“How should I know how employees are performing? We’re remote”, said the people manager to the HR leader.
HR teams have had to reinvent almost every aspect of the employee lifecycle. Performance management is no exception. If your organization was measuring performance prior to the pandemic there are some key elements of effective performance management that haven’t changed.
We’ve adapted to new work world; created new policies and guidelines for doing business; reduced our environmental footprint; some of us have even grappled with, and conquered, new maladies called Zoom fatigue, and social isolation.
Performance management in a remote environment may prove to be both easier and more rewarding that you think.
Regular coaching conversations with one-on-one’s and goal setting are the foundation of good performance management in any organization, large or small. You’ll be happy to know that all these elements can be carried out as effectively online and using video conferencing tools as they can face to face and in person.
Therefore, having the right digital and video conferencing platform to support the performance management process while giving you some level of face-to-face interaction to pick up on social cues and body language will be key.
Here are five things to consider when managing performing in a remote or hybrid environment:
1. Communication builds trust
Communication is one of the most important aspects to consider while managing performance remotely. Remember that you’re not physically with your remote staff as you would’ve been in an office environment. The absence of body language and gestures can make communication and assessment difficult.
Building trust particularly for remote performance assessments and appraisals is essential. Allow and even encourage your employees to communicate freely without judgement. What happens on Zoom stays on Zoom!
Use your one-on-one’s and performance discussions as a forum for employees to bring to the table any barriers they are facing that might be impacting their performance; and be prepared to help them adjust their work processes and strategies accordingly.
Fostering good communication with your employee will cultivate better listening and more impactful feedback. Additionally, building trust will make your employee performance assessments less stressful, and more engaging.
2. Be empathetic
Let’s face it, remote working has its challenges. Keep in mind that the pandemic that launched this new approach to work and life, which has had a significant impact on our employees.
Aside from no longer being an arm length to resources and having immediate access to thought partners and impromptu team collaboration, your employees could be dealing with various struggles, such as taking care of their children and/or elderly. They, themselves may be adapting to remote work and a new work-life balance for the first time.
3. Embrace the new workspace, it’s here to stay
Leaders need to release themselves of remote working biases towards employees you can’t directly monitor or see in person every day. Such biases might impact your assessment of their performance.
If you have someone that you are convinced is not working because you can’t see them either you need to shift your paradigm and practice a more progressive approach to managing performance, or you’ve hired the wrong person. Either way, it’s on you.
Resist the urge to micromanage your remote (or any) employees’ performance. The outcome will be turnover. It’s just that simple.
4. Focus on outcomes
Gone are the days when the early bird gets the worm. These were the days when employees were more concerned about being seen by the boss or playing the game of first in last out to be considered for the promotion.
If we had bothered to take a closer look when we all resided in one cubicle or another, we may have found that the hours an employee spends at their desk rarely correlate to performance. It can actually, on occasion, be an indicator of poor performance. With the rise in remote work the concept of work-life balance became obsolete.
In addition to encouraging boundaries to prevent burnout, keep your focus on outcomes rather than hours spent online.
Establish annual or quarterly goals and objectives that are measurable and can be Incorporated into your one-on-one’s and performance appraisals. Drive a more productive discussion by keeping the conversation about output vs. perceived input.
5. Be present
Performance management is not a one-sided initiative. Although you’re giving your employees feedback on their performance, listening can be as important as the feedback that you are giving.
By listening to your employees, you can understand any challenges they might be experiencing in adapting to a more autonomous remote work lifestyle and deal with struggles they are facing that prevent them from performing at their best
Sample questions to ask:
- What is one thing I can do to make your life better at work?
- Where would you like to be in six months?
- Describe a great day at work. What daily activities give you energy?
- What activities drain you?
- What big wins have you achieved since your last check-in?
- What is the most important thing you want to talk about today?
- What is your biggest challenge right now and how can I help?
- What obstacles are you facing and how do you plan to overcome them?
Asking these open-ended questions will give the employee an opportunity to detail any issues or barriers they are facing, but it also makes the employee feel valued during the assessment.
This helps make performance reviews a collaborative effort, boosts employee morale and makes the discussion more collaborative.
So, if you want to know how your employees are performance in a remote environment-listen, learn, and provide the feedback that best supports them in their performance. Your feedback will be more actionable and will ultimately help them improve their performance.