What Does Effective Performance Management For Remote Teams Looks Like?

Posted in : Supplementary Articles NI on 6 November 2020
Niall Eyre
Issues covered: Remote Working; Virtual Teams; Performance Management; A-typical Working; Policies and Procedures

The Covid-19 crisis has presented many challenges; however, it has also presented opportunities. The increase in remote, smart and agile working is impacting the way organisations manage and deliver performance management. The opportunity to re-purpose, re-design and simplify the performance management process is evident and organisations need to move speedily to realise this opportunity. Progressive organisations are reviewing the performance management process within the context of a changed mindset and adoption of a clearer, more outcomes based and simpler performance management approach.  

Performance management needs to incorporate remote and business location work models in equal measure. Leaders (and their direct reports) understand the current performance year has been distorted due to the crisis. However, expectation for next year’s performance management process will be different. Leaders will require education and support regarding adoption of new skills, specifically – within the remote environment:- setting appropriate performance objectives and measures, providing feedback regarding performance and career development, promotion opportunities, innovation and reward and remuneration; and fostering a culture of openness, transparency and work agility. The key challenge will be for leaders to implement performance management for differing work design models and ensure inclusion, equality and fairness across teams.     

I have experience of these challenges as I previously led remote teams within 70 countries. Leading remote teams required a different skillset to my previous leadership challenges. A key learning was the employee experience which can be blurred, regarding boundaries between work and personal lives. This poses a responsibility, in relation to ensuring well-being issues are part of the performance management process. The growth of digital devices is enabling blurring between home and the workplace, as never before, and this will increase over time. Leaders need to be aware of their responsibility in this area.  

Performance management is a critical process that requires a strong work culture to be implemented effectively. Business leaders and their direct reports expect organisational changes to ensure the performance management process is fit for purpose within a new world of work.   

A critical success factor for performance management for remote teams is the identification, agreement and communication of appropriate performance objectives and measures. This requires business leaders to work with the HR function and agree core design principles regarding how remote working objectives and measures are to be identified, communicated and transcribed across the organisation. The changes to new ways of working must be incorporated and this will enable organisations to focus on outcomes and deliverables and avoid a list of detailed tasks.  

Leading remote teams requires empowering teams to work effectively and leaders will not be able to be involved in all work completed. Multi-source feedback points will greatly assist leaders within the process. Inclusion of skill-based objectives, that are required for remote working, will be important. Positively, the remote working experience is similar across many roles and levels of work, therefore, it will be feasible to identify “generic” remote working skills across the organisation.

Continuous feedback is required with regular 1 to 1 communication a prerequisite for success. Monthly “catch up” calls are an effective and pragmatic solution. Leaders may consider this time consuming, however, the practicalities of remote working dictate that if leaders do not invest time, within the 1 to 1 relationship, the performance management process will not be effective.

Within a remote working environment, the chance for informal catch up conversations is limited, so regular 1 to 1 communication is vital.  

My previous organisation moved to a “no ratings” performance management approach with the focus placed on quality conversations over regular time periods. This worked well as the impetus shifted from an end of year rating to regular and high-quality dialogue between leaders and direct reports. Endless hours of reviewing bell shaped curve data points were eliminated, and interactions improved with the quality of discussion between leaders and direct reports transitioning to a more regular and direct format. A culture of straight talk and straight listening was supported by this initiative. The move to eliminate performance ratings is prevalent now and will increase over time. This approach simplifies the performance management process, for both leaders and direct reports, and is effective for the remote environment.    

The challenge for HR and business leaders is to lead the transformation for performance management and be brave and ambitious. Never will HR and business leaders have a better opportunity to radically transform the performance management process and implement changes at high speed. The goal is to build an effective work culture that encompasses all work design models and the performance management process is a critical component of this objective.

This article is correct at 06/11/2020

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Niall Eyre

The main content of this article was provided by Niall Eyre. Contact telephone number is 085 8011159 or email nialleyre@transformhr.ie

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