employee retention. Your leadership might work with HR to get more specific and decide that the company targets a 25% increase in retention that year. As a result, you come up with this objective statement:

Objective | Turn at-risk employees into internal culture champions, increasing our employee retention rate by 25% by the end of Q4

Then, your HR team comes up with the following three key results to achieve that objective:

  • Key result 1 | 80% of employees have enrolled in their dedicated learning paths based on their competency frameworks
  • Key result 2 | We achieve an average of 70% participation in our monthly pulse surveys for assessing employee sentiment.
  • Key result 3 | 80% of employees contribute once a month to the Praise Wall to boost public recognition among colleagues. 

Once you’ve drafted your team OKRs, ask leadership and other stakeholders to review them and offer feedback. The easiest way to do this asynchronously is by using OKR software — it provides a centralized place for everyone in the company to go for OKR collaboration and review.

⭐ Celebrate your OKR wins!

Whether you shout team members out informally on a messaging app like Slack or offer formal rewards and recognition, acknowledging OKR successes boosts morale and motivation.

8. Set up a process for OKR monitoring & review

Photo of three employees in a meeting.

A weekly OKR check-in meeting helps keep you on track with your progress

If you’re already familiar with the OKR framework, you know that establishing OKRs isn’t enough. You also need to create a process for continuous tracking and revision. And that’s where OKR check-in meetings come into play.

Here are our best-practice tips for running an OKR check-in meeting:

  • Schedule weekly meetings — at the same time every week.
  • Keep them short and focused, no longer than thirty minute).
  • Ensure every DRI prepares a status update on their objectives and/or key results.
  • Ask everyone to take part in the discussion, not just your DRIs.
  • Stick to the same agenda every week, where you:
  1. Report on the status of all objectives and their key results.
  2. Identify any blockers to achieving your goals.
  3. Discuss what you’ve tried since your last meeting, and reflect on successes and failures.
  4. Determine what to prioritize for the following week.

Alongside your weekly OKR check-in meetings, institute quarterly OKR reviews. You can follow a similar agenda, but you should also examine:

  • If you want to keep or replace your current team OKRs
  • If you need to tweak any of your key results
  • Any support you’ll need for upcoming initiatives
  • Who will be responsible for new key results moving forward

OKR framework & template

When training teams and individuals new to the OKR framework, you’ll likely have more luck illustrating the concept with visuals and examples than with written explanations. That’s why we’ve created this at-a-glance infographic to help you out.

Infographic breaking down the OKR framework at the top and showing an example OKR at the bottom
An example of how to create an effective OKR for your company, team, or department

Transform your OKR process with Leapsome

A screenshot illustrating how Leapsome AI makes it easier to create OKRs.
Using the AI-powered Leapsome Goals module to create OKRs in two clicks means you can spend time making them more relevant and inspiring for your teams

Developing OKRs isn’t meant to be a one-off task. It’s an involved process that takes collaboration, learning, practice, and review. Even so, it’s well worth it if you want to reach ambitious goals and create more transparency, alignment, and engagement within your organization.

If your company wants to implement a goal-setting process that drives outcomes and motivation, Leapsome is for you. Leapsome Goals makes creating OKRS easier with customizable OKR templates, automated calculations and scoring, and user-friendly, easy-to-navigate analytics dashboards. 

It also integrates with Leapsome Instant Feedback and Meetings, allowing you to build more collaboration into your workflows rather than treat it as an afterthought.

Invest in Leapsome to streamline your goal-setting process, drive motivation, and foster organizational cooperation, ensuring long-term success and growth. 

📈 Make leaps and bounds on your OKRs with Leapsome 

Our platform has the templates, reports, analytics, and AI tools you need to get started with the OKR framework.

👉 Book a demo

FAQs about how to write OKRs

How do you brainstorm OKRs?

To brainstorm OKRs, collaborate with leadership and start by identifying your overarching business goals. As you do that, you’ll uncover your business priorities — like revenue growth and brand development — but you should also consider what operational and cultural initiatives you want to prioritize.

From there, detail the specific goals you’d like to focus on within a certain period. Then, narrow those down to a few significant objectives, which will inform the OKRs your departments, teams, and individuals set.

How do I set OKRs for my team?

To set OKRs for your team, collaborate with leadership to determine how everyone can contribute to your company’s OKRs. This approach ensures you’ll stay aligned with your organizational goals while also helping you address development areas within your team.

Once you’ve worked with leadership to agree on a set of potential OKRs that would serve your organization and department, your team can collaboratively develop two or three objectives per quarter, each with three to five corresponding key results.

How do you present OKRs?

When presenting OKRs to your team, start by explaining the OKR framework, sharing examples, and collaborating on some sample OKRs. A dedicated OKR meeting is the best setting for this. By training your team, you’ll get more buy-in and avoid confusion or the creation of ineffective OKRs.  

With your company goals in mind, collaborate with your team to create a maximum of five OKRs with three to five key results each. Decide who will be the owner or directly responsible individual (DRI) for specific objectives and key results. This person won’t be responsible for meeting the goal, but they’ll be tracking and overseeing it. 

After that, you can decide how to cascade your team OKRs into individual OKRs. Let people draft their OKRs on their own, and when they’re ready, they can set up a meeting with their manager to discuss their OKRs.

Can OKRs replace KPIs?

OKRs cannot replace key performance metrics (KPIs) because they’re not interchangeable. If you’re unfamiliar, KPIs are metrics companies use to measure their progress toward specific goals or aspirations. Some common examples include: 

  • Employee retention rate
  • Employee turnover rate
  • Number of qualified leads
  • Customer satisfaction rate
  • Revenue growth
  • Net profit margin

However, OKRs can encompass KPIs, and it’s helpful to consult your KPIs when building OKRs.

Let’s have a look at our previous example:

Objective | Increase employee engagement in the next quarter

The KPIs used in creating this OKR are employee turnover rate, eNPS score, and response rate.

Written By

Leapsome Team

Written by the team at Leapsome — the all-in-one people enablement platform for driving employee engagement, performance, and learning.
See Leapsome in action
Take a quick tour

Ready to upgrade your people enablement strategy?

Exlpore our performance reviews, goals & OKRs, engagement surveys, onboarding and more.

Image of a woman in a circleRequest a Demo TodayImage of a man in a circleImage of a woman in a circle

The #1 rated HR platform for people enablement

Schedule a demo to find out why leading companies choose Leapsome, the intelligent HR platform that empowers managers to develop, align, and engage their teams.

  • Get AI-powered recommendations 🪄
  • Save countless hours with automations ⏱️
  • Learn from industry best-practices and benchmarks 📊

1,600+ forward-thinking companies choose Leapsome

Schedule a demo

Our friendly team will be in touch right away!


Mitarbeiter entwickeln mit Leapsome

Stärken Sie Mitarbeiter-Engagement und Erfolg Ihres Unternehmens - wie andere führende Marken.

Interesse an Leapsome?

Unsere Produktexperten zeigen Ihnen gerne unsere Plattform oder eröffnen einen Account.

Purple transparent inverted identification card icon.
Purple transparent inverted mail icon.
Light purple and inverted ringing phone icon.
Purple transparent inverted employees icon.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Erfahren Sie warum Leapsome mit
4.9 / 5 auf G2 und Capterra bewertet wird.