It isn’t just COVID driving the explosion of virtual work. Some pioneers were already on their way to a remote employee model, promoting benefits and gains of being a remote worker and employer. But with this change comes new challenges. How do managers monitor and measure employee performance when they’re not in the office?

We’ve seen some funny stories about monitoring employees working from home, from hidden cameras in company laptops to fancy software that tracks working hours and mouse clicks. Tracking KPIs for remote workers has been an absolute nightmare for some of us.

By definition, a Key Performance Indicator (the ill-famed KPI) is a measurable value to determine the success or failure of business goals. Remember Sauron's ominous “eye” symbol in the Lord of the Rings? A massive burning eyeball watching over Middle-Earth; all-seeing, all-knowing. Is that how our employees feel when they’re working from home?

We don’t even need to look at the statistics to know that this is not the atmosphere in which anyone would want to work. KPIs are useful and necessary, especially in virtual teams, but they don’t need to negatively affect employee morale.

What's the Use of KPIs for Remote Workers?

The first thing to keep in mind with KPIs is that they aren't meant to act like the Eye of Sauron. The purpose of KPIs is to get your entire team on the same page, to understand the company goals, and to get clear on expectations.

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Visual reporting tools can help turn KPIs into pretty diagrams and graphs to help employees stay on task, but they do not reveal the quality of the work done. If numbers and colors continuously remind your team that they aren't doing enough or you use reports as an excuse to check on them ten times a day, then your team is going to withdraw and hide.

Virtual team key performance indicators aim to guide teams on how to improve various areas of a business, not necessarily measuring the performance of a single individual. And while some KPIs can be tied to individual roles, the overall goal is to get an overview of the company’s progress and to have your team focus on delivering as a team rather than shifting blame to one or more individuals.

3 Key Points to Keep in Mind for KPIs Metrics

The best way to measure remote workers' productivity is with tracking software displaying metrics in real-time to each department of your team. As previously stated, the point of KPIs is to keep track of productivity without losing quality in products and deliveries. When looking at the metrics of your team, keep in mind these 3 points:

Team Member Performance

Deadlines are important, and everyone has to respect them. How the team member delivers their final product is a matter not only of time but also quality. For example, suppose you know that your marketing team sometimes takes a couple of additional days to deliver a better roadmap for your blog. Here, metrics only show the average time to complete a task and conclude that the lack of employees' productivity is quite limiting.

Metrics that measure your employees' performance also help you synchronize tasks with other departments and set priorities. Of course, that doesn't mean that you don't have a problem if someone always takes a week longer than expected. Software can help you spot red flags, burnout, and room for improvement on overall performance without stressing your team employees.

Team Communication

Once you have an overview of your team member's performance, you can then monitor internal communication. A reliable reporting method is essential to synchronize different departments working on the same goal in virtual teams. Updating shared docs and data is as vital as completing tasks, and it is good for everyone in the company to have the ability to access them.

Of course, this doesn't mean sending thousands of reminders or forcing weekly video-calls and meetings to measure engagement and communication. The point of transparent reporting is to keep track of what has been done to facilitate communication across departments. Seeing what others are doing helps communicate realistic requests and avoids internal friction.

Team Learning Skill

The last thing to keep into account when looking at your team’s performance is the learning attitude. As aforementioned, 2020 changed everything, and a day where you need to learn new ways to adapt is just another Tuesday. Today more than ever, productivity and goals depend on keeping up with the latest trends and technologies.

If delivery is slow or communication is problematic because some of your employees don't want to adapt to new tools, that indicates a bottleneck. Use this indicator to find out whether you need to change your system or your team.

How to Measure Virtual Employee Performance & Accountability

When creating a KPI for your remote team, make sure to keep it simple and focus on aligning common goals. Timelines and achievability are significant indicators that everyone can follow. With a graph, your marketing team doesn't need to know programming languages to see how the development team is doing. You should see KPIs like the language of your team, the one that everyone speaks to make the work as smooth as possible.

That’s what you need to consider for your team productivity:

  • Accountability: Working from home doesn't mean isolation or total independence. Each member must be accountable for the team and stay ready to contribute and help even from a distance.
  • Self-discipline & Integrity: Remote workers have less direct supervision, which makes it essential to consider how they can organize and prioritize tasks over time.
  • Adaptability to Remote Work Experience: how much your employees adapt and become comfortable with working from home.
  • Establish a Work from Home Policy: tracking how your employees adhere to your policy over time is crucial to understanding if the person fits with your company culture and goals.
  • Institute Performance Reviews: A performance review is a great way to measure each employee's progress, as long as it is done regularly and accurately.

Measuring Yourself

KPIs aren't there just for you to measure your virtual team productivity. Performance indicators in virtual teams are also crucial to keep track of mistakes and low-performance strategies. These data aren’t there for you to lay blame on your employees.

They are there for you to learn, adjust, and boost productivity. Measuring with new technologies isn't a strategy to humiliate your remote workers but to ensure that they improve their experience and productivity. Measuring your team member satisfaction is essential to improving the workflow and team structure. Include a metric that allows your team to express how they feel about your company policy in your KPIs.

For example, mental health is a primary concern in virtual teams. Remote workers are more productive and have a better work-life balance, but for some, it can be hard to shut off the laptop at night. KPIs help you track your team’s balance between personal and professional life as well as possible distractions slowing down delivery.

If your remote workers are satisfied with your company policy, it will be easier to build a reliable workflow and team dynamics. Virtual employees are still part of a team, and with a close-knit group, it is easier to onboard members and launch new projects. Plus, with a clear structure of tasks and responsibilities, it’s easier to picture the best personality fit for your team.

At the end of the day, that’s your main concern. The quality of your products and productivity won’t improve because of software metrics, but because of your amazing virtual team!

Guest Post by Sharon Koifman

Sharon is the founder and president of DistantJob — a boutique staffing agency that helps recruit full-time remote employees. He believes every company, from the biggest enterprise to the newly-launched garage startup, should have access to the world's top talent.