Evaluation Of Remote Teams: What You Don’t Know and Should Know About It

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In the past few months, there has been a major and visible cultural shift in the functioning of companies across the globe. The current pandemic has shown the potential and reliability of a company as well as of its employees. Where many big and small businesses have taken the unfortunate decision of laying off their employees, there have been many companies which are steadily working remotely.

This currently ‘forced’ remote working situation has demonstrated notable benefits for the companies, so much so, that many are proposing to make it a permanent one. This is clearly because of the higher productivity, less operational cost, reduced commuting time, and other evident pros of working from home.

But, in this article, I’d like to focus on a significant part of the entire remote working process and that is the evaluation of your now distributed employees.

In my perception, there is a sparse disparity between monitoring and evaluation of work. While monitoring might be more on the operational level, evaluation is majorly done on the productivity and outcome.

Here in this article, we’ll cover the latter part. 

Evaluating Remote Employees is nothing but a synergy to assure a healthy ROI on your team’s work as well as help in their development and growth. Through proper analysis, your company can and should make its goals transparent and open. And then the next step would be scrutinising how your team’s work aligns with accomplishing those goals. 

Make sure that your employees are communicated the primary agenda behind the task assigned to them. This is necessary to help them see the big picture and continuously improve their performance, feel a part of a company, no matter where they do their work. 

We understand that you’d be working from diverse geographical locations and there’ll be fewer chances of discussing work details. Hence, the task should be duly assigned to your team mentioning the supported agenda rather than sending a few words over email. 

Key differences between co-located workers and remote workers

Before plunging into the evaluation of remote employees, it is crucial to accept and acknowledge that work evaluation for co-located workers and remote workers can’t be the same, they just can’t be.

To know the ‘why’ behind the above statement, here are major differences between these two kinds of employees (besides having different workspaces). 

To begin with, most importantly, there are significantly higher chances of the work done by remote teams becoming invisible for the managers. You might be researching on a topic for 2 days or not doing anything productive at all, when there is a lack of work evaluation, it has its pros and cons.  

Secondly, with distributed/remote teams, key matters like team bonding, engagement they become even more challenging and equally important. Let’s face it, unlike with co-workers, there can’t be a fun chit-chat session in the middle of work, nor coffee breaks, nor weekend parties. Every game, every discussion needs to be done online. If not done, there is a high possibility that your team might not remain a team anymore, but just become a bunch of individuals working for their targets. 

Lastly, reporting is almost 2 times tougher (if not more) with remote teams than with co-located teams. You can conveniently take updates on detailed tasks from your team which is sitting 2 inches away. On the other hand, in the case of distributed teams, every small detail becomes an excel sheet column or an email discussion. 

As a result, one might forget which metrics are important and which one to focus on. Hence, the focus on vital tasks might get disturbed. 

Now, after this brief comparison between two contrasting sets of teams, you must have recognised how essential it is for you to build a diversified and powerful strategy for evaluation of your remote team’s work. 

And in our next section, we’ll cover those exact components of a strong evaluation strategy for a remote working team:

Metrics to measure the productivity of remote working employee:

Owing to the developing technology, today companies have thousands of tools handy to keep an eye on their employees who are operating from various parts of the world. Assuredly, each tool is beneficial in its way and highlights distinct segments of work, how it is done and in what time. 

It is the duty and within the understanding of your company to determine which tool they should implement and how those tool-generated reports would contribute to their overall team evaluation. 

Here’s highlighting specific remote working metrics to contemplate for your employee productivity evaluation:

1. Focus on tasks and not working hours

It’s a saying that people work harder when they know they are being watched. It could be a challenge to drive the same amount of productivity and dedication with virtual teams. Herein, there could be significant productivity loss if working hours are set as the criteria rather than the final work done at the end of the day. I believe you would any day prefer 5 hours of dedicated work rather than 7-8 hours of aimlessly switching between tabs – isn’t it?

2. Time consumed by major tasks

One great thing about remote working tools is that they have an extensive reporting section. Modern software can generate comprehensive and valuable reports for your team evaluation, if done the right way. It is necessary to pay attention to the tasks which are consuming the most time of your team and take actions respectively to enhance their task-allocation time. 

3. Sense of ownership shown by the team

“I need to do this task, I can do it on my own”. Exemplifying a sense of ownership in a task can get a bit stimulating when your team is sitting in a common workspace. Taking help, resolving doubt from others looks much more convenient than researching on their own. However, when working from remote locations, analysing the sense of ownership in your team members can be checked effectively. If not checked, it can be at least cultivated in them. 

4. Rely on result-oriented reporting 

Ideal reporting doesn’t involve knowing how many hours your team worked in a day, but knowing the status of their tasks. Focusing on task completions, time consumed, and effectiveness presented – that’s what apt reporting is. Other remaining factors, however, shouldn’t be overlooked but yes, should be given their due weightage only. 

Remember: For knowledge work, productivity metrics are hard to come by because productivity can be an intangible quality. Adequate time and effort must be given at one’s own and employee’s learning and knowledge intake. 

Some to-dos for a successful business remote working:

To state a small introduction, while working with a remote team, it’s all about adopting a new approach to team handling.

1. Don’t compromise on your team autonomy

Well, to start with, team autonomy is incredibly important for quality decision making, especially in remote teams. If you make them ask and await for your approvals for every small matter they will eventually degrade into operational robots. Asking doesn’t seem like a big deal if the team head is sitting next to you. However, dropping emails for everything and waiting for the approval, to put in simple words, ‘it just kills the mood’.

2. Set Clear Metrics and Expectations

Setting up clear metrics in advance will allow your team to align their tasks and schedule accordingly. When they are aware of the evaluation criteria, they’ll better understand how to work in the right direction. When everything is pre-defined, it just makes the entire work process much streamlined, something which is indispensable in the case of distributed teams.

3. Regular Feedback should be non-negotiable

Remote working might start with timely task closures, extra working hours, and swift responses from the team. But over time, 1-day tasks suddenly might start taking 2 days, and working hours now might look underachieved. There is a possibility that your team might take work for granted and may tend to hide the facts. To avoid this, routine feedback of their work is essential for them to stay on the right track and be cognizant of the fact that they are being monitored.

4. Hear. Understand. Solve: Talk to your team

One major trait of working from home is that it blends a person’s personal and professional life. It might sound healthy and motivating for some, but on the other end, some might be just juggling between the two. Be it teaching basic lifestyle hacks or understanding their problems, direct meetings with employees are extremely vital for their long term success and sustenance. 

5. Include employee engagement & learning in your task list

Instead of only curating the tasks done by your team, it is equally important to focus on your employees’ personal growth as well. Having routine discussions, sharing informative articles, all these are just the basic pack of assuring that your team learns something new everyday. If not done positively, you might unknowingly add frustration and demotivation for your team members. 

Important Tip: 

While managing a remote team it’s all about evaluating Quality and Quantity over work hours.

Maura Thomas, the founder of RegainYourTime.com, gives the following advice when it comes to remote employees:

“To effectively manage remote workers, supervisors must believe—unless they have evidence to the contrary—that people are working even if they are not in the office. What’s required are metrics to refute or confirm anecdotal evidence and personal assumptions.”

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