How WORKSOFT Is Building a High-Performance Culture with and OKRs

“The value I’m seeing from can be summed up in  three words: TRANSPARENCY, INSPIRATION and COLLABORATION”

PHASE 1 – The Pillars of a High Performing Culture 

Creating a high-performance culture is a top priority for many companies in competitive, fast-changing markets. WORKSOFT is no exception, which is why they leaned on to transform a passionate but siloed team into a highly-engaged organization.

WORKSOFT provides enterprise organizations with a continuous automation platform for their end-to-end business processes, which is designed to help them “reliably deliver flawless applications faster and more efficiently.” One could argue that the business was built for these fast-moving, ever-changing environments.

But growing silos within the organization inspired new CEO Tony Sumpster to prioritize the company’s culture, and drive tighter alignment across different functions and teams. While many employees were highly engaged and passionate about their work, there was a greater need for fluid collaboration that inspired transparency and open communication — especially around big-picture ideas and strategic initiatives.

Tony asked Kathy Eastwood, from E Equals Why, HR Executive and Leadership Coach, to help WORKSOFT build out a high-performance organization by first defining what a high-performing culture looked like.

“There’s really three elements that I look for when building a high-performing culture. One: Expression:  Where you are going and Why? What is your purpose? Two: Execution: You have to couple the strategic direction with a plan on how you’re going to actually get there. How are you going to execute? How do you measure results? And 3: Engagement: How will you engage and empower your people to make sure that they’re participating, that they’re involved and putting 110% into the program.”

Kathy led the charge to embark the executive team on this three-stage process of goal-setting, tactical planning, and employee engagement and alignment. Implementing OKRs and specifically, the platform, played a crucial role in every step of the process.

The first stage required Kathy to align with the executive team and map their goals to a more comprehensive three-year plan developed by Tony Sumpster. The multi-year strategy was then redesigned as annual OKRs and executive leadership began tracking progress in weekly team meetings.“We made the decision in the first quarter to manage OKRs with just the executives,” Kathy said. “The CFO and I ran every single meeting on OKRs, leveraging the dashboard  and walking through every Objective asking ‘how are we doing?’ ‘What else do you need?’ ‘What obstacles do you have?’ This set the foundation for building a mindset that we are a team and we are working together.”

Once OKRs were fully embedded into executive conversations, the next step was to get all employees on board. Kathy expected that rolling out a tool and new framework to the entire organization could create some friction and challenges, but it was a bold move she and the executive team felt comfortable taking on in large part due to the backing of Ally’s Customer Experience team. “The team has been fabulous at helping us implement. They encouraged us to be agile and go for it. And I’ve never used a more intuitive tool.”

And although the leadership team did receive some questions as to why this change was happening, and pockets of initial resistance of adding “another tool,” Kathy and the leadership team double-downed on the 3 pillars of building a high-performing culture: “We spent a lot of effort ensuring the company understood the strategic vision by sharing the three-year-plan, showing the annual goals and then the Q1 goals. We would just be repetitive about it. We also were able to explain that it’s not another tool, but that we’ve actually just eliminated three other tools for you.”

After introducing the platform and hosting a one-hour training session, WORKSOFT saw 99% participation within a week. Employees were also encouraged to take’s Advanced Writing Course and had access to’s professional support team to receive guidance and best practices.

“I didn’t think would take off as strongly as it has to be honest. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a tool take as quickly as this one has. It was to the point that when we saw almost 100% of employees had entered in an OKR, we gave everyone a half a day off. I think the success is really a combination of the tool, the passionate group of employees and the commitment of our leadership team.”

PHASE TWO – Transforming Fear to Bias for Action

While some teams gravitated quickly to OKRs and were “religious” about using, others teams have had a slower start. “The ones that don’t gravitate toward it tend to be more fearful. They’re afraid of providing transparency because if you share what you are going to do and you don’t do it, there’s fear that there will be retribution if you don’t complete it.” 

WORKSOFT honed in on the language around OKRs, and responded by training managers to conduct 1:1s with OKRs by framing questions about progress. “What do you need to be successful? What obstacles do you need help with? Just saying those words over and over again, and using the tool to help in that dialogue is changing some of that fear.”

Additionally, Tony and other executives will routinely celebrate and encourage employee’s accomplishments in weekly all-hands, whether they were completed or not.

As the fear of failure has lifted, Kathy is noticing employees beginning to take more initiative, bringing in new ideas and participating more. The impetus of a high-performance culture.

PHASE THREE – High Performance Cultures are Built on Continuous Feedback Loops has also cultivated a more rallying spirit within WORKSOFT by improving cross-team visibility and collaboration. Powerful integrations allow users to connect with Jira, Smartsheets and Salesforce, which has helped streamline workflows and create a comprehensive view of tasks and progress towards larger goals.

Team managers are also finding an increase in team productivity by having the ability to plan and prioritize work each quarter. It’s allowed the team lead to understand whether or not they have the right team resources and address any obstacles upfront. Additionally, is allowing managers to have more powerful coaching conversations with their teams by using Performance to track employee progress and add notes about their unique goals, accomplishments and challenges. This helps improve team transparency and allows managers to use consistent, more objective language that aid in more productive conversations.

“OKRs really help teams define what success looks like and what the outcome is,” Kathy says.

Overall, WORKSOFT has seen upticks in productivity and a massive improvement in employee trust and passion. “Tony and I know this formula and we live by this formula: happy employees plus happy customers equals great results. And Tony knew the results he needed to have to produce growth, and so we went to work on the engagement of the team. The amount of stuff we’ve delivered in a short period of time is massive. Productivity wise, we’re seeing great results in the top line”

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