How To Track Performance in Remote Teams

It has long been said that remote work is the future. And now, given the effects of the global pandemic, as well as the progressive shift towards a remote-first culture, remote work has become a reality for hundreds of millions of employees. To highlight this fact, an Owl Labs study found that more than 52% of employees now work remotely at least one day per week. 

In another recent study conducted by Harvard Business School, its findings concluded that at least 16% of employees will remain working from home post-COVID-19. And by 2025, a whopping 70% of employees will be working from home or remotely at least five days a month. 

With remote work more popular than ever, employers and team leaders need to find ways to track performance in remote teams. 

Key Takeaways

1. Remote work has to be part of your company culture. As employers, you should be promoting a flexible working environment for all team members. 

2. Establish clear expectations and SMART goals with your remote employees. This will alleviate much of the need to constantly monitor and track performance in remote teams.  

3. To encourage high-performance in your remote teams, set transparent KPIs, establish the OKR methodology (objectives and key results), prioritize goal setting, and provide regular one-on-one feedback.

4. You can track performance in remote teams with time management tools, monitoring tools, and performance-enhancing tools. 

Despite the numerous advantages of remote work, it also comes with its own set of unique challenges. In addition to issues around hiring remote workers, security, communication, and project management, remote work has necessitated the need for employers and managers to track performance in remote teams. However, it can be difficult to stay abreast of projects and individual tasks; and track overall performance. 

So, how do employers track performance in remote teams? In this article, I’ll showcase the most effective strategies and tools you can use to track performance in remote teams. This will help you to monitor your employees’ activity, whilst increasing your teams’ productivity and ability to remain focused. 

Set the Stage for Remote Work

In an article published by Forbes, Samantha Radocchia states that “remote work has to be part of the company culture.” For companies seeking to become innovative – and adapt to a changing global marketplace – they simply must embrace remote work. 

As an employer, if you nonchalantly advise your employees that they can work remotely whenever they feel like it, there probably won’t be much collective buy-in. Most employees will be reluctant to work remotely if they feel they’re being singled out. And if any of your employees are under the impression that their co-workers are remaining in the office – working and engaging without them – they’re unlikely to favor remote work. 

To maintain cohesion and ensure that your team members feel included, companies must promote the value of a flexible working environment. The last thing you want is a disorganized and disjointed remote work policy – where certain team members are working in the office every day, compared to others who are semi or fully remote. This will only serve to create tension within your workplace. 

In an article published by the New York Times, Niraj Chokshi highlights that sporadic remote work – where an employee may only spend the odd day working remotely – makes employees feel less productive and engaged with their co-workers. However, employees who spend between 60% and 80% of their time away from the office have the highest rates of engagement. Chokshi states that employees “who spend three or four days a week working remotely were also the most likely to report thinking that they had a best friend at work and had opportunities for professional growth.”

Performance Management Starts with Onboarding 

A thorough onboarding process is essential for all hires, including remote employees. When onboarding employees to your organization, it is imperative you take the necessary steps to ensure they feel welcome in their new work environment. 

Employers need to conduct a proper orientation and provide their employees with any relevant training. Additionally, they need to establish job expectations, prepare the work environment, and introduce new employees to management and their co-workers. This ensures that new team members have the training and guidance required to be happy and productive contributors. It also means that new employees and other teams know what everyone does and how to contact each other. 

Since remote employees don’t have many opportunities to integrate into a company’s culture, onboarding is especially important. Just because an employee is located somewhere else (which could be on the other side of the world), employers should never skip the onboarding process. 

According to Gallup, companies should also introduce “daily social interactions with new colleagues and mentors for the new hires so they could develop key relationships – a critical component of successful onboarding.”

During any onboarding, employers need to highlight their company’s policies and address the new employee’s job responsibilities. For remote positions, employers must also ensure that new employees have the necessary tools to perform their roles. 

For more information on onboarding remote workers check out Helpful Tips for Onboarding Remote Employees

Establish Clear Expectations 

As an employer, you need to define your expectations to remote employees during the onboarding process – particularly when hiring foreign employees. However, this shouldn’t be the final time that you talk to your employee about your expectations. Ongoing discussions should be encouraged to answer any questions that your employee has concerning their role. 

In an article for McKinsey, Raphael Bick notes that “establishing a structure and architecture for decision-making and effective communication is key.” When it comes to explaining what you want, how you want it delivered, and when you want it done, remember this: The clearer you are in your explanations, the better. By establishing clear expectations – from the start – the easier it will be for remote employees to fulfill their job requirements. Consequently, you won’t need to track performance in remote teams as thoroughly. 

If you have a remote employee that is commencing a new project, talk to them about the project, answer their questions, and make sure they’re aware of what’s required. Let them know, as succinctly as possible, what your expectations are. Detail how you want the project carried out, your desired outcome, and any deadlines. 

A useful strategy is to break the project down and assign a series of deadlines (or milestones). This enables your remote employees to stay on track and better manage large projects. It also helps your remote employees to remain focused, whilst reducing their stress and any procrastination tendencies. 

Establishing a structure and architecture for decision-making and effective communication is key.

Raphael Bick, McKinsey

The Importance of Goal Setting 

To effectively track performance in remote teams, goal setting is crucial. By establishing a clearly defined set of goals, your remote teams are better equipped to accomplish their daily tasks and meet your company’s objectives. 

Whilst there are many approaches to goal setting, SMART goals, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Based, is an effective process for setting and achieving your business goals. These goals are results-oriented and customized for the needs of your company and your people. Most importantly, SMART goals allow you to measure and track performance in remote teams. 

OKRs, or objectives and key results, are similar to SMART goals. OKRs work to align teams, ensuring that team members are working towards a common goal. They also provide clarity regarding a company’s most important priorities at any given moment. 

When tracking performance in remote teams, OKRs offer employers key results in areas they need to focus on. Employers can track these results using daily or weekly progress reports, which helps to keep remote teams accountable and pulls team members together in the same direction. 

Performance Management for Remote Workers and Remote Teams 

A sizeable component of performance management is monitoring productivity levels. However, effective performance management is much more than simply tracking tasks. In an article for Gallup, Adam Hickman and Ellyn Maese note that “traditional, one-size-fits-all measurements for productivity are no longer effective in certain jobs or roles.” 

For employers to accurately track performance in remote teams, ongoing communication and evaluation with employees are paramount. By implementing performance evaluations with their remote teams, employers can accurately assess each employee’s progress within their role. Performance evaluations also give employers the chance to align company-wide objectives with the daily tasks and actions of their employees. 

To achieve and sustain their strategic objectives, it’s vital that companies take steps to evaluate their remote employees’ performance. Whilst there are organizational tools that enable employers to manage their remote teams, companies should adopt a holistic approach to performance management. This includes setting transparent KPIs with your team, establishing the OKR methodology (objectives and key results), implementing monitoring strategies, and providing ongoing feedback. 

Traditional, one-size-fits-all measurements for productivity are no longer effective in certain jobs or roles.

Adam Hickman and Ellyn Maese, Gallup

Track Performance in Remote Teams: Best Practices

Whilst it can be challenging to track performance in remote teams, there are steps you can take to better manage the process. With the right communication, along with clear expectations and effective tracking tools, your company can experience the many benefits of a remote workforce.  

By embracing a remote-first culture, you can streamline recruitment, boost employee morale, enhance productivity, and reduce employee turnover. And the best bit? You’ll be saving money! 

Here’s what to keep in mind when strategizing remote recruitment and tracking the productivity of your remote employees:

  • Establish clear expectations and frequently communicate with remote employees
  • Before you can track performance in remote teams, you must define what’s expected from your employees and discuss how you plan to measure and assess their performance. 
  • Maintain a healthy workload
  • As an employer, you need to develop realistic objectives and SMART goals for your remote employees to strive towards. These goals will help your remote employees to stay on track, to know what’s expected from them, and to better manage their workload.  
  • Support your employees’ independence 
  • You need to find the right balance between tracking your employees’ performance and encouraging their autonomy. If you insist on monitoring every aspect of your employees’ communications, for example, this could be seen as excessive and lead to employee backlash. 
  • Make time for check-ins with your employees
  • Regular check-ins with remote employees ensure they feel supported in their roles, which increases their engagement and productivity levels. Check-ins also provide employers with the opportunity to resolve potential issues that employees may be facing, without having to wait for annual performance reviews. In a survey conducted by Gartner, 61% of business leaders have now implemented more frequent manager-employee check-ins.
  • Monitor employee performance 
  • By utilizing the right software, employers can track the performance of their remote employees and identify any areas in need of improvement. 
  • Look beyond the numbers
  • When assessing an employee’s performance, employers need to look at multiple areas – especially those involving an employee’s soft skills. The review process should involve both tangible (quantitative) and intangible (qualitative) factors. 

Tools to Track Performance in Remote Teams 

Time Management Tools

When your employees are working remotely, they can often lose focus, become distracted, and end up being less productive. 

As a means of tracking the performance of your remote employees, there are time management tools that calculate the time an employee spends on a task. This allows employers to determine how much time is required for certain tasks and then allocate the time necessary for future tasks. 

Time management tools such DeskTime, Hubstaff, and Harvest help your team to stay organized when on a tight schedule. These tools accurately monitor the time an employee spends on the job and are easily installed on an employee’s workstation. 

Monitoring Tools 

With the right employee monitoring tools, employers can track and monitor how much time a remote employee spends on a specific task, website, or app. This allows employers to better understand what their remote employees are doing during work hours.

To help you monitor your workforce’s productivity, monitoring tools that you can utilize include Time Doctor, Roadmap, Timely, and HiveDesk. Each of these tools can monitor an employee’s computer use and track how they are using their time each day. This gives employers accurate insights into their employees’ activity and productivity.  

A monitoring tool like Xnspy enables managers, team leaders, and employers to assess the activity that occurs over their remote employees’ phones. With Xnspy, companies can see messages sent through instant messaging applications, view call logs, monitor emails, and assess their remote employees’ screen time. 

Performance Tools

If you’re looking to raise performance and engagement levels among your remote workforce, it’s worth considering tools like 15five and Impraise. These platforms provide weekly check-ins, track the performance of individual employees, and provide employers with real-time feedback across desktop and mobile devices. 

Task manager software like Jira or Asana are excellent options for measuring task completion and team performance. These platforms assist employers to track completed tasks and add them to overall performance results. Not only does this help employers to organize their key results, but remote employees can also access this data and track both individual and team success.  

Summary

When an employer first starts managing a remote team, determining how to monitor and track performance in remote teams can be difficult. Despite the many benefits of remote work, employers are faced with the challenges of managing remote employees and tracking the performance of their remote teams

Whilst measuring the productivity of your remote teams is critical, it must be done in a flexible way that supports your employees’ autonomy. Furthermore, it must be meaningful to your organization. 

By setting the stage for remote work during the onboarding process, establishing clear expectations and SMART goals, and utilizing the right performance management tools, employers can successfully track performance in remote teams. 

How New Horizons Can Help 

With our entities in more than 150 countries throughout the world, New Horizons understands the challenges and best practices defining remote work. Through our Global PEO, in-house recruitment team, and custom employment solutions, we support your expansion into new markets, connect you to remote and global talent, and assist you to track performance in your remote teams.

With New Horizons, your business can embrace the advantages of remote work and grow on a global scale. Contact New Horizons and let us help you to quickly and compliantly recruit, onboard, and pay your remote workforce.

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