41 per cent of the global workforce are considering leaving their job this year as a result of the pandemic and work related stress has risen sharply in the last year.

According to a study from mental health charity Mind, work related stress is one of the primary factors people cite when they resign from work. High KPIs and targets can lead staff to feeling pressured and overwhelmed, often resulting in them being less productive and in some cases, resigning from the role. Having a high staff turnover, especially in the current circumstances, will always have a negative impact on the business as talent and knowledge is lost.

At Stakester, we have taken a different approach. Staff happiness, and therefore productivity, are key to securing and retaining the top talent. New joiners have no job descriptions when they start and instead, work with the team to set their own targets and deliverables.

They have the flexibility to decide what their role should be, and build it around what they’re good at and, importantly, what they want to achieve from the role as well. We believe that no employer is going to know what their new hire’s strengths and weaknesses are straight away and through giving them the flexibility to design their role around their capabilities and goals, both business and employee can work towards a more productive output.

Since starting this model, our company has seen 300 per cent growth with no additional expenditure on marketing – our success has purely come from the team taking initiative and being given the freedom to run with their ideas.

Everyone is motivated by different things and has their own way of working. By forcing them to fit your model, you could be limiting their creativity and productivity. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that if you look after your employees and give them the tools to forge their own path, the return can be seen in the company as well as in their own happiness and development.

With businesses contemplating returning in a hybrid format, or retaining a virtual work environment, this has never been more important than now. Businesses have struggled with trusting employees to hit the same targets virtually as they had in person before the pandemic. This has impacted both the trust between employee and business, as well as the staff’s overall happiness. By removing those KPIs, employees know that we trust them to deliver on what they are capable of achieving, motivating them to do so in an environment and timeframe comfortable to them.

Our employees know exactly what is expected of them, because their job descriptions are what they expect of themselves. As employers, our job is to make our staff feel safe and feel that they are within an environment where mistakes and failures are encouraged – only to help them learn and develop to avoid them in the future. If we give staff the freedom to make these choices and challenge our day to day activity, then as a business we can grow and develop more quickly.

Strict KPIs and targets for staff goes against that. Of course, from a management perspective, KPIs make sense in theory. They provide a simplistic measure on performance. But by forcing your staff to perform based entirely on completing a set of arbitrary tasks, you’re actively shackling your staff and hampering creativity.

The only way to improve is to evolve. By having rigid KPIs for staff, you can miss out on emerging trends before it’s too late and lose an opportunity to change for the better. Instead of staff focusing on meeting a target, they can focus on challenging the status quo.

One example of this at Stakester was our YouTube content. Previously, we would provide our video content team with a very prescriptive brief with targets and KPIs. We decided to change the narrative and gave them a budget and told them to create something without asking me what I wanted from it. Before that, our best performing video had 13,000 views. By giving the team the freedom to determine what they wanted to achieve from that brief and how to get to that point, they delivered a video that currently has 359,000 views.

Experience makes you expensive, not an expert. When you let your staff be creative and have fun doing the tasks they want to do, you’ll be amazed at what they can achieve.

Another risk you run by having a rigid system of KPIs is having staff who spend more time measuring their performance than delivering on quality work. Business changes so fast, and it’s impossible to have measurables that can keep up with these changes.

Instead of asking them to fill in spreadsheets and trackers with their KPI targets, why not ask them to go off and create something or to pitch an idea they have that can improve the company?

The pandemic has forced us all into a lot of changes that we would have never dreamed possible in the workspace, and in a lot of cases, these changes have been beneficial. As we start to return to normal, why should we go back to the same old way of doing things? Instead, continue to evolve your business and let the people you hired do the job you hired them to do, as opposed to filling out performance metrics.

Now more than ever we need to look after our staff, and make sure that they are being productive while enjoying their work to combat stress. The best way to do this is to scrap KPIs and strict targets for your staff, making everyone’s lives less stressful and more productive from top to bottom.






Tom Fairey is the CEO and founder of Stakester, and host of the BackYourself Podcast. Previously the CRO at Quantexa, Tom grew the businesses to a £125m valuation within two years. After leaving, Tom founded Stakester in 2019, the world’s first competition marketplace. Stakester partners with the biggest names in eSports to give gamers of any level the chance to back themselves and compete against real people to win money and prizes. Since its creation, Stakester has over 20,000 active users, with records for competitions played being broken every week.