Apart from making sure that we do a good job with communicating to the team, “performance management” is another key component, which plays a critical role in getting the best out of your remote employees.
Most companies will have a performance management framework in place, and if we look at the generic components, it should include:
Defining the goals
Communicating the goals
Assessment from managers
Self-assessment from employees
Performance ratings and evaluation
In this post, I would like to focus on how this process can be managed effectively across a remote team.
1) Define your (personal) goals and your team’s goals clearly
As shown in the illustration below, it is always helpful for you to communicate your goals to your employees. Also, help them to understand how their goals are derived from yours.
If you were managing a remote team, you would want to be as detailed as possible. This will empower your remote employees, allowing them a certain level of autonomy while keeping that alignment to what you want to achieve.
2) Maintain as high a level of transparency as possible with each of your direct reports
From the same illustration, you might want to be as transparent as possible in communicating how each of your team members contributes to the success of the team. Providing this to your employees allows them to understand each other’s roles and responsibilities better. This will help improve the level of collaboration across the team and region.
3) Establish milestones to check in on progress regularly
Most organisations have a mid-year review to make sure that employees are making progress. I would recommend a bi-monthly or quarterly engagement. This is a good opportunity to help remove some of those road blocks they’ve encountered, and also to tweak some of their goals (if there are any changes).
4) Allow ample time for rich two-way communications during the appraisal discussion
Don’t do this in a rush. Allow ample time for your employees to go through their progress. Make this session about them. Everyone likes to feel appreciated and this is one occasion where your time investment could make a huge difference.
I would also go the extra mile to do this over video in a quiet room. This way I can be sure that I’m conveying the right message through my body language. I also take the opportunity to pick up non-verbal cues from my team, to make sure that I don’t miss what’s in between the lines.
5) Follow up with documentation
Always document your appraisal. Usually, the system would allow for evaluation to be captured and stored. If this is not available, do it over email. Performance Management is a cycle, and you want to be able to revisit what you and your employees discussed in the last session.
Also, this eliminates any misunderstanding over expectations, which tend to arise over time. Remember, distance can amplify uncertainty without good management. Thus, if any part of a goal becomes unclear, it needs an appropriate level of attention especially if the team is dispersed over wide geographical regions.
As always, do feel free to comment or drop me a note if you have any interesting tips of your own to share.
If you'd like to know more about the best tools to help you manage a remote team, you can start at this page to find out how Polycom RealPresence video and voice solutions integrate with Microsoft Lync.
Eric Wong left Polycom as of March 2015. This blog post is his personal view and reflective of his thoughts while at Polycom.