Managing employee performance for optimum organizational productivity has always been a challenge for most managers and organizations in normal times. This challenge is further heightened now that many employees are working from homes or different geographical areas, far away from the office.
COVID-19 has changed the world of work for most organizations. In the midst of this global pandemic, organizations are expected to maximize the efficiency of their staff working remotely.
Managers and team leaders are therefore faced with the strategic task of effectively managing the performance of employees and work teams to ensure that the organization remains sustainable and if possible profitable in the short- and medium-term. With personnel working remotely, it is imperative that team leaders and managers adopt these five strategies to enhance and manage employee performance.
Ensure a clear definition of the team. Generally, a team is a collection of individuals who are interdependent towards the realization of a common (work) goal. Since employees or teams will be working remotely, it is imperative that the purpose of the team is clearly defined from the onset of its formation. The team must be aware of what tasks are needed to be completed and the significance of such tasks to the overall company goals. Team members need to have a fair idea and an appreciation of the purpose and vision of the team as well as a sense of unity to the team’s vision. Effective communication with the employee or team is essential for success.
Unambiguous roles and expectations. Role ambiguity has been a major hindrance to employee performance, therefore, it is important that employees and teams working remotely have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities. Vagueness in job description and responsibilities can be confusing to employees and consequently limit their effectiveness while working out of the office. It is, therefore, important that team leaders and managers continue to bring clarity to the roles and expectations, and provide a sense of direction to help employees stay on track. Always remember that whether employees work remotely or not, they feel more accountable to what is expected of them, therefore, managers or team leaders and employees must together define what constitutes success based on the capabilities of the employee.
Since employees are no longer working from their designated offices, it is plausible that organizational procedures present in the office may be ignored. In order to enhance productivity and reduce burnout, effective work schedules and reporting lines should be properly designed for each employee. Managers and team leaders must institute the new norms for engagement and provide effective training for employees in terms of best practices procedures in executing their jobs. For example, managers and team leaders can train their personnel in telecommuting technologies and decision making procedures. Managers can also institute regular and predictable activities reporting and check-ins with employees individually or collectively to discuss challenges and successes. Furthermore, the metrics for performance should be agreed on and both parties must know that excellence will continuously be the benchmark.
With remote work situations, trusting your employees or team members is critical in ensuring work is done effectively. Most team leaders and managers fear that their employees or team members are not working as expected because they are working remotely. This fear can lead to employees being micromanaged over even little tasks which may produce results that are counterproductive. To ensure optimum performance, team leaders must trust their team members to do their job. Managers should replace control with trust and endeavor to manage and focus on the end result or goals and how the results were achieved. To ensure trust, managers can deploy a process and schedule for employees to report through as well as put in place an active channel of communication that ensures appropriate feedbacks. When employees feel trusted to manage their own tasks, they are more willing to get the job done and this will enhance productivity and the quality of work. A few essential remote management tools include Trello, Timely, Slack, Skype, and Zoom.
Revise performance review schedule. Usually most organizations review the performance of their employees either annually or bi-annually, however, this approach may no longer be sustainable with employees now working remotely. To ensure effective performance review and management, employee performance should be reviewed in a much shorter time over specific set of goals and objectives.
An effective strategy to ensure optimum employee performance is deploying a management by objectives (MBO) performance appraisal system. This system ensures that for example, the goals and objectives set out for employees are reviewed as scheduled (e.g., end of each week) and any issue emanating from the performance review process dealt with appropriately.
The MBO performance appraisal system can produce the needed impetus to drive employee performance in this era of remote working since it align employees and team members goals with the goals of the organization at any specific period.
Managing employee performance remotely requires tact and precision. However, with the right tools and strategies it can yield the needed results for both managers and employees to ensure the sustainability and profitability of the organization in these desperate times.
Justice Mensah, PhD