Podcast | How Moving To An OKR Model Improved Purpose, Culture And Measurement at TomTom with Jacqueline Gay

July 7, 2021
June 26, 2023

Why would a company move from KPIs or that standard goal-setting model to objectives and key results? Or, as you might know them, OKRs. That’s the big question we put to Jacquie Gay, Program Manager of Talent Development at TomTom, in this week’s episode of 99 Problems But Work Ain’t One.

From finding a North Star that everyone in the company can follow to how OKRs can move us towards more effective measurement, Jacquie shared some great experiences of how that OKR shift works in practice. We also found time to chat about the impact on TomTom’s learning culture, how the pandemic drove positive changes that they’ll stick with moving forward and how Jacquie is helping managers prepare for this new world of work.

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Running order

0:00 Intro to Jacqueline Gay, Program Manager, Talent Development at TomTom.
2:23 What prompted the move towards OKRs at TomTom?
5:52 How to have a conversation about HR’s purpose and OKRs.
9:28 An example of an objective and key result.
11:54 Have OKRs changed behaviour and what’s measured at TomTom?
15:31 Implementing OKRs in a distributed workforce.
18:15 Has the pandemic changed TomTom’s learning culture?
20:15 How has Jacquie approached preparing managers for the new world of work?
24:13 Quickfire questions.

Six lessons on moving to the OKR model

What prompted the move towards OKRs in TomTom’s HR department?

Word of mouth within TomTom certainly played a part, with other teams using OKRs and speaking positively about how they were working towards a shared goal or purpose. That feedback drove Jacquie to look at how it was being done at other successful companies like Google. She even found a great example from an American football team and shared it with the HR team. Printing it out proved to be helpful because that copy is still hanging on the Head of HR’s wall as we speak!

HR then became the first shared services department in the company to start using them and the momentum grew to the point where the management team set OKRs at an organisational level this year.

How to have a conversation about HR’s purpose and OKRs?

The HR team at TomTom knew they had a lot of impactful programs running pre-pandemic, but they had started to consider whether those were focused on the right things. And that’s why they were open to the OKR conversation. There was a feeling that if they worked out the right things to work on then they could align with the organisational OKRs more effectively.

Whether it was in chats with HR teams and management or the all-hands sessions, they discussed what the OKR model might look like for them in practice. Then each team went away to make the same considerations. And it’s not something you’ll immediately be good at, so keep that in mind. For the talent development team, setting their first OKR took close to a full day and has been streamlined over time.

At this point, organisation-wide OKRs weren’t there to guide them on what they were working too, leaving the team to figure out their purpose independently. With the wider objectives now in place, teams at TomTom can tie everything they’re working on to the company purpose.

Have OKRs changed behaviour and what’s measured at TomTom?

They give everyone a North Star to aim towards, so Jacquie has definitely seen a change in the way teams work together! In terms of HR, it’s given them a shared purpose but also helped them measure more effectively and present the impact of the actions they’ve taken in achieving those objectives.

They’ve also aimed for cross-functional OKRs, given that the Talent Development needs to work with the likes of business partners and employee relations – it’s all connected and gives them one vision and language around what they’re trying to achieve.

Nelson asked Jacquie whether the move to an OKR model has changed what they measure and which metrics they believe demonstrate impact. And the answer was that while they still measure how many people have signed up for or attended an event, it’s not all they measure. They look at employee feedback and engagement surveys and tie that into the key results.

Implementing OKRs in a distributed workforce

Given that TomTom has employees and offices all over the world, it’s understandable that implementing OKRs across teams and the company would be a challenge. At least it was until the pandemic hit, as it forced them to think differently about how they deliver learning and allowed them to reach more people.

Previously, they were thinking in terms of how they’d replicate successful training in one location somewhere else – guided by a belief that face to face was the best. Now, they realise what matters is whether everyone is getting the same quality and consistency of training. They’re not dealing with borders anymore and it’s allowed them to think more broadly about what’s possible, how they can facilitate knowledge sharing and so much more.  

Has the pandemic changed TomTom’s learning culture?

It might have just been a coincidence, but TomTom introduced Slack around the same time in 2020 and created one singular place that every employee can access. There’s no more disconnect across multiple apps or tools! It’s also easier for people to monitor learning activity or create groups in which people can share things they believe are valuable to team members. People are thinking differently now, but it needed them all to be on one platform first.

The pandemic has also altered the way people think about structuring their day and how they’re spending their time. Without their commute and with more flexibility, they can manage their days differently. For some, that means incorporating learning – especially on days where there are no calls in the afternoon and they can stop to take a class.

How has Jacquie approached preparing managers for the new world of work?

Last year they implemented a program titled Working At TomTom (WATT), looking ahead at how they’ll work together for the future rather than returning to the old ways of the office when restrictions end. They want to maintain that flexibility and give people choices over where they do their best work and how often they go to the office. Learning is certainly a big part of this!

For managers specifically, they’ve launched a WATT for leader support, where they can attend sessions or workshops on topics like the challenges or benefits of the new ways of working and creating team alignment.