Measuring Teleworker Performance

The most common question I get asked is, “How do I measure the performance of my teleworkers?”  I always answer this with a question of my own: “How are you measuring your employees right now?”  Ideally, there should be no difference.  Whether your employees are working 2 cubicles over from your office or they are across the country working virtually, the goals, success metrics or work deliverables should be the same. 

However, when I ask the question above, many managers stare at me for a second, swallow hard, nod, and walk away.   It’s obvious in many cases that managers don’t have a good handle on measuring employee performance, regardless of where the employee sits.  The key is to identify quantifiable outputs, focusing on results.  Here are some things to think about for both virtual employees and those collocated with you.

Start with the job description.  Everyone has some sort of job description.  If nothing else, there is usually the corporate-speak requisition posted on Monster.com or your organization’s intranet site that was used to hire the employee.  Strip away the jargon and the fluff and translate it into tangible deliverables.  For example, a job description for a Business Analyst may include something like, “Communicate status and results to the respective stakeholders, including items discussed, actionable items, documenting expectations, and results blah blah blah.”  Translation: the person takes meeting minutes.  Lot of ‘em.  You may expect the team meeting results to be published within 24 hours of every weekly meeting in XYZ format.  Great!  Now you have something you can measure.  Continue the thought process with the rest of the job description.

Link to organizational and team goals.  What are the tangible things you want your team to get done over the next month, quarter, or year?  Again, forget the fluff and focus on real results.  How does each person on your team contribute toward that team goal?  If you lack team goals, take a look at your organization’s goals.  Then, translate those goals into something quantifiable (if they aren’t already). Consider how your team’s work rolls up to the organizational goals.

Pretend you are hiring contractors.  Try this for a thought exercise: if every person on your team was a temporary worker of contractor, what would be your expectations?  We tend to take employees for granted sometimes but if you’re paying for work directly out of your budget, then you would probably be a little more specific about what you wanted, how you wanted it done, and what the end result would look like.  What would you put into a Statement of Work?

The virtual work environment can make organizations more productive because it forces managers to focuses more on results.  Years ago, when I worked in a traditional office setting, I wondered what some people did all day.  Where was their value?  Now, in a virtual office, the value employees bring to the table has to be clear and tangible.  If not, you may start to question why you have that position in the first place.

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