When Steve Grove was named commissioner of Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) in January 2019, he sparked some high expectations. Grove—originally from Northfield—had previously directed Google’s $300 million Google News Lab, and Minnesota employers were eager to see how his experience in Silicon Valley might reshape the agency.
In August, DEED released its new strategic plan, and the Star Tribune’s Lee Schafer reports that it “has at least one very good idea from Google baked into it.” That’s a new way to measure success, called “objectives and key results,” or OKR.
Previously, writes Schafer, “a lot of what got measured [at DEED] were activities, like how many workforce development workshops were held.” But Grove had a better idea:
How OKR works is maybe best understood by imagining a middle-aged guy who has rarely left the couch and finally decides to get physically fit. That’s a great objective, but how’s his fitness going to be measured? If it’s not a specific number, he has no way of knowing if he’s really made it.
So he writes it down. He’ll have reached his objective when he can run 2 miles without stopping.
It can be tough to bring specific goals of this kind—including “stretch” key results—to a government agency, writes Schafer. But that’s what Grove has set out to do. A primary objective, he says, is to improve the estimation in which DEED is held by Minnesota job-seekers and business owners.
There are three key results in the new plan…. One is to increase the number of job seekers using DEED’s CareerForce program by 10%.
Another is to increase the job-placement rate, because if more Minnesotans aren’t getting jobs after going through a DEED program, why should the Legislature fund it?….
Another objective is to reduce the different experiences that various groups of Minnesotans face in the employment market. One key result is to increase the average starting wage for people of color whom DEED helps by $2 per hour. Grove said this might be the most ambitious key result in the whole plan.
DEED’s final new objective is to make our state an acknowledged national leader in innovation, and there are key results written down for this, too. One is getting Minnesota ranked in the top five for what’s called ‘innovation ecosystem,’ as determined by third parties such as the Milken Institute or the National Science Foundation.
This isn’t just PR, Grove said, because one of the ways a state gets a more vibrant startup and innovation sector is to become known for having one, attracting job seekers, entrepreneurs and capital.
Minnesota workers and business owners will be watching to see how DEED’s ambitious new strategic plan plays out.