remote team performance

Performance Management for Remote Teams: All You Need to Know

Effective performance management for remote workers requires different processes and tools than for in-office teams. Here are the best practices to follow.

Stefana Zaric
Written by Stefana Zaric
September 17, 2021
Contents
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Key Takeaways:

  1. Performance management in remote teams requires a higher level of trust between a manager and their team members, but still relies on open communication, frequent feedback, and setting clear expectations.

  2. Think of performance management as a part of your employee retention strategy: investing in your employees’ development and setting up a reward and recognition system can increase employee satisfaction.

  3. Leverage performance management tools to streamline your performance review process, avoid micromanagement, and document employee progress.

The modern world of work has changed the way we think about many aspects of the workplace, including performance management. Modern organizations have shifted their focus from retroactively addressing poor performance to proactively enabling employees to deliver high performance whilst ensuring they’re set up for success.

Implementing meaningful performance management for remote workers gets more complex because of the emphasized need to rely on technology and the fine line between performance monitoring and micromanagement.

In this guide, we’ll discuss what remote performance management means and share the best performance management strategies to help you track your team’s performance and encourage them to grow.

What is performance management?

Performance management is a process of tracking and evaluating an employee’s performance while continuously communicating feedback to help the employee do their best work and contribute to the company goals. It’s a strategic tool that involves different activities, such as weekly one-on-one meetings or annual performance evaluations, which all serve to discover:

  • How the employee can meet their goals
  • Scope for the manager  to help direct reports succeed 
  • Growth opportunities and ambitions 

What are the key pillars of performance management?

An effective performance management strategy contains several stages:

  1. Planning
  2. Monitoring
  3. Development/Improvement
  4. Rewarding

Planning

During the planning and goal-setting stage, you need to set clear expectations and metrics to track and define the objective and key results (OKRs) to achieve. This is the first step to creating a successful performance management process because all further steps rely on how well you’ve defined your objectives. You can do the planning on a team and individual level and determine what kind of performance will fall into which category. The three main categories being:

  • Doesn’t meet expectations
  • Meets expectations
  • Exceeds expectations

Monitoring

Both managers and employees should be involved in performance monitoring to make the process efficient.

A manager should conduct regular check-ins with their team members to get a pulse on their progress through different assignments and remove potential roadblocks. At the same time, employees should be able to track their own progress so they can ask for additional support to reach milestones and complete projects.

Monitoring also allows managers to provide ongoing feedback and an opportunity for employees to improve before an official performance review.

Here are a few ideas on how you can organize feedback sessions after a period of monitoring your remote employees’ performance:

  • Manager feedback - reviews from an employer’s superior. Evaluations from higher management are key to ensuring KPIs and OKRs are being met.
  • Self assessment - an employee self-evaluating their performance.
  • 180 & 360 degree appraisals - one of the most accurate performance measurement methods that is a combination of self-assessment, peer evaluation, subordinate reviews, and evaluations from your superiors.

Note that regular monitoring of your team’s performance in real-time allows you to track their workload and ensure they don’t have too much on their plate. An employee may not notice they’re overworked until they’re well into burnout, but as their manager, you can prevent this from happening by decreasing the number of assignments or offering additional support.

Development and improvement

Whether your employee’s shown less than satisfactory performance and needs support to get back on track or they’ve demonstrated exceptional skill and potential, you need to come up with a development plan to help your team members grow.

This step can include the implementation of performance improvement plans, training, courses, seminars, or the introduction of new or higher-level tasks for high-performing employees.

The purpose of this stage of performance management is to provide assistance to employees who need it before you take any more radical steps, such as termination. At the same time, when it comes to top performers, investing in their skill development should be a part of your talent retention strategy.

Rewarding

Rewards and recognition can help reduce employee turnover, boost employee engagement, and help build a more positive employee experience. It also helps recruit the best talent, which is one of the reasons why your performance management program should include a reward as the final step.

Rewarding your best employees will motivate them to keep up their high performance and incentivize others to improve. Be sure to make reward and recognition initiatives an ongoing process, don’t just focus on awards at the end of an annual review.

Good performance rewards can be more or less official. It’s important to establish clear criteria for performance-based bonuses so your employees can work toward meeting them from day one. You can also establish an ongoing culture of giving your employees kudos for their accomplishments through a specialized Slack channel.

Performance management for remote teams: what’s changed and what hasn’t?

The fundamental principles of effective performance management haven’t changed since many companies switched to remote and hybrid working.

Just like in an in-office setting, it’s critical to give and ask for frequent feedback, set clear expectations, and maintain transparent communication. But a remote work environment requires an even higher level of trust between a manager and their team members.

As a manager, you’ve hired the best people for your team because you believe in their knowledge and expertise. Micromanaging every aspect of their work can be counterproductive and stop your employees from doing their best work because they’ll feel you don’t trust them. Trusting your team that they’re capable of:

  • organizing their time to complete their tasks
  • making lower-level decisions without asking for guidance
  • monitoring their own performance and progress

helps build a stronger team culture and improves interpersonal relationships within your team.

Another thing that has changed is that teams nowadays rely more heavily on performance management tools to monitor and evaluate their team’s performance. Tools help you create a streamlined performance management system and control micromanagement.

For example, in Confirm, a performance management platform, you have a clear review process, and every step of it gets unlocked in its own time. This app can also help you streamline goal setting and tracking and allow the whole team (and even the company) to collaborate on performance management in one place.

Performance management for remote teams: 11 best practices

Choosing the right KPIs and metrics to track performance for remote teams will ensure you stay on track with meeting your goals and objectives. But, that’s just one step. Here are eleven best practices to help you nail your remote performance management strategy.

Set weekly KPIs in addition to monthly

It’s important to monitor progress more closely so you can act promptly if you notice progress isn’t on track. Course correcting often takes longer when your staff is all remote.

Set department-specific KPIs in line with company objectives

It’s something that becomes even more important when working with remote teams because it enables cross-team collaboration and helps avoid siloed work.

Set 5-10 KPIs

While there will be shared KPIs amongst departments most KPIs should be role-specific. For example, sales teams will monitor, call volume, lead to customer conversion rate or the revenue generated per sales rep. Marketing teams will track the number of marketing-qualified leads generated, the customer acquisition cost, and ROI.

Rely on good project management software

Remote teams rely heavily on asynchronous work, which is why a good project management platform is a must. This software will give the whole team visibility into what everyone else is doing without the need to Slack each other and wait for replies. You can also check the progress of your employees without checking in with them every day.

Brush up on your feedback-giving skills and adapt to remote communication

Whether your employee is a top performer or underperforming, bear in mind that video conferencing on Zoom deprives us of many communication elements we have when communicating in person. You can’t always see your co-worker’s facial expressions clearly or read their body language. This is why it’s critical to be specific and kind when holding a performance review with your employees.

Encourage upward feedback

If your goal is to grow as a manager, it’s always useful to hear how your team members evaluate your management skills. Giving upward feedback isn’t always easy because employees might fear that giving an honest opinion may reflect on your future relationship with them. Nurture open communication to create a safe space for your employee to share what they think or offer anonymous surveys as an option.

Share the big picture with your team

Remote teams may have a hard time connecting with the company’s mission compared to in-office teams since they work in a more isolated setting. Share the big picture regularly with your team members, including high-level business goals and how your employees’ work is contributing to them. This will make your team feel more motivated and strengthen their sense of belonging, impacting their performance positively.

Ensure a healthy workload

One sure way to see your team succeed is by setting healthy goals and objectives for them to achieve. This doesn’t mean setting simple, easy-to-reach goals, but it does mean making them attainable.

Support employee autonomy

Tracking remote workers’ performance will seem excessively intrusive if you use GPS trackers on their devices, monitor all their communications, track the sites they visit, etc. Avoid micromanagement and trust your team to do their work.

Pay attention to both the tangible and intangible indicators of performance

Some companies fail to look at the full picture of performance, and only look at numbers. In many positions, things such as customer engagement and client satisfaction are essential performance indicators, yet often overlooked.

Schedule frequent check-ins

Making time for regular check-ins are essential to aid in course-correcting when needed. Without periodic check-ins, employees may feel a loss of support, and lose motivation which will lead to a loss of productivity.

Set your remote team for success

Although all of the above tips make up a set of best practices, one of the most important practices for employers, when tracking remote workers, is to focus on deliverables over employee attendance.

If an employee is performing well and completing their work on time and to the highest standard, strict attendance practices shouldn’t be required. Focusing more on deliverables rather than attendance, not only gives employees the freedom to take control of their day, it also makes them feel a greater sense of ownership.

As a result, their performance tends to improve substantially.

If you’re looking to streamline performance management and other HR processes for your growing, distributed team, check out Deel’s free guide on scaling global HR.

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