KPIs: Who’s Tracking What

Pam Sornson, JD

Pam Sornson, JD

September 19, 2023

There’s a big push these days to improve the integration of governmental, industrial, and educational resources for the purpose of building a more robust, more resilient economy. The initiative makes sense considering the invaluable assets each of those sectors contributes to national, regional, and local economies.

However, the internal workings of each sector are decidedly different from the other two, and they don’t routinely communicate with the others about challenges arising within their spheres of influence. Those non-communication practices are now posing challenges to the establishment of a genuinely collaborative economic and workforce development (EWD) strategy. That strategy will require intentional discussions to uncover common goals that unite group efforts and build systems to achieve those goals, leveraging resources from all three divisions.

One way to structure those discussions is to couch them in KPI development terms. Defining the “Key Performance Indicators” (KPIs) for use as guides by individual enterprises will help project participants move together to accomplish a greater, more comprehensive level of success for all.

 

KPIs Spotlight Gaps …

A KPI is a quantifiable demonstration of progress toward a specific end result. Many companies achieve success by using KPIs to define their goals, activities, inputs, and outcomes. Mapping out a clear set of KPIs is often the primary and most important tool for leveraging corporate assets to achieve enterprise success.

Within the EWD project,  participants in each sector will have to understand and work with the existing KPIs from the other sectors. The initiative will only succeed if all three sectors can mutually agree on and work collaboratively toward relevant KPIs. Considering the significant differences between their respective KPI systems, those agreements may be challenging to achieve.

Existing Government KPIs:

Governments track thousands of data points in their quest to be accountable, responsible, and effective. In the EWD sphere, a priority oversight function tracks the allocation and spending of public dollars for public education systems. School district administrators use KPIs to ensure each school appropriately uses its allocated funding. Data points here include administrative expenditures per student, first to third-year retention rates, student/teacher ratios, and course completion data, to name just a few. Government funding (primarily at the state level) accounts for most public education financing, including that for community colleges.

Existing Industry KPIs

Regardless of their subject matter, industries typically have well-defined KPIs within each subsector and another layer of more encompassing KPIs, knitting those subsectors together into a cohesive division. KPI systems can track hundreds of industrial activities within a single enterprise, and each individual data point reflects a critical element in the success of the overarching arena. For example, participants in the manufacturing sector often measure productivity quantifiers, such as machinery downtime, capacity utilization, and inventory turnover. Other KPIs measure workforce data, including scheduling, staff turnover, benefits management, and training costs.

Most notably, a quick review of KPI strategies in both government and industry sectors reveals very little overlap among them – what one sector is measuring is not measured by the other. The gaps between them are where the EWD initiatives can emerge. Participants in both sectors can collaborate to develop their common EWD goals and build collaborative – cross-sector – systems to achieve them.

 

… And Offer Pathways to Solutions

Developing a unified set of KPIs that encompass cross-sector EWD activities lays the foundation for the work to come. Within these discussions, sector participants can clarify where their priorities lie, how they can contribute to the global project without losing traction on their internal master plan, and the intended outcomes they will all strive toward. Accordingly, the first conversations should encompass these five KPI development principles:

    1. Clarify the purpose of the joint project, in this case, how to share sector assets and activities to further mutual EWD goals. The project’s ‘purpose’ will also define its intended outcome; a successful strategy is more likely when all participants agree on and commit to pursuing this set of mutually agreed upon results.
    2. Connect internal, sector-based activities to the project’s outcome(s). In some cases, existing activities and systems are already in place; in other cases, current programs may need revisions or sunsetting in favor of actions more in keeping with the larger initiative.
    3. Ensure that efforts to achieve each common goal are also relevant to the decision-makers in each sector. Experts at KPI development suggest that each indicator should be ‘SMART’: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reliable, and Timely. Sector leaders can rely on the KPIs within their specific pillar to guide them to success. EWD project leaders can rely on those results to build the more complex systems of the larger scheme.
    4. Embed existing mandates and benchmarks into the KPI constellation. All three pillars – government, industry, and education – are governed by regulations, rules, and policies. Those requirements must be met, so embedding them within the scope of the KPI strategy will ensure success toward both mandates – those of the industry and those of the EWD project.
    5. Engage stakeholders early and often. No project can succeed if it fails to meet the needs of those it is designed to assist. In this instance, the ‘stakeholders’ are, essentially, every member of every community: students (of all ages), workers, businesses, industries, government agencies, and anyone else who benefits from a strong economy.

 

A review of KPIs across industries reveals how organizations are now measuring their success. That review also shows how narrowly focused the indicators are on the efforts of the specific entity. If society is seeking a reinvigorated economy by integrating its governmental, educational, and industrial assets, then it needs to develop a single set of KPIs that defines what that economy will look like and how it will be built. Those collaborative conversations among government overseers, educational leaders, and industrialists are just beginning.

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