If up until recently if you’ve only managed in-house employees, you may be struggling to try and figure out how to accurately measure the performance of your (newly) remote staff. After all, unless you’ve implemented some sort of remote time-tracking or monitoring system (which we definitely DO NOT recommend) then it’s nearly impossible to tell when your staff is working and when they are away from their desks.

But does the amount of time your staff is at their desk really and truly have any bearing on their productivity? What if you don’t need to know exactly what your staff is doing from 9 to 5 in order to assess their performance?

During the past 9 years in leading a 100% remote team, we’ve learned quite a bit about what it takes to effectively manage remote staff while keeping them productive and happy. And although it can be quite different from managing in-house employees, we believe the principles below can actually be applied to all management, including an in-office staff as a more effective strategy than tracking the time clock or measuring, for lack of a better term, butts in seats.

Here are some things to focus on instead:

Measuring (the right) Metrics

Do you have clear KPI’s for your business and are you monitoring them regularly?

KPI’s are the true pulse on how your business (and in turn, your remote employees) are performing. Some of the most common KPI’s (across industries) include:

  • Revenue growth rate
  • Net profit
  • Project schedule variance (PSV) (are projects completed in time)
  • Churn rate (how many people stop using the product or service)
  • Average revenue for each customer
  • Customer lifetime value (CLV/LTV)

For each of these vital KPI’s, you should assess which remote employees or teams are responsible for achieving projected goals in these areas, and exactly how they plan to do so, which leads us to the next section:

Setting Performance Goals

You may not have re-visited the goals for a certain position since you wrote out the job description to hire someone, but setting concrete goals — whether monthly, weekly, quarterly or even yearly— is the ultimate key in order to measure the performance of remote workers.

The caveat here is that these goals need to be extremely specific and very clearly laid out. For example, the goals for your Marketing Director should not be:

  • Increase website traffic through SEO
  • Build a social media following
  • And Increase newsletter signups
  • Improve conversion rates among leads

But instead, be:

  • Increase traffic through SEO by writing weekly-targeted blog posts, with an aim to increase traffic by 20% in 6 months.
  • Increase followers on our Facebook and Twitter page by 15% this quarter with creative image-driven campaigns and aim for a targeted increase of engagement of 10%.
  • Increase newsletter signups by holding quarterly webinars with influential clients and partners.
  • Improve conversion rates for leads by pushing more qualified leads into the funnel through targeted content marketing campaigns and direct PPC.

Leave some room here for unexpected occurrences, of course, but by having very clear goals, you can establish whether or not your remote employee is accomplishing the job at hand, regardless of whether or not they’re working 8 hours a day (which is really an arbitrary guideline in today’s work environment).

Involvement in culture

Up until pretty recently, company culture has been more of a buzzword than an actual performance measurement indicator. But as more and more companies begin to realize the value of culture —especially in the role it plays in retention and employee productivity— leaders in all organizations are seeking ways to create and spread positive culture across their company.

Because culture plays such a large role in the success of your company, you need to evaluate whether or not each remote employee you have is contributing to it.

Does your remote worker seem ambivalent about your culture initiatives, or are they on board? Do they actively try to stay involved in your company’s happenings, or do they shy away from ever speaking up?

We get that some people are just shy, but as a manager of remote teams, it’s your job to try and figure out what each person’s comfort level is and to get them involved up to that level. Maybe they don’t want to share what they did over the weekend or pictures of their children, but maybe they’d be ok sharing a picture of a pet or participating in a Slack trivia challenge?

Really, it’s about being able to clearly see that your remote employee, while distributed, is still engaged and feels the belonging of their peers. It’s more than a vanity metric, it helps to ensure their success.

Communication

When it comes to remote work, the standard expectation for communication should be over communication.

Surprising research shows that 70-93% of all communication is non-verbal. That’s huge! And unfortunately, you’re going to miss out on some of that non-verbal communication with your remote team.

Luckily, you can make up for much of it in the form of over communication and the use of video conferencing.

Since you’re not constantly monitoring what your remote employees are doing, it should be their responsibility to update you on what they’re working on, any issues that arise or any changes in a deadline, etc.

Remote employees also need to pay careful attention to the tone of their communications on email, Slack, etc. and be extra cautious of typos and grammatical errors that can alter the meaning behind their messages.

When hiring for remote roles, you can test this out a bit in the hiring process. Or, if you’ve recently gone remote and you’re noticing remote communication issues with a member of your remote staff, address them directly and offer some training in that area.

Beyond individual employee communications, you need to invest in creating a clear standard on the general communication structure for your team.

Will you communicate primarily through Slack? Email? Zoom? If your remote employees know the right channels to communicate through and when it will conquer half the battle of remote communication.

The investment in making sure remote communication is structured and clear to your whole team will present a huge payoff in the long-run.

ROI

You’re probably tracking the ROI of individual activities from your business, but are focused on tracking the ROI of each employee? Is your remote employee contributing enough to the success of your overall business to justify having them on your team?

This is important for both remote and non-remote employees but becomes a great and very simple indicator of the success of remote employees due to the fact that it’s pretty black and white. It will be up to you as a manager to form timelines, guidelines, etc. on ROI depending on the role of the team member.

Again, these goals need to be very clear so you and your remote staff are on the same page and there’s ambiguity about how you’re measuring their performance. We truly believe honesty is always the best policy, and there’s no exception when it comes to how you measure the performance of your remote workers.

Trust

Do you trust your remote employee?

While this is more of a ‘gut-check’ type performance indicator, it’s one that’s so, so important. Do you just know that (regardless of some crazy circumstance) this remote employee will get things done? Do you know they can self-manage and have the organizational and time-management skills to be successful in a self-starting role (which all remote roles are!)?

IF you have doubts, explore those. Trust is THE most important thing to have between remote employees and managers.

And because trust is such an important factor in remote success, let’s look at the opposite side of the coin as well.

What not to focus on: Things do not cultivate trust in a remote culture

Time tracking and monitoring

Tracking the exact amount of time your team is ‘online’ is not only a form of micromanagement, but it’s also unnecessary. After all, depending on the role, time spent in front of the computer screen is not usually the only time your team is working.

Perhaps they were on a phone call with a client or jotting down ideas / brainstorming with a paper and pen? Perhaps they took a walk and listened to an educational podcast about how to hone a certain skill they need for their position. Not all remote work is done in front of the computer screen.

The same can be said for installing any type of time tracking or monitoring software. While this software might claim it makes employees more productive, what it can really make employees, is resentful. Time monitoring and tracking software on remote employees can also be a bit of an invasion of privacy, especially if it involves video monitoring, so be aware of that.

Poll your employees about their feelings around this type of software before you decide to put it in place, we can almost guarantee it will be an unpopular solution.

This is because time tracking and time monitoring software does not cultivate a culture of trust (which is proven to make employees happier and more productive). And because you can measure the performance of your remote workers using all of the other methods mentioned above, it’s also really just an unnecessary expense in time and money.

You’ve got this!

We’ve learned from experience (and a bit of trial and error) that if you measure the performance of remote workers using the principles from this list will give you all the reassurance you need that your remote staff is performing within your expectations.

Of course, all of the above starts with having a team in place that you can trust from anywhere. If you’re looking to add support to your team who has a proven track record of being successful in a remote environment, check out subscription staffing via Boldly. We’ve helped hundreds of businesses achieve success in working with remote team members, and we’d love to hear more about yours as well.

Want to know more about how to measure the performance of remote workers? Check out this post!