The father of modern management Peter F. Drucker said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” Today, his words are increasingly relevant in a rapidly evolving business landscape, as more and more organizations embrace the concept of performance measurement. A key performance indicator (KPI) is a significant tool of performance measurement. Read on to learn more about this key tool, its various types and how it can improve an organization’s bottom line in the long run.


  1. What Is A Key Performance Indicator?

  2. Types Of Key Performance Indicators

  3. Why Is A Key Performance Indicator Important?

  4. Key Performance Indicator Example

  5. Invest In Your Managers

What Is A Key Performance Indicator?

A key performance indicator is a quantifiable performance metric used to gauge employee or organization performance over a period of time. Performance is measured against a set standard or a predetermined objective. A KPI for business is essential for long-term growth because it provides an organization with valuable insights on business processes and operational efficiency. Using these insights, organizations are able to plan and develop a roadmap for future progress.

A KPI for employee performance, on the other hand, helps organizations track employee performance and drive productivity and is an integral part of performance appraisal cycles. The right key performance indicators for employees can create a high-performing workforce, allowing organizations to extract the best out of each employee.

Organizations often attach incentives or financial rewards to key performance indicators for employees to further boost performance, improve productivity and keep employees invested in their work.

Effective KPI metrics fulfill the following criteria:

  • Aligned: They line up with organizational goals and objectives
  •  Achievable: They set realistic and measurable targets
  • Straightforward: They’re simple enough for everyone to understand
  • Actionable: They achieve the desired results over time

Organizations must ensure they re-evaluate their key performance indicators periodically to determine their relevance in the current business scenario. The same key performance indicator, when recycled over and over, can lose impact.

Types Of Key Performance Indicators

Organizations use a key performance indicator for myriad reasons—from keeping a tab on organization health to fine-tuning processes as necessary. Here are some of the most commonly used KPI metrics:

1. Quantitative Indicators

The most common type of KPI for business, quantitative indicators are measurable metrics involving numbers. These include indicators for revenue, number of calls per month, time spent per call, amount of sales and inventory for particular products. 

2. Qualitative Indicators

A qualitative key performance indicator is subjective. Such indicators are based on intangible values like opinions, experiences and feelings. The most common types of qualitative indicators include customer and/or employee satisfaction surveys.

 3. Operational Indicators

Operational KPIs are quantifiable metrics used to gauge the effectiveness of operational processes and strategies over a shorter time period. Organizations use operational indicators to keep track of day-to-day or weekly operations. A few examples of operational KPI for business are cost-per-acquisition in marketing, overtime hours in HR and delivery time in logistics.

 4. Leading Indicators

A leading key performance indicator is a forward-thinking metric that helps organizations predict the outcome of a change. Organizations use leading KPIs to gain insights into possible consequences of launching a new product, service or website. Examples of leading KPIs include percentage of new customers, participation numbers for conferences and/or events and number of unique website visitors.

 5. Lagging Indicators

Lagging key performance indicators measure the results of a change or action that has already been implemented. These offer organizations a clear picture of the success or failure of a particular initiative and organizations are able to assess their current state of business. Service error rate, frequency of website crashes and brand recognition statistics are examples of lagging indicators.

 6. Strategic Indicators

Used to examine progress toward a set goal or objective, a strategic key performance indicator allows organizations to monitor development over a specific time period. Examples of strategic KPIs include market share and rate of returns.

 7. Financial Indicators

A financial KPI for business is essential to examine the financial health of an organization. It allows organizations to assess financial performance of the various arms of their business and implement remedial actions, if necessary. Gross profit margin, debt-to-equity ratio and total asset turnover are a few examples of financial KPIs.

Apart from these, a few other types of KPI for business include process indicators, input indicators, output indicators, directional indicators and practical indicators. It’s up to organizations to decide which type of KPI is best-suited to their needs.

Why Is A Key Performance Indicator Important?

Long-term growth of an organization often depends on its ability to set, monitor and implement effective KPI metrics. These not only help identify blind spots in the business but also act as benchmarks for both employee and organization performance. Here’s why KPI metrics are important:

1. Monitor Progress

A key performance indicator is instrumental to tracking and monitoring progress toward set targets and goals over a period of time. KPI metrics for expenses, returns and organizational efficiency offer valuable insights into the effectiveness of business processes, achievements and shortfalls, allowing organizations to revisit objectives and realign business strategy, if required.

2. Identify Problem Areas

Roadblocks and hurdles are an inevitable part of business. KPI metrics are powerful tools for problem management, enabling organizations to identify major problem areas and implement effective solutions wherever required. An organization that can successfully respond to business challenges, rectify errors and address shortcomings is able to stay ahead of the competition.

 3. Assess Employee Performance

A KPI for employee performance simplifies performance appraisals and evaluation of employee performance. When organizations set key performance indicators for employees, they’re able to measure employee progress. This gives them a clear picture of gaps in performance, factors affecting employee productivity and workforce training needs. Purpose-driven employees, on the other hand, are more efficientthey understand their roles and responsibilities and are motivated to work harder to reach the required levels set by the KPIs.

 4. Analyze Trends

Organizations can use key performance indicators to detect and examine performance and growth trends over time. For instance, the same key performance indicators used every quarter highlight periods of slow growth and reveal consistent overachievers and/or underperformers in the workforce. This enables organizations to strategize, conduct training sessions, implement correctional measures, reward high-performers and revisit goals.

 5. Stay On Course

A key performance indicator is vital to ensure organizations and employees stay on course to complete set goals. It also tells organizations whether they’re on the right track to achieving their desired objectives and, if not, where they need to sort out their priorities.

KPI metrics highlight which efforts and business processes yield the most favorable results for an organization. They allow organizations to make informed business decisions, address gaps in performance and sustain growth. Measuring outcomes and results is a breeze with effective KPI metrics.

Key Performance Indicator Example

Most departments within an organization—from sales and finance to customer service and HR—utilize key performance indicators to assess performance and strategize for future development. Let’s look at a few examples of KPI for sales:

  • Lead-to-sale conversion rate: This KPI measures the effectiveness of sales professionals at converting a qualified lead into a paying customer
  • Average purchase value: The average purchase value KPI gauges the average value of each purchase made by customers
  • Cycle length: The KPI for sales cycle length assesses the average time taken by sales professionals to close a deal
  • Churn rate: This KPI measures the number of customers who end their engagement with an organization or stop using its products and/or services
  • Average lead response time: This KPI tracks how long it takes for a sales representative to respond to a qualified lead

KPI for sales is imperative for sales leaders to track and monitor their team’s performance. KPI for sales ensures sales professionals are consistently meeting targets, maximizing opportunities and generating leads.

Invest In Your Managers

Effective key performance indicators have the potential to take an organization a step above the rest. However, a large part of this depends on the managers of an organization. Managers are responsible for achieving organizational targets, evaluating employee performance and ensuring employee goals align with those of the organization. They must define and know how to use the right key performance indicator at the right time to maximize productivity and profits.

Harappa’s First Time Manager Program takes high-potential managers through a unique online-first learning journey. Its curriculum brings together a diverse collection of application-oriented concepts such as the Bruce Tuckman Model, Eisenhower Matrix and Leadership Equation. New managers make the leap from an individual contributor to a people and project manager, picking up persuasion techniques, increasing self-awareness and inspiring cohesive teams to consistently deliver high performance.

Equipped with a skill map of must-have “Thrive Skills”, individuals preparing to take on managerial roles develop an essential set of cognitive, social and behavioral skills to drive transformative business outcomes and achieve peak performance. They’re able to define clear roles and expectations for their team members, delegate tasks effectively, give constructive feedback, deal with conflict and analyze problems from different perspectives.

Managers are at the core of operational efficiency. Invest in your managers to enhance organizational productivity and drive profits. Sign up your organization for Harappa’s First Time Manager Program today!

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