COVID-19 has accelerated the rate of remote work adoption globally, but what have we found out? We have discovered that remote work is not bad, after all.
In the past, many companies have been wary about transitioning to telecommuting, even when most of their office operations do not require the physical presence of employees. The main fears expressed by leaders include a possible decline in employee productivity and a lack of clarity about the measurement of employee performance.
The performance of individual employees determines the trajectory of the company. Without reliable methods to assess its employees’ work, it is difficult for any organization to achieve growth and development.
This article addresses the concerns of managers who are hesitant about remote work and those who have already implemented remote work but have trouble with tracking performance for workplace productivity and office growth.
Set Clear Objectives and KPIs
How do you know if your employees are getting stuff done? The inevitable first step is to define what it means to get stuff down. In business lingua, that means to establish work objectives and set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Effective KPIs are aligned with the company’s overall goals and must contribute to the company’s growth and development.
Communicating to employees the metrics by which their performance will be assessed helps them to understand their priorities. Clear expectations, keep employees focused.
Acknowledge Unquantifiable Performance Indicators
In setting KPIs, though, you need to acknowledge that numbers don’t tell the full story. Not to suggest that you should discount the importance of numbers, but you should also be cognizant of the Key Intangible Performance Indicators. Admittedly, working remotely can compound the vagueness of such indicators — leading employees to feel their efforts are not recognized enough.
Some aspects are just not quantifiable, such as leadership, creativity, innovation, organization, and engagement. There are quantifiable indicators that may make us understand employee engagement and organization, but the subjects themselves are indefinite.
Until new ways and means of measuring these intangibles are discovered — company leadership should acknowledge that Key Intangible Performance Indicators exist, and look for ways to recognize employees who go above and beyond.
Support Employee Development
Assessments should be more supportive than they are judgmental. Employees appreciate frequent check-ins when the aim is to keep them on their toes and support them through difficulties. However, the manager that goes around constantly pointing out his team members’ flaws (without thoughtfully helping them overcome their challenges) is only seen as grumpy.
The rules also apply in remote work, where managers (out of fear of losing control) begin acting intrusively by implementing extreme corporate surveillance. Tracking and assessment are not the ends themselves; the goal of tracking employee performance should be to improve team productivity. In essence, remote work management and performance should usher us into a new era of trust, more autonomy, accountability, and team collaboration.
“Nowadays, it is not enough to equip teams with new digital tools for remote collaboration, which many rapidly did when the pandemic began. It’s only the first step,” says Maxime Bouroumeau-Fuseau, co-founder and CTO of Paris-based Digicoop, a worker cooperative behind the work management platform Kantree. “The changing workplace calls for an environment where employees are empowered to take control of their work.
In our experience as a co-op, when employees are given more autonomy and when micromanagement is replaced by collaboration, teams deliver better results while individual employees feel more invested in their work.”
Many people choose to work remotely because they want to feel a greater sense of ownership of their time and schedules. Therefore, even though time tracking is important for many remote teams, it goes without saying that hourly input is not always a good measure of performance.
The true measure of performance is the work outcome. Remote work allows employees to choose their own work hours; what does it matter if an employee works less per hour but still meets targets consistently? Researchers have shown that autonomy increases productivity.
Use the Right Tools and Analytics
With physical offices out of the picture, it is the tools that a remote team uses that define the structure of work and operations. There are tools that keep employees accountable and provide actionable insights into how work gets done in the organization.
The rise of remote work has promoted the importance of analytics of everyday work data to ensure that employees are more productive.
The insights gained help team leaders and the management to understand if the organization is meeting set targets of performance and productivity and determine the rate of growth and development. Tools such as Trello, Kantree, Jira, Asana, Microsoft Teams, Slack, etc., are useful for assessing work progression.
Establish a Culture of Accountability
Note, though, that tools are only as effective as the culture in which they are situated. Your team might be using the best tools, but poor communication can derail employees from the main goals of the company.
When there are issues with employee performance, you must be able to recognize if there is a problem with the tools being used or with the management. Accountability should not only be down-up; it should be top-down too. Managers should be accountable to their subordinates and transparent about office dealings.
Going by statistics, remote work actually improves employee productivity and performance. This, in turn, leads to the overall growth of the company. However, this growth must be intentional. Organizations should implement proper (and flexible) assessment models to know when their work is really progressing and when there are problems that must be solved.