Employee Engagement

Category: BLOG, Employee Engagement.

Goal-setting and the achievement of goals are integral parts of an organization’s success. Organizations that want to achieve rapid growth and success implement a robust goal-setting framework that suits their vision, mission, and purpose. One goal-setting framework that helps achieve all this is OKR, which stands for objectives and key results.

James Cash Penney

Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.

James Cash Penney, Founder of JCPenney

OKR helps align every function and individual in the business with top company goals so leaders can be confident that their entire team is working in the same direction, and individual employees can feel certain that their daily work contributes directly to the company’s success. So, the entire workforce is actually working towards a single important purpose of achieving the organization’s overall objectives. However, as the company’s objectives are set by the management, when it cascades down to the individual, it more or less becomes a target/number to achieve. This lack of participation from the employee makes it less voluntary and more of a compulsion. Profit.co’s agile OKR software enables users to cascade OKRs as well as roll up OKRs to encourage full-company participation and engagement. You can get started on Profit.co completely free today!

A need for conversations and feedback

An organization is more than just targets, numbers, to-do lists and activities. It has human interactions, and there’s a qualitative aspect of the work, which encompasses challenges that numbers don’t show, solutions and innovations that went into overcoming these challenges, and small details such as discussions on skill requirements, and how things need to be fixed, improved or avoided to achieve better results. All these interactions are extremely important, as they reflect the voice of the employees. When all these get incorporated into goal-setting and achievement, it makes work easier and outcomes better. The tool that is meant for humanizing the workplace is CFR.

CFR meaning

CFR stands for Conversations, Feedback and Recognition.

What is Conversations, Feedback and Recognition?

CFR is a workplace model to bring out the human voices of the employees in the cycle of goal setting and goal achievement, which is limited to numerical targets. Conversations, feedback and recognition is aimed at bringing out the human element with regard to how these goals are set and achieved, the requirements that need to be fulfilled to achieve them, and the recognition that employees need to attain upon achieving something. The components of CFR include:

1. Conversations

John Doerr, the pioneer of OKRs, defines conversations as, “an authentic, richly textured exchange between a leader and contributor, aimed at driving performance.”

Discussions are part of formal and periodical employee performance reviews. But they are rigidly structured and are conducted at long intervals. This reduces the scope of conversations between the managers/leaders and employees. Unlike in performance reviews, conversations in the CFR model are conducted in one-on-one meetings, where the employees give updates on their work at an individual level, in a conversational manner.

Meaningful conversations between the team leaders and members of the team are also built in team meetings regarding the work at the team level. In addition to discussing the goals and the achievement of targets, these conversations carry a broader spectrum of employees’ workplace experiences. The good thing is these meetings occur more frequently and periodically. So there is continuity and follow-up when it comes to conversations, and it becomes a continuous process.

How to go about conversations

a) Have a plan

Create a plan with the concerned employee’s participation and stick to the agenda so that you can cover everything every time without fail, and the employees keep all the answers ready.

b) Listen to employees:

The best way to bring out productive conversations is to just listen and make the individuals participate. This provides a platform for employees to speak out.

c) Build trust

Letting the employees speak freely, communicating with them in a more direct manner, objectively understanding their perspectives, and being open to opinions help you build trust and bring the best out of employees.

d) Make conversations a habit

Making conversations a part of one-on-one meetings or weekly check-ins instills conversations as a vital part of an organization’s culture.


According to Doerr, feedback is, “communication up, down, and across organizational lines that assess behaviors and outcomes, and guides improvement.”

While OKR brings alignment to objectives of the organization, it does not always bring alignment in terms of behaviors and practices that lead to the right outcomes across the organization. This can be solved by introducing feedback as a means to change employee behavior and encourage the right work ethic and behaviors. By making feedback a part of the standard workday, you can gradually build a feedback culture that eliminates the fear of criticism and positively impacts the organization and outcomes through behavioral change.


How to give feedback

1. Root all Comments in Outcomes

Establish the relationship between behaviors and outcomes. If employees understand how the behaviors impact the organization, they will have the motivation and drive to correct those behaviors themselves.

2. Explain Reasoning in Detail

Feedback should not be vague, general or ambiguous. Ensure that feedback is specific, elaborate and clear with regard to how something needs to be improved.

3. Do Not Delay Criticism

Delayed feedback loses relevance fast in a fast-paced work environment. So it is crucial to give immediate feedback.

4. State Both Pros and Cons

In any given employee’s work, performance and outcomes have some good and bad aspects. Stating only those bad aspects is demotivating for the employee, while talking only about the positives may give a false sense that everything is going perfectly, which can be counter-productive. So, it is essential to both appreciate and critique at the same time. When pointing out the negatives, the criticism should be constructive in nature.


John Doerr states that recognition is, ‘the demonstration of appreciation for effort, attitude and achievement.”

Recognition is one of the most important driving forces behind retaining the employees and keeping them engaged. It motivates them and inspires them to perform better and work harder. Recognition does not necessarily mean a hike or reward. It can also be a pat on the back, appreciation of work in public or an incentive. It goes a long way in increasing the productivity of the organization and in the fulfillment of the organization’s objectives.

How to recognize your employees

a) Keep it visible to everyone

Ensure that you recognize employees publicly and not just during one-on-one meetings. Being recognized and appreciated in front of the team boosts the morale of the employees.

b) Every achievement, big or small, deserves recognition

Even the smallest of achievements or reaching a milestone deserves appreciation and recognition. In order to achieve this level of micro-level appreciation, recognition of achievements needs to be instilled in the organization’s culture so that it reaches far and wide within the organization.

c) Appreciation without context becomes ineffective

When you appreciate an employee, make sure that you mention why or for which specific achievement you are recognizing him/her. When there is no context to that recognition, the connection between achievement and appreciation gets lost, and there is little to no impact.

Recognition should be tied to the priorities and objectives of the organization. So, it is essential to clearly have criteria for what needs to be recognized.

d) Foster mutual recognition

When a manager recognizes an achievement, it can be considered as a necessity, and as a conscious effort to increase productivity and retain the workforce. But when the recognition comes from colleagues, co-workers and peers, it strengthens the bonds within the organization and makes your team stronger.

OKRs and CFRs:

Objectives and key results enable rapid growth of the organization and overachievement through alignment. However, OKR is a goal-setting framework that has deficiencies in a few areas, which calls for an additional mechanism to make it more effective and fruitful. Conversations, feedback and recognition play an important role in filling the gaps in OKR implementation. Following are some of the reasons to combine OKRs and CFRs.

1. CFR brings an individual’s performance to the limelight

OKR focuses more on collective outcomes rather than individual achievements, by design. As a result, while the team outcomes and achievement of the organization’s objectives remain in the limelight, the efforts an individual puts into his/her work towards the success of the organization falls by the wayside. Appreciation and recognition are mostly expressed only during a quarterly performance review.

You can continuously recognize an individual employee’s performance and contributions through the use of OKRs. OKRs require weekly check-ins, giving managers clear insight into what an employee is occupied within any given time period and opening up an opportunity for conversations, feedback, and recognition. CFR builds a culture of timely recognition and appreciation for work done by individuals. So, combining OKRs and CFRs brings motivation and a desire for overachievement in the employee

2. CFR amplifies OKRs spirit of self-motivation

OKR breaks the conventional model of managers setting goals for employees and overseeing activities aimed at achieving them. The OKR framework calls for individuals to set their own goals in line with team and organizational goals. It pushes them to aim high based on benchmarks, and to find their own creative workarounds and shortcuts to outperform their peers and overachieve.

This spirit of self-motivation and accountability is taken forward in CFR by encouraging voluntary deliberations in team meetings, weekly check-ins, etc., with regard to challenges, opportunities, creative ideas, problem-solving, skills and training required to overcome challenges in achieving OKRs and assigned targets. As a result, the manager becomes more of a facilitator and a mentor who listens to the employees and ensures that employees get everything required to achieve their OKRs.

3. CFR brings out the voices of employees

OKRs at the organizational level are usually created by the leadership team without individual employees’ input. Employees usually aren’t given an opportunity to voice their opinions until the overarching goals have already cascaded down to the team and individual levels, then the control over what they have to achieve is handed over to the employees. The voices of employees often get lost in this cycle. CFR addresses this problem by bringing out their voices through bi-directional feedback and conversations that happen in team meetings and weekly check-ins.

4. CFR helps in continuous performance management

The conventional model of conducting performance reviews makes performance management an intermittent process, as the discussion on achievements, challenges and other aspects of work are put on hold until the end of the quarter or the year.

As a goal-setting framework, OKR simply focuses on how the goals can be achieved. It does not provide any scope for performance management. CFR brings a crucial element of continuous performance management to a team, as it captures conversations and feedback about how goals are achieved and what support the employees need to achieve them, on an ongoing basis, in meetings and informal check-ins. It also brings motivation through timely recognition of achievements.

Questions to ask to initiate Conversations, Feedback and Recognition with regard to OKRs

You can kick start conversations and feedback with respect to OKRs in weekly check-ins, team meetings and one-on-one meetings with the following questions.

  • What are the recent OKR milestones that you achieved?
  • Did you come across any challenges in achieving your weekly OKR goals?
  • Are you considering any creative solutions for your challenges in achieving OKR goals?
  • Are your OKR goals too ambitious or too conservative?
  • Do you want to adjust your OKRs based on your experiences from the previous OKR cycle?
  • Do you need any skill training or tools to achieve your goals faster?

CFR in a hybrid work setup

In the post-pandemic world, the entire workforce is fragmented and is located in different locations. Some come to a workplace to find their focus. Others work from a remote location. The ratio between how many times an employee visits a workplace and how many days he/she works from home or from a remote location may vary due to various factors. This new working model that has been increasingly gaining traction is called the hybrid work setup.

In the hybrid work setup, CFR needs to be completely re-thought, as one-on-one meetings, team meetings and weekly check-ins do not necessarily happen in a physical location. So, there are limitations in terms of initiating and sustaining conversations, acquiring feedback, and recognizing employees publicly when work is being conducted from so many locations.

CFR can help break down silos caused by distance– but there is some work that needs to be done first in order to ensure that CFR is effective. Following are some of the important things to remember when implementing CFR in a hybrid work setup:

  • You can use specialized software and CFR tools to collect fragmented information from various employee groups from different locations.
  • You can create team CFR sessions during every virtual meeting in a hybrid setup.
  • Social recognition tools can be introduced for employees to recognize each other, and for leaders to provide public recognition of employees.
  • 360-degree reviews conducted online using performance review tools promote peer recognition.
  • When due recognition is obtained in a hybrid work setup, it motivates employees to work autonomously with accountability.

For more information on how OKRs managed on Profit.co can help you better communicate and connect with your employees, schedule a demo with our OKR experts today!

Frequently asked questions

1. What is Conversation, Feedback and Recognition?

CFR is a workplace model that is designed to bring out the human voices from the employees in a work setup, where the primary point of focus is achieving goals and targets. When combined with OKR, CFR enables continuous performance management in an organization.

2. What is OKR in business?

Objectives and key results (OKR) is a goal-setting framework that enables rapid growth and achievement through alignment of the workforce across all levels, towards the organization’s overall objectives.

3. How can Conversations, Feedback and Recognition help to achieve team goals?

CFR helps to bring out the informal conversations, feedback concerning the team OKRs and individual goals, and recognition of achievements made in line with the priorities and objectives of the organization, thus improving performance through motivation and speeding up the achievement of team goals.

4. What are OKRs?

OKRs are logically connected goals from top to bottom that are set by the management at the organization level and are broken down into team goals, and then further into individual goals. OKRs contain objectives, which are ambitious and qualitative, and their respective key results that are achievable, trackable, measurable and quantitative in nature. The key results act as indicators for the level of achievement of the connected, broader objective.

5. What is the relationship between OKRs and CFR?

OKR focuses on setting goals and achieving them in terms of plain numbers. At the same time, CFR brings out the human element involved in achieving those goals, namely informal conversations, bi-directional feedback and recognition for achievements.

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