Perhaps the greatest shift from in-person to remote work has been the need to re-evaluate how to measure performance. Historically, while managers have often associated physical presence or “butts in seats” with high performance, this isn’t a true measure of productivity. Unfortunately, presence is often the easiest thing to measure—which may be why the switch to remote work also led to a boom in technology that monitors employee behavior at home. Surveilling employees not only raises ethical issues, though, it also demoralizes employees and decreases both trust and productivity.
So how can leaders effectively assess team performance? Rethink measurement, regardless of where or how individuals do their work:
- Focus on outcomes, not outputs. Make sure you’re using the right metrics: that is, measurements focused on outcomes (results) not outputs (the tasks you do to hopefully achieve those desired outcomes). Getting specific about what you want to achieve will help you identify the right measurements. For example, output might be “Spend two hours building a new feature on the website.” But the desired result—the outcome—might be “Reduce calls to the Call Center by allowing Clients to find information for themselves.”
- Keep an eye out for equity. When developing metrics, make sure they can be delivered regardless of the location of the employee. For instance, if assignments have historically been distributed based on conversations after a meeting, it’s easy to overlook those working from home.
- Consider different domains. Employee performance is rarely based on one metric—instead, it’s a combination of metrics across varying domains, such as “how many units have I produced?” and “how well do I collaborate with my team?” Review metrics to make sure you’re assessing all aspects of your reports’ responsibilities.
- Set expectations up front. Once you’ve established the appropriate metrics, share with each member of your team and make sure they understand how their performance will be evaluated. Then, work with them to develop a plan if they’re concerned about hitting their targets.
- Hold frequent performance conversations. Again, the 1:1 is key: make sure you are discussing their performance on a regular basis and adjusting as necessary—no one wants to be surprised at their annual review by the fact that they’ve been under-performing for months. At the same time, be realistic about the timeline to avoid micromanagement; some metrics will simply take longer than others to record and change.
- Celebrate milestones. If possible, set milestones with employees and publicly recognize them when they’ve achieved their goals. Giving people a sense of progress helps them stay motivated, and serves as a useful reminder to others that change is happening.
- Assess metrics for relevance. Approximately every quarter or half-year, review metrics with your direct reports to make sure they are still an accurate reflection of their work. Given how fast customer needs change, objectives and goals have probably also shifted (potentially several times) due to COVID.