The days where business owners share a workspace with all of their staff are well behind us. Now, it is a rare workplace that does not have some level of remote working, whether that is a local staff working from home or a virtual assistant working in a different country.
Being co-located with our teams enables a certain amount of observation and direct contact that can be a huge help during the performance management process; but that’s not to say managing a remote workforce is an impossible task. In this article, I’ll discuss four approaches I’ve found most effective when managing remote employees.
1) Communicate regularly
With virtual assistants, there is a temptation to assume that everything is going well unless you hear otherwise. But without the advantage of working in the same space, you must make particular efforts to keep in contact with your staff to identify any performance issues before they surface. Take advantage of the technology available to you and ensure that you have regular video calls or instant messaging chats scheduled to keep the communication lines open. If you’re working with an overseas worker or virtual assistant, over communicate initially to set expectations, get over any cultural differences, and ensure they fully understand their responsibilities and role within your business.
2) Set measurable targets
When monitoring and managing the performance of remote staff, another key thing to focus on is the setting of measurable targets. Make sure that when you set your targets at the start of the review period, they reflect what you will actually be able to measure. A focus on quantifiable targets, ideally that the staff member has had a hand in developing, is invaluable. Keeping track of key performance indicators are important in any setting; however, they’re critical with remote workers as it’s tougher to gauge output when they’re not right next to you. Spending some time and energy in the beginning to create targets will make reviews and management a much smoother process as the year progresses.
3) Trust your staff
Trusting in your workers is another important element for performance management of remote staff. Of course, I’m not suggesting that you keep your head in the sand about issues that may arise, but without a positive relationship between you, managing both performance and output will be extremely challenging. Look at the big picture and remember that if someone is reaching their targets, it doesn’t actually matter when they are working or how they go about completing particular tasks. A focus on deliverables and timeliness, for example, is a lot more beneficial than ensuring your staff has logged on at a particular time each day. Awareness of your management style and how it may have to change to accommodate a remote workforce is really important.
Our fourth approach for performance management of virtual assistants is 360-degree feedback. As mentioned earlier, you will not always be in a position to directly observe a staff member’s behaviour and work quality so you should make sure to talk to those who are in that position. It is also important throughout this process to be transparent and make sure that your staff member knows whom you will be talking to and what you will be discussing. Ideally, a brief template with key questions would be used, making it easy to document the discussions you have and use the information provided without any confusion.
Managing remote teams is certainly an adjustment for many but is a component of business today that’s essential to master. I am confident, however, that the effective use of communication, measurable targets and trusting in your staff will establish a well functioning remote working environment and make performance management a pain-free process.