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How To Measure The Performance Of Remote Workers: 6 Pillars Of Effective Remote Work Management

Measure the Performance of Remote Workers

When you’re in the office, it’s easy to think you know exactly what your team is working on. After all, if they’re at their desks, they must be working — right?

Thankfully, business leaders are finally starting to see the end of the “butts in seats” myth. Productivity isn’t defined by how long someone’s at their desk.

We’ve spent more than a decade leading a 100% remote team. So, we’ve learned quite a bit about what it takes to manage remote staff while keeping them productive and happy.

On the surface, managing in-house and remote teams seem quite different. But, as you’ll see, you can apply the principles below to all management—in-house and remote alike.

Here are six pillars to focus on for effective remote employee management:

  1. Start by choosing the right metrics and goals
  2. Set clear and specific performance metrics for remote employees
  3. Keep track of how engaged your remote team is
  4. Lay out expectations for remote communication
  5. Don’t forget to measure ROI
  6. Trust is key to success for remote managers and employees

Measuring Remote Teams Productivity Starts With The Right Metrics

How do you measure the productivity of employees working?

The place a person is working and the time they spend working aren’t great productivity metrics to use. Productivity measurement is about engagement level and employee performance, not location and time spent.

Remote work productivity can seem even more challenging to measure.

When managing a remote team, it can be tempting to implement some sort of remote time tracking tool or productivity monitoring software. We DO NOT recommend this. In fact, this can often have the opposite effect and negatively affect productivity level (as we’ll discuss later).

While productivity apps or a productivity tracker can be useful as part of a larger project management software approach, there are much better ways to define which teams are productive teams and which ones have productivity issues.

The best place to start is with the big picture so that you can understand (and communicate) how a team member’s role plays into your company’s larger strategy.

Do you have clear key performance indicators (KPIs) 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 KPIs (across industries) include:

  • Revenue growth rate
  • Net profit
  • Project schedule variance (PSV), i.e. are projects completed in time
  • Churn rate, or 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.

And if you’re a senior executive struggling to meet your own KPIs because of busy work, learn how you can leverage automation and delegation to increase your productivity.

Set Project And Performance Goals For Remote Employees

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 to measuring 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
  • Grow newsletter signups
  • Improve conversion rates among leads

The above goals are too general. Instead, specific and measurable goals could look like:

  • 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.

Depending on the employee’s job requirements, you might be defining everything from improving the average response times to clients, to hitting deadlines for content creation.

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).

Companies Need Great Culture For Remote Teams

Until recently, company culture was more of a buzzword than an actual performance measurement indicator.

But as more and more companies begin to realize the value of culture—especially 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.

Read more: How To Be Successful In Managing Virtual Teams

Have Clear Communication Expectations For Feedback And Video Meetings

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

Surprisingly 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 overcommunication 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 for 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 structuring (and clarifying) your remote communication will be a huge payoff in the long run.

Read more: A Guide To Executive Assistant Performance Reviews

Business Must Track ROI On Remote Employee Goals

You’re probably tracking the ROI of individual activities from your business, but are you 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 straightforward 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 no 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.

Customers Rely On Trust Between Managers and Employees

Do you trust your remote employee?

While this is more of a ‘gut-check’ performance indicator, it’s one that’s incredibly 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 in case you’re trying to hire an executive assistant you can trust, we have some helpful tips to get you started.

A Note About Time Tracking Software For Remote Teams

Unless your team bills hourly rates, using a time tracking tool to monitor the exact amount of time your team is online or active on their computer is usually unnecessary.

While time tracking and employee productivity monitoring software (AKA: “tattleware”) might claim to make employees more productive, what it actually does is make employees resentful.

First, it’s important to understand that great employee performance is not locked to the amount of time spent working.

Extremely efficient workers might spend the shortest time on a task. Is the time period they spent working a valuable measurement? Nobody wants to be punished because they didn’t sit at a desk “long enough;” your team wants to be rewarded for crushing their goals and KPIs.

Second, 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 brainstorming ideas with paper and pen. Average call time could vary; do you want to get after them for treating a client to great customer service? Perhaps they took a walk and listened to an educational podcast about honing a certain skill they need for their position. Not all remote work is done in front of the computer screen.

Time monitoring and tracking software is an invasion of privacy, especially if it involves video monitoring.

If this is something you are considering, we urge you to poll your employees about this type of software before you decide to put it in place; we can almost guarantee it will be an unpopular solution.

Lastly, these types of software do 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 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, you’ll have 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 how subscription staffing works.

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.

About the author Katie Hill is a Content Writer at Boldly, which offers Premium Subscription Staffing for demanding executives and founders. When she isn't writing about remote work or productivity, she can be found adventuring in Colorado's backcountry.

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