Evaluating your employees is essential — both for you and for your workers. They allow you to assess where employees are excelling and what are their weak points, which helps you determine everything from when to give an employee a pay raise or promotion to who needs more training. For employees, performance reviews can provide guidance about how to improve.
Performance reviews are simple enough when you all work in the same building. When you have remote workers, however, it’s much more complicated. In fact, it may be necessary to take a completely different approach to a remote employee assessment.
1. Quality Is More Important Than Quantity
Whereas time-tracking tools are useful for ensuring that employees are spending their work time on relevant tasks, it’s important to give greater weight to quality than quantity. Remote employees are often able to focus better and may work in short bursts to fit their work around other commitments. If your remote employees are producing a high quality of work in a minimal amount of time, there’s no problem.
On the flip side, if an employee is taking far too long on tasks, even producing great quality could become an issue. To judge how long a task should take, ideally you’ll have at least two employees working on similar tasks. Alternatively, you can consider how long these tasks took a former employee.
2. Have Realistic, Measurable Expectations
It’s crucial that you base employee assessments on performance metrics, not just subjective criteria. Otherwise, it will be difficult to know for sure that an employee is performing well and to compare one worker to another.
In some cases, it’s easy to measure performance; in others, it’s more challenging. For instance, when you’re looking at employee performance in regard to customer service, you first need to determine how you’ll define when customers are satisfied with the service they are receiving.
By communicating your expectations from the outset, your employees can strive to meet those standards. Plus, they will be able to tell you if you’re being realistic or whether you need to make some changes. The result is that your employees feel heard, ultimately leading to better performance.
3. Take a Holistic Approach
You want employees to know that you think of them as much more than just assets to your company. It is easy for remote workers to feel less valued than the employees you see every day. You need to demonstrate that you do see them as people.
To achieve this in a performance review for remote workers, look at more than just output. Talk to employees about their overall job satisfaction, where they’re struggling and need more support, and how they’d like to grow in their careers. This will allow you to assess employees as individuals rather than as the work they produce.
4. Seek Input from the Team
For performance reviews, it’s always useful to receive feedback from your team. After all, as a manager, you only see one side of your employees. Coworkers may have a better idea of how employees collaborate with others or know more about their work styles.
With a remote employee assessment, input from your team is extra important. Some of your workers may even interact with the remote employees far more than you do. You may well find that you uncover details that you would never have learned alone.
If you have a large team, ask for feedback from just the coworkers who are closest to the remote employee you are assessing. It’s a good idea to use a template to help workers know what information you want. This will also make it easy to compare, allowing you to identify any discrepancies that could be down to personal issues. Also make it clear that the feedback should be about the employee’s behavior and performance rather than personality.
5. Use Self Evaluations
A third source for your assessments is the remote employees themselves. You gain this information through self assessments.
Bear in mind, self evaluations can be unreliable. This is because employees may overestimate their skills in a certain area or attribute success more to their abilities than to other contributing factors. Sometimes, they may even do both.
Despite these shortcomings, self evaluations are valuable. In particular, they are useful for comparing what employees say about themselves to feedback from other workers and your own assessment. This will give you insight into what employees think about their performance, and how it may differ from what others perceive. In addition, self evaluations help employees see that you are listening to their opinions, which is especially important with remote workers.
6. Have Regular Check-Ins with Remote Workers
In addition to performance reviews, schedule time to talk to your remote workers about their work in a more informal setting. Beforehand, it’s worthwhile taking the time to examine the employees’ work, such as checking the status of long-term projects. Then you’ll know if there’s anything in particular you need to discuss.
It’s a good idea to have a check-in like this at least every month, but you may like to do it as frequently as once a week. If feasible, you could try to meet your employees in person on occasion. Whatever you choose, these informal assessments are a great way of ensuring your team is on track to meeting goals and for having a better idea of productivity. They will also mean fewer surprises for employees when it comes time for a formal performance review, which helps everyone feel like they’re on the same page.
7. Never Skip a Remote Employee Assessment
If you believe an employee is doing a great job, you may be tempted to forgo the scheduled performance review, especially if you have plenty of other work to do. However, this is never a good idea.
For one thing, a remote employee assessment is not just about discussing problematic behaviors and areas for improvement. It is also about helping workers reach their full potential, feel valued, and progress with their careers.
If you know that an employee is doing well but you fail to say so, the employee may have no idea. It is extra common for remote workers to feel afraid that they’re doing a poor job. If you never give them any feedback, they may even be concerned that they’re at risk of being fired.
Secondly, there’s always the chance that some employees on a team are doing the large majority of the work, while the others are contributing a minimal amount and taking the same share of the credit. Without a performance review, it could be difficult to know this. Over time, resentment within the team could cause you to lose some of your best employees.
When you take the right approach, a remote employee assessment need not be much different from the performance reviews of the workers you see every day. By defining KPIs that you can use across the board and keeping lines of communication open, it’s just as easy to evaluate a remote employee as any other worker at your company.