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5 smart tips to help you excel at remote performance management

As a manager, awareness is an absolute key to running a successful operation with remote teams. Here are five things to consider.

5 smart tips to help you excel at remote performance management
[Source images: solarseven/iStock; fad1986/iStock]

Performance management requires a lot of planning and attention, so that everyone in an organization can benefit from it, including employees working remotely. Now more than ever, leaders need to focus on adapting and altering their processes to fit a new normal of working from home.

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In uncertain times for businesses everywhere, managers, HR professionals, and employees should be paying extra attention to performance. Priorities need to be revisited, and goals need to be shifted. Moving the needle while ensuring that employees are feeling secure, engaged, and aligned should be one of the main focus points for every organization.

That is no small feat. Managing and working with remote employees entails a different dynamic than working in an office environment. Here are five tips that could keep teams pushing in the same direction while feeling motivated and included.

Put performance at the forefront

Performance management is an ongoing process. It doesn’t start and end with annual performance reviews. Effective managers know that there needs to be a strong process in place that supports ongoing, real-time feedback, one-on-ones, and a variety of engagement surveys to keep track of performance. That is the only way to know the real value employees are bringing to the organization and the only way to truly support them in their roles and careers.

Treating employee performance and development as an afterthought with remote employees is common yet not advised. Many businesses are currently panicking and forgetting that the real currency of their success is their people, but employees need strong leadership now more than ever. Research has shown that one of the main ways employers fail remote workers is by not talking to them about career goals and personal growth.

Staying on top of remote work performance and monitoring how employees are performing both in their roles (as well as their careers) is a surefire way to get the best out of people and to create an environment they want to be a part of, regardless of where they are located.

Introduce real-time feedback if you haven’t already

Remote work has been an increasing trend over the past decade. Current events have just accelerated an inevitable new reality–working away from the office for a lot longer. That’s why this is the perfect opportunity to either start creating a strong feedback culture or reinforce the one you’ve already been working on.

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Real-time feedback has been known to completely replace performance reviews in some organizations. Also, according to a study by CEB, 90% of HR leaders question the accuracy of the information received during the annual performance review. Real-time feedback is a great addition to traditional performance reviews because it gives the employee a better understanding of their performance on a frequent basis.

When you’re working with remote teams full-time, real-time feedback is essential to keep everyone in the loop, give the manager a good overview of what’s going on, and provide the employee with tangible information they can use to work on their performance.

Research has found that effective communication creates mutual understanding between management and workers, which helps in building genuine relationships among both parties in the organizations.

Prioritize one-on-ones

Less contact and no in-person interactions can lead to a lack of understanding of issues employees are battling with, whether those might be work-related or not. Video meetings are useful, yet you still cannot read people’s cues like you would in a normal office environment.

Popular research has accredited only about 7% of all communication to verbal exchange and about 55% to body language. Introducing and reinforcing regular one-on-ones throws a much-needed lifeline to managers trying to understand where employees’ heads are at.

During an ongoing global work-from-home mode, individual meetings are needed more than ever simply because they help to foster a special type of relationship between colleagues that is beneficial for performance and employee satisfaction. It also doesn’t have to disrupt anyone’s remote workflow. With a bit of preparation, a collaborative agenda, and thoughtful note taking one-on-ones can be super easy, quick, and effective.

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Keep a pulse on remote teams

The underlying problem when managing remote teams is lack of awareness. Managers don’t have a complete overview of what’s going on. That includes keeping track of collaboration, productivity, results, manager-employee rapport, team morale, performance, and everything in-between. Trying to keep track of all of that from a distance, behind a computer, and having no in-person face-to-face time with the employees is near impossible.

That’s why managers can turn to their employees and learn from them on a regular basis. The easiest, fastest, and most reliable way to do that while ensuring a high participation rate is by running a short, to the point Remote Employee Pulse Survey on a regular basis. When done correctly and run frequently, that gives a solid overview of team progress and individual feelings.

Evaluate different competencies

Employees are often judged on concrete results and on very straightforward skills that are directly related to their role in a company. It’s very common to overlook soft skills when evaluating someone’s contribution to an organization.

Soft skills are not just a nice addition to someone’s personality, they’re a necessary skill set for everyone to acquire when working remotely. Professional ethics, teamwork, proactiveness, self-motivation, and emotional intelligence among others become that much more essential when working from home.

They help employees do their job to a high standard and solve any problems, without the need for constant supervision. Employers also need to take them into account when working on performance management, especially when conducting reviews.

Finding a way to stay on top of performance management while working remotely is becoming more crucial due to the quick shifts in the business goals of organizations worldwide and the unclear realities of the future. Whether you’re a first-time manager or a career veteran, it’s key to introduce and reinforce a performance management process with remote teams to create a strong, constant feedback loop and focus on increasing the quality and quantity of communication.

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As a manager, awareness is also an absolute key to running a successful operation, so don’t forget to check the pulse of your remote team as often as possible to gain a better understanding of their feelings and challenges.


Bas Kohnke is the cofounder of Impraise, the People Enablement Platform. 
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