Performance evaluation of remote workers: Existing challenges and how to overcome them
The COVID-19 outbreak has been a watershed moment for the global business landscape. Enterprises across sectors adapted to a ‘new normal’ almost overnight to stay relevant and ensure business continuity. Remote working, a concept that had been on the fringes of the corporate work culture for several years, suddenly became the dominant paradigm.
Studies within the past year have reiterated that what began as a ‘trend’ will continue to dominate in the long run, thanks to the benefits that it brings. Remote working allows employees to be more productive, strike a better work-life balance, and save on the time and money spent travelling every day to and from the office. On the other hand, organizations reduce their OPEX by minimizing the need for a physical space to seat their employees.
However, as we enter the era of extended remote work, certain challenges have come to the fore – foremost among which is the issue of performance evaluation for remote workers. With hybrid working and staggered shifts on the rise, managers need to upgrade the way they evaluate office-based and remote performance.
Here, then, are the major challenges that employers face when evaluating remote employees and the ways in which they can overcome them:
The challenge with performance evaluation of remote workers boils down to a simple reason: the parameters used to evaluate employee performance when working in a shared office space cannot be used to evaluate remote workers. To begin with, there is an element of the illusion of labor. People tend to associate a higher value to the effort that they can see, even if the output is the same. Many employers also believe that their employees slack off when working remotely. These factors lead to certain biases that are not easily overcome when evaluating remote workers.
Addressing these issues requires employers to adopt a more flexible mindset when defining performance parameters – and this begins with asking questions about the evaluation process. For instance, do the number of hours logged in daily really matter to you, as long as your employees accomplish the tasks assigned to them while meeting the quality standards?
It also helps to deprioritize the transactional aspect of work and define other factors that employees are evaluated on. Do they empathize well with their peers, seniors, and clients? Do they work well as a collaborative part of the team and communicate, clearly and constructively, during their interactions? Are they able to adapt to newer processes or requirements? In a post-pandemic workspace that will be dominated by remote work, these factors will play an important role in how organizations operate and must be adequately rewarded during evaluations.
The next step is to redesign the evaluation process to reflect the new realities of the business ecosystem. Do not depend solely on the manager’s feedback; request your employees to submit periodic self-evaluation and complement that with the data gathered by conducting peer reviews. Doing so can help you develop a more comprehensive picture of your employees as individual units working within larger machinery and, therefore, perform more accurate evaluations.
Recording daily observations about employees and their work can also help to maintain objectivity during the appraisal process. Modern SaaS-based platforms that allow managers to log daily activities can be useful here, as they can help identify and eliminate the biases associated with remote work by documenting the feedback within operational workflows.
Aligning employees with the organizational vision and mission
It is important, especially in the age of remote working, for business leaders to align employees with the organizational vision and mission. Why? Because it explains the company’s culture, fabric, and values to its employees and ensures their buy-in. This is easier to do when employers and employees share a physical space in which to communicate ideas and thoughts.
This is why it is essential to enable open communication, collaboration, and accountability for remote teams through tech solutions. Employers must clearly define the goals and accountability for each individual while using tools such as Basecamp, Wrike, Teamwork, etc., to track completed tasks and milestones. This will not only help ensure better accountability but also help employees measure their performance against set goals in a more transparent manner. Businesses can also give employees the option between different conferencing and collaboration platforms such as Zoom, Slack, Figma, GitHub, etc. for seamless communication during work.
Formal and informal workplace interactions were a major part of a professional’s social life in the pre-pandemic era. However, with remote working, it is more common for employees to feel left out of the interoffice dialogue. One way to overcome this challenge is to adopt effective and transparent communication channels. Two-way communication with managers and peers can help employees be aware of the proceedings within the organization.
For instance, managers can conduct light one-on-one or team video meetings with remote team members to make them feel valued and engaged. Apart from enabling rapport building within the team, such sessions also provide employers and employees with an opportunity to share two-way feedback in an informal setting. Companies can also use AI-based tools such as inFeedo to track employee engagement and gather feedback.
Remote operations demand a lot of empathy, resilience, and adaptability. Companies need to be flexible in how they operate – something that should reflect in the way they transform their evaluation processes to suit remote workers. The trend is here to stay. It is, therefore, in the best interests of employers to ensure that they address the current challenges as expeditiously as possible.