Individual OKRs add a management dimension to the whole OKR process. That's why we recommend starting them when you're comfortable with team goals. In our opinion, they also represent the most interesting benefits of OKRs.
Let's see what they entail and how to successfully give employees OKRs.
So when is the right time to introduce individual goals?
You can also introduce individual goals only for certain departments.
People can (rightfully) be sensitive about performance. After all, it's used to drive raises and promotions. The rule of thumb is that the goal ratings shouldn't directly be used to allocate a bonus, deny a promotion, or determine a raise.
The keyword is directly. Of course, managers are going to look at how goals were conducted. But they will take into account different factors such as the difficulty of the goal, unforeseen events, how the goal lines up with the employee's longer term career, etc.
OKRs are a tool to facilitate the conversation during performance evaluation. When goals become the only measure of performance, bad things happen: sandbagging, backstabbing, and lack of cooperation.
Compensation matters aside no one wants to be the lowest performer and that fear can be paralyzing for some (see atychiphobia).
A supportive environment is key. It should be ok to fail if you try and aimed high. It doesn't mean putting up mediocrity. Here's an enlightening example from the former head of Google X labs.
Another area where managers play a key role is in letting employees own the goal. It's tempting for managers to write the employees' OKRs but it's also generally a bad strategy.
There are a few things you can do as a manager to make it easier for employees: