1. Set clear metrics and OKRsIt's simple — a goal cannot be achieved if no one knows what it is. When working with your virtual team, the first step in the performance management process is to dictate your expectations in clear and specific terms. It’s always a good move to talk to your employees about the goals you wish to achieve. This, in turn, drastically reduces the need for micromanagement and will ensure that you're not disappointed in the finished product. When everyone is on the same page, you form meaningful and professional relationships that strengthen your brand.
How can you set OKRs?A simple but powerful metric that is often used to measure performance is customer satisfaction. However, like any other metric, it can only be measured if a predetermined benchmark has been set. Other common OKRs include community engagement, number of products sold, number of clients, and even positive feedback. The key is to create metrics based on the expectations for the employee and then measure their performance based on the expectations. Setting up the right OKRs will allow your virtual team to align their tasks accordingly, irrespective of their geographical location. This makes the entire work process much more streamlined — an indispensable asset when working with remote teams. Always use the right tools to create OKRs. CultureAmp, Koan, Timely, SimpleOKR are some examples of great tools that can help you visualise how individuals and teams are contributing to the overall goals of the organisation. They can also be used to manage your remote team, track progress, share tasks, and reflect on the growth of the business. You can also create your own simple spreadsheet with different objectives. You can then track results for your team on a regular basis. The idea is to build a system that is simple, easily accessible, and efficient.
2. Focus on the outputHow does one quantify efficiency? Does being professionally dressed, coming to the office on time, and being glued to the laptop all day considered as signs of efficiency? If yes, then how do you evaluate remote employees? After all, you can't hover over their desks every hour. In a remote setting, the most you can do is to check when they're logging in and out, and the quantity of the work they do. But is that really a sign of efficiency? In a nutshell, no, not at all. You can try to be an obsessive or controlling boss, but in reality, at the end of the day, all that really matters is the output. An employee can spend hours on end working on a piece of software, but if the end result is a shoddy product with a ton of bugs in it, what’s the use? And that means that it's time to focus on sustenance.
How can you do that?By shifting the metrics from "hours spent working" to "the quality of tasks accomplished." By forcing your employees to work for hours on end and produce an enormous amount of work, you're causing them to burn out. The foundation of a good performance management process is to determine outcomes — whether an employee is successfully meeting the measurable benchmarks and goals. The simplest way to go about this is to hold weekly meetings with your remote team and give them a clear-set task list with negotiated deadlines. You can either use standard KPIs, online time-cards, or even other cloud-based applications to track these metrics. When working with a fully-distributed team, you can even have 2 or more employees working on the same project. This will help you evaluate quality and quantity more accurately, and will determine if an employee is the right fit for a particular task. This is true regardless of the environment you’re working in. Some employees may perform certain tasks better and faster than others, making your evaluation that much easier.
3. Trust your employeesTheone common thread that runs deep across every single method of managing remote teams, is trust. And this works both ways. First, employees should be able to trust that their managers are keeping their best interests at heart. Similarly, remote managers must be able to trust that their employees are engaged, motivated, and productive at work, even though they're not in the same room. While a small part of this trust is built during the hiring process, the rest is built slowly, one positive interaction at a time.
Why is trust so important in the performance management process?How you evaluate your remote employees largely depends on how much you trust them. And that's why it's crucial to get it right and make sure that your business and your employees are benefited from the performance review process. Talk to them, establish a healthy line of communication, and understand where they are coming from. Instead of filling out weekly timesheets that can undermine the trust you have on your employees, establish a set of easily measurable deliverables. These deliverables have to be clearly communicated to your remote team.As long as the criteria are met and the business goals achieved, you don't have to worry.
4. Create a 360-degree feedback loopPoor communication is one of the biggest pitfalls when working with remote teams. Failure to establish honest and transparent two-way communication can most certainly cause the downfall of the entire team. And that's why consistent feedback is essential. The best way to do this is to simply ask team members to arrange feedback sessions with each other. They can either pick specific people to be a part of their "feedback circle", or they can even be paired at random. Once they have their own circle, they can share valuable insights and feedback with each other. It can be something as simple as failure to address a potential problem ahead of time which led to significant delays, or something as complex as the working style of a co-worker. Honest and effective feedback is truly invaluable. There are so many different ways to schedule these 360-degree reviews. Some common methods include —
- Using feedback applications
- A simple calendar invite
- Creating a framework