With today’s challenges presented by a global pandemic, remote workers add a layer of complexity to the already challenging task of measuring employee productivity. In this article, experienced human resources professional Ron Cardenas, Vice President of Human Resources at Gavilon Agriculture Holdings in Omaha, Nebraska, shares eight ideas for measuring the productivity of remote teams and tips about what to avoid.
Before we get to the various ways of measuring productivity, let’s look at developing employee key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs are an effective tool for understanding how your employees are doing — if they’re designed correctly. KPIs put another way are simply the outcomes a supervisor expects from an employee.
A common mistake that managers make in developing KPIs is to measure everything they want to know about an employee’s activity and behavior. Because there are many different ways to arrive at the desired result, KPIs should only measure outcomes, not chart an employee’s path to get there. In short, employees need to have a clear understanding of expected deliverables, and both supervisors and employees can manage those expectations.
The principle of measuring only results applies to any role, but we’ll use an outside salesperson to illustrate the idea.
A sales manager may be tempted to devise methods to measure the daily activities of the sales team. The manager may want to know how many prospecting cold calls, presentations, and proposals each salesperson makes each month. These are not bad metrics to monitor, especially to help new or struggling team members get on track, but insisting that high-performers adhere to a strict regimen of activities may be counterproductive. These experienced reps may have found better ways to be successful, so my experience is that it is best to allow employees the freedom to use their style and capabilities to get to the desired result.
The sales team in our example should be measured on results — how many sales, or total revenue, or new orders, whatever makes sense for your business, but avoid prescribing how each person arrives at the successful outcome. The same principles can be applied to virtually any position or job function.
Below are a few examples of ways to measure the productivity of your remote teams.
- For back-office or administrative positions, a supervisor can create a KPI to gauge timeliness and effectiveness or completing a set of tasks or work processes.
- For employees with the latitude to adjust procedures or work processes, avoid incentivizing employees on “how” and focus on the “what” or the outcome.
- Many desired business outcomes are based on a team’s success, so create a team KPI that measures the overall success of team projects or other deliverables.
- When setting goals (or KPIs), remember to focus on quality versus quantity and set those expectations upfront with employees. This will help you avoid a situation where an employee gets a lot of work done but doesn’t provide a quality work product.
- If you have a remote HR team, they too will probably need to be measured as a team. I’ve found success in reviewing the business needs at the beginning of a business cycle (generally a fiscal year). I recommend involving the entire team in designing the KPIs to ensure alignment and buy-in. From there, a manager can set both team and individual expectations for performance evaluation.
- When creating KPIs for employees or a team, try to make compound KPIs, such as the timeliness of meeting a goal combined with the quality of the final outcome. The idea is to avoid creating an environment where service employees are pressured to cut corners and produce lower-quality work.
Measuring remote team productivity can provide a wealth of information to help you run your business. The trick to devising KPIs is to watch for unwanted incentivization that will pressure employees to do their work in a way that is not beneficial for the company or the employee.
All this said, Cardenas believes there is no substitute for good old-fashioned in-person collaboration of work teams. Day-to-day and hour-to-hour ad-hoc communication across a desk or in the hallway simply doesn’t happen when teams are remote. While remote work teams are necessary for certain environments, it’s important to recognize and reward the value of in-person collaboration.
About Ron Cardenas
Ron Cardenas is a human resources expert with over three decades of professional experience. His specialties include employee relations, compensation, compliance, and talent management. For the past 11 years, Mr. Cardenas has worked at Gavilon Agriculture Holdings in Omaha, Nebraska.