Remote working arrangements are the way of the future which means managers need to find new strategies to support continued employee performance. Here are three practices managers can adopt to improve the engagement and productivity of their remote team.
Performance management can be defined as the continued process of improving your workforce's performance to reach business goals. It encompasses a holistic view of development to equitably grow and retain talent. This could include weekly 1-on-1s between an employee and their manager, developing competencies and values, and biannual review cycles.
There are aspects of managing an employee's performance that remain consistent, regardless of your company's current working arrangement — whether physically together in the office, working remote, or on-site. For example, setting goals and providing training to your employees will always be a baseline requirement. However, transitioning to a remote work arrangement for the first time introduces nuances that make performance management even more important, and requires you to fine tune your management skills.
Here are three tips to help you manage the performance of your team:
1. Approach employee performance through a coaching lens
Coaching employees can help them develop in new ways, learn to overcome challenges, set and attain goals, and create the path to get there. Whether you're in-person or remote, approaching your employees with a coaching mindset will help you remain aligned with their needs and assist them with reaching their performance objectives.
If someone on your team is normally a top performer and you begin to notice a dip for instance, managers can become curious and ask questions before taking any drastic steps like writing a poor performance evaluation, or transferring responsibilities away from them.
In your next 1-on-1, you can ask them key questions to learn more about their goals, current realities and the full scope of the situation, and then create different options to move forward. Start with questions like:
- What has been happening with project X? What would make this project easier for you?
- If all roadblocks were removed for you, how could you achieve your target results?
- What are some options you can think of to move things forward?
- What can I do to better support you in being successful?
Why this works: There may be extraneous work or life factors preventing them from doing their best work. Through asking the right coaching questions, you can encourage expansive thinking which can lead your employees to their own solutions. Remote employees may be struggling to reframe problems in new ways and providing a space for inspiration can help them feel unstuck.
2. Exercise empathy and acknowledge their unique circumstances
As a manager, it's important to build an environment where your employees feel comfortable letting you know when they need help. While your 1-on-1s may primarily be used to chat about work related tasks, it's important to leave room for your employees to discuss how they're doing outside of work.
If certain people are struggling with scheduling, prioritisation, needing time off, or are at risk of burnout, making even small accommodations can ease their stress. To help build trust managers can share some of their own personal struggles while working from home to signal that it's ok to open up and ask for help.
Why this works: When you know how your employees need to be supported, you can help them connect with the right resources. For example, they could be reluctant to leverage your company's employee assistance program (EAP), or may require your advocacy in asking upper management for a more flexible work schedule for them to take care of family.
3. Make sure that tasks and assignments are clear and understood
When it comes to setting expectations, it's important to reflect on whether you've explained the task clearly. It's key to remember that just because a message was sent, does not mean it was properly received and understood. Here are a few tips to help ensure employees understand expectations and goals:
- Let your employees know when a task is high or low priority
- When assigning a task, provide further research and documentation so your employees have more context
- Have a clear definition about what successful completion for the task looks like
- When you give instructions, it's important to assume the employee knows nothing about the topic as this forces you to be deliberate and intentional with your communication
Why this works: Providing enough context for your employees will shorten the communication cycle and allow them to act quickly and productively.