2020 has been a difficult year. Covid-19 has forced businesses to evolve and adapt to a new way of working. The main outcome is a big increase in the number of people working from home, both managers and employees.This has created a new set of challenges. How can efficiency and productivity be maintained with staff working remotely? What can be done to improve communication? How can targets be measured? The important question arises - what does working from home mean for performance management?
There is little doubt that Covid-19 has increased the numbers of people working from home. A Europe-wide study revealed that the number of people working from home has risen dramatically from 4% to 88% since the beginning of the pandemic. The upward trend in people working from home is echoed across the globe, with every developed country reporting increased numbers of remote workers. And this is predicted to continue for the foreseeable future.Global Workplace Analytics forecast that 25 to 30% of the global workforce will be working from home on more than one day per week by December 2021.
The increase in people working from home has created concerns for many businesses. In days gone by, it was relatively simple to measure and manage performance. Targets were set and daily or weekly meetings held to keep departments, teams, and individuals accountable. In the brave new world of remote working, although meetings can be held via Zoom or other communication channels, the flow of information and measurement of KPIs has been disrupted. In other words, CEOs and managers simply don’t have the same control over productivity data and efficiency metrics as they used to have. Employees also face similar challenges. How can they prove that they are working well from home and meeting or exceeding their targets? This article will shed some light on how managers and employees can measure and assess performance remotely and the tools that are available to help with this.
To survive in business, you must be adaptable to change. One thing the pandemic has taught us is that the old ways no longer work Nowhere is this more true than performance management. You can no longer rely on the old top-down, linear approach which involved goal setting early in the year, then monitoring and reviewing progress in evaluation meetings. The traditional approach has become outdated in recent years, with research revealing that 95% of HR departments convinced that this system does not produce accurate information or results (Mercer)
Over the past few years, performance management has started to progress to a more “enlightened” model. Partly due to a greater focus on Agile working practices and changing attitudes to collaborative working, there is now a move towards a more continual and constructive approach to performance management. The general best practices for managing performance have evolved. Most businesses are moving towards the following objectives:
- Frequent feedback, mentoring, and coaching throughout the year
- Greater focus on employee development, training, learning, and advancement
- Getting feedback from employees and creating a dialogue – improved communication
- Engaging and motivating employees – identifying individual approaches
- Setting goals collaboratively – SMART goals that are decided jointly
- More flexible leadership styles – e.g. Agile working practices
- Using advanced technology to monitor targets and goals – e.g. productivity and tracking tools such as Anvert
With more people working from home, there is momentum for businesses to adopt these best practices, for the simple reason that monitoring remote work demands a more flexible approach. In other words, the old school, hierarchical style of performance management needs to be abandoned in favour of a more collaborative and technological strategy.
To focus your performance management in the right areas, a valuable exercise is to gain a better understanding of the typical work patterns and challenges faced by employees working from home. A home office environment is very different to a work office. Obviously, there are more distractions at home, a lack of direct supervision, but also the flexibility to work to a more productive schedule. In other words, there is great potential for remote workers to be highly productive and efficient, but they need to avoid the pitfalls. As a performance manager, how can you monitor whether staff are sticking to a productive schedule or wasting time on things that are unproductive or unrelated to work?
When it comes to monitoring and measuring work from home productivity, metrics are key. If you don’t record the right metrics and KPIs, you won’t be able to effectively collaborate on improving things and reaching or exceeding goals. Good business intelligence and successful outcomes rely on the right data.
The metric most commonly used to monitor activity is number of hours worked. To do this remotely, time-tracking software can be used that stores data automatically. Although this metric gives you an idea of how long employees spend on a task, it doesn’t necessarily reveal productivity. Some of the more advanced tracking software allows you to track your employee’s activity by recording web pages clicked, keyboard strokes, mouse clicks, emails sent, etc. All of these can be valuable indicators and are worth monitoring, but again they don’t give you much insight into actual productivity.
Performance metrics give you a much clearer picture of the productivity and efficiency of your employees. Depending on the type of business and the role of the employee or team, you may want to choose one or more of the following metrics to track.
- Number of sales
- Number of leads generated
- Profit per employee = profit / number of employees
- Revenue per employee = revenue / number of employees
- Work quality = number of errors or defects in employee output
- Communication quality = feedback scores from customers or leads
- Task completion time = the average total time taken for a specific task
- Absenteeism rate
The important thing to remember with metrics and KPIs is not to use them as a stick to beat employees with, but to motivate them to achieve more. Use the KPIs to set realistic objectives and targets for employees and then work collaboratively to reach them. Over time, you will build a better picture of your remote working workforce and start to see patterns for improvement. One way to accelerate this process is using tracking software that automatically generates insights into areas that need attention. More on this later.
One of the big challenges facing managers is how to keep their home working staff focused and motivated. The main thing to remember is that you can only motivate people that feel connected and have a sense of purpose, so good communication is vital. Here are some practical ideas to strengthen communication and motivate individuals and teams.
In a traditional office environment, lunchtime is when people unwind and socialise. It is also a time for colleagues to talk about things that are on their mind, vent their frustrations, or collaborate on work ideas and strategies. All these things are important and help to keep individuals motivated. So, why not set up online lunches for your staff? It’s easy to set up virtual meetings on Zoom or Google Hangouts or encourage staff to set up their own. However, make sure that these are optional, as some people may just want to sit quietly on their downtime.
Include personal improvement goals
A growth mindset inspires motivation. But having a growth mindset doesn’t come naturally to everyone. As a manager, part of your role is to inspire personal growth rather than a fixed mindset. One way to do this remotely is to set challenging tasks and give constructive feedback to employees that take them on.
Creative pursuits help to stimulate the mind, increase motivation, and build a sense of purpose. For example, you could ask your sales team to come up with a new slogan or design for email signatures.
Create a visual “scoreboard”
If you manage a remote-working team, making a scoring system and displaying it regularly can help to maintain accountability and keep people focused on achieving their shared goals. This doesn’t need to be anything fancy – a simple spreadsheet will do. Some tracking software will allow you to create visualisations of the data which you can then share with your employees.
There can be a temptation to micro-manage remote employees. Managers fear that staff may get distracted at home or won’t work as hard. The problem is that checking in constantly and micromanaging staff is counterproductive and will lead to demotivation. That’s why automated tracking software is an ideal solution as you won’t need to message your staff constantly or arrange endless virtual meetings, as you’ll have the data at your fingertips.
Improving time management
When you begin to analyse the metrics, you’ll probably find time-consuming tasks that could be optimised. For instance, filling out reports and attending virtual meetings can take up a large proportion of the day. Are they really necessary? Can the information that is discussed in a meeting be sent in an email? Can the information for the reports be sent automatically using a software solution? When you break it down, a large percentage of time is often spent on things that can be automated or avoided altogether. With the right tracking software and metrics, these problems can be identified and addressed. Research shows that remote workers spend an average of 32.2% of their day on email communication. If you can use automation to reduce this by just 5 to 10%, the productivity benefits could be huge. It will free up more time for employees to spend on direct communication with prospects and leads or researching and identifying sales opportunities.
Software solutions for tracking productivity and efficiency
Remote tracking software, such as Anvert empowers managers to spot trends and gain deep insights into things such as:
- Email tracking – including sentiment analysis
- Gmail tracking
- volume of consultation and pitch emails
- email conversations
- sales funnel performance
- individual and team response rates
- follow up trends
- revenue generated, etc.