Increase Remote Worker Performance… By Adding Personalized Performance Metrics

With few face-to-face meetings, remote workers still need feedback, so provide it through performance metrics. Yes, those working remotely no longer have the multiple opportunities to discuss any progress on their work with coworkers and managers. Fortunately, there is an alternative approach for providing feedback that may be more effective in some cases—adding personalized performance metrics for each remote worker. These added metrics make their bosses’ output expectations from each worker crystal clear. The data that their metrics provide now allows remote workers to spot growing minor problems themselves long before they get out of hand. 

Of course, every opportunity for one-on-one performance discussions should continuously occur. However, a remote worker’s primary feedback mechanism should now be their personalized set of performance metrics. Metrics are less ambiguous than most informal performance discussions because the worker’s actual performance is quantified and then compared to a predetermined performance expectation standard. Instead of a single performance metric, most remote workers are provided with a set of metrics covering multiple performance categories, including work volume, quality, timeliness, user satisfaction, costs, and revenue generation.

The Many Benefits From Adding Performance Metrics

Providing every worker with a set of performance metrics is almost always a good idea. But it is an especially powerful one with remote workers. So many traditional forms of performance conversations have been cut off. The benefits of adding performance metrics for remote workers are listed below.

  • Metrics provide focus and drive productivity – performance metrics make your manager’s goals and performance expectations crystal clear. Remote workers will precisely know each of their important tasks and outputs, allowing them to be laser-focused on the most critical work. Productivity will increase because there is less time wasted on low-value tasks.
  • Continuous feedback leads to continuous improvement – performance metrics that are periodically shared help the remote worker see both their failures and successes. Analyzing each one allows the remote worker both to learn and continually improve each of their performance areas.
  • Knowing what’s expected leads to longer employee retention – weighted performance metrics allow the employee to know which outputs are most and least important. Knowing what’s expected leads to less frustration among remote workers. And over time, a significant reduction in expensive employee turnover.
  • Metrics make it easier for managers to monitor progress and assess talent – since the manager sees the performance metrics, the manager can more easily monitor the output of remote workers. And to spot opportunities to provide the impacted employee with coaching and advice on growing problems before they get out of hand.
  • Metrics should make rewards more equitable – when performance metrics are unambiguous and closely tied to financial rewards. Employees are more likely to be rewarded for achieving objective, measurable results and not for being visible or well-liked. And this transparency may indirectly reduce any employee assumptions about inequitable treatment.
  • Comparing performance builds a healthy internal competition – if employee performance metrics are widely distributed within the team. It’s easy for employees to make performance comparisons and to know their relative position. Knowing where you are slacking in performance may spur a healthy internal competition within the team. Over-time may drive everyone to perform better.
  • The right metrics encourage cooperation – in jobs where cooperation is critical. It makes sense to survey the colleagues that must work closely together periodically. With their rating from the survey, the remote worker and their manager can both see how others rate the employee’s degree of cooperation, sharing, collaboration, and helping out.

Tips For Developing A Performance Metrics Template For Remote Workers

The final set of performance metrics for each remote worker will vary with their job. However, here are some tips for developing a generic remote worker performance metric template. 

  • Build acceptance by involving the remote employee in selecting the performance metrics – if the manager consults with the team and the individual on what to measure and the best way to measure it. Much of the conflict that occurs with “imposed metrics” will be reduced.
  • Minimize the likelihood of performance metric overload – many managers, unfortunately, tend to insist on too many metrics. Many of which are low-value metrics. So, I recommend limiting the performance metrics for most jobs to 12 or less. And each selected metric should all be critical for accessing only the work factors with the highest business impact. 
  • Assume that some “metric gaming” will occur – no matter what performance metrics you eventually develop. It’s safe to assume that some employees will try to “cheat.” So that their performance in a category appears to be better than it actually is. Start by working with a metric consultant or a few long-tenured employees in each job family to get their help in identifying and then minimizing the possibility of any distortions caused by gaming. Next, make your definition of all key terms and everything that will be measured is crystal clear so that there is no ambiguity. After operating with the metric for several cycles, improve it to minimize any excess gaming discovered.
  • Conduct dry runs to test your new system – conduct at least one month-long dry run of your metric sets (where nothing counts) for each remote employee. Determine if there are any major flaws with the process or with individual performance metrics. Postpone the actual use of the metrics process for as long as necessary to ensure that the final metrics are fair to all sides.
  • Metrics coverage for every complete job should include these six measurement areas – it’s not enough to simply measure the quality of an employee’s outputs. Their costs, timeliness, and quality must also be measured if you want to measure every important aspect of the job. Be sure and include measures covering each of these six metric areas.
    • Output Quantity/Volume – there should be at least one measure covering the volume, number, or quantity of the employee’s outputs.
    • Quality/Error Rate – even though the volume is almost always measured, the quality of an employee’s work often goes unmeasured. This is a huge mistake. So, at least one measure covers the average quality or error rate of the employee’s output.
    • Costs – was the cost of producing the average unit of output equal to or below the targeted cost standards?
    • Timeliness – was the work on average completed how many days before the deadline?
    • User satisfaction – was the user’s average satisfaction rate equal to or above the targeted satisfaction percentage?
    • Revenue – if the work has revenue generation goals, were they met or exceeded?

Final Thoughts

There is a guiding principle in management metrics that says, “the more remote, the more important, and the faster the work, the more essential are performance metrics.”  In this case where the work is done much more remotely. It means that even jobs that had no formal performance metrics prior to the pandemic probably do now that a remote worker is doing the work. Because in a remote work environment, few will likely ever actually see your work. 

I’ve previously written about how to increase innovation among remote workers. However, when you’re focused only on increasing remote worker productivity. My first recommendation is to add qualified performance metrics customized to each job. And when you are assessing the value of adding performance metrics. It’s important to remember that these performance metrics help the manager monitor and improve remote employee progress. But they also simultaneously help the employee more clearly understand precisely what is expected of them and which of their results will be rewarded.

Author’s Note: This article was designed to make you think. If it succeeded, please help others learn by sharing it widely among your team and network. 

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About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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