Out of sight, not out of mind: Managing remote employee performance

Managers who provide a mixture of timely feedback on a consistent basis and more in-depth reviews at select points throughout the year promote productivity and engagement. Remote workers need this input just as much as on-site staff, if not more. Whether they telecommute regularly or must work from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, remote team members thrive when leaders demonstrate an interest in their performance and offer clear suggestions for improvement.

Consistent check-ins

Remote employees should never think that they are “out of sight and out of mind.” Such a scenario can make them feel anxious about a lack of support, or they may uncomfortably wonder whether or not they are living up to par. Lack of contact also sets the stage for disengagement and less-than-optimal effort.

Managers must communicate on an on-going basis and hold remote workers accountable. Rather than treating success as a lofty concept, though, both parties need to agree to concrete parameters. This understanding often gets accomplished by developing SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based). Employers and employees know the expectations of what needs to get done and when.

Scheduling check-ins on an agreed-upon basis (perhaps daily, at least weekly) avoids the appearance of micromanaging but allows for consistent evaluation of how well performance goals are being met. These conversations also provide a chance for remote workers to ask for assistance or make you aware of small problems before they become larger ones.

Comprehensive evaluations

In addition to real-time feedback that covers matters at hand and points out things that need improvement, employers should conduct thorough performance reviews at select intervals. These more intricate evaluations take an overall look at the worker’s strengths and weaknesses. They also provide an opportunity to recognize achievement and develop long-term objectives, both of which raise motivation levels.

Remote employee evaluation forms

Using a pre-made employee evaluation form in conjunction with the meeting offers several advantages. The document provides an outline of talking points, which ensures pertinent topics get covered. It also establishes consistent criteria so that a manager doesn’t run the risk of judging certain workers on different standards and getting accused of bias or favoritism. As a record of what was discussed, the employee evaluation form serves as a point of reference for either party to turn to in support of promotion, termination, and other matters.

Since many performance review forms contain areas for workers to fill in, send it to remote employees in advance of your meeting to encourage preparation and thoughtful reflection. In addition to rating their own performance, allow space for them to input career goals. Remote staff especially appreciate managers showing an interest in their training and advancement, as telecommuters sometimes fear being out-of-the-loop or not thought about as readily when companies formulate long-term plans.

Remote performance appraisals

Businesses vary in how often they conduct formal performance appraisals, though six-month and yearly reviews are rather common. In cases where team members are new to remote arrangements, companies may opt for shorter intervals in order to evaluate how the set-up is working out.

Finally, opt for video conferencing if possible. Seeing the other person during a one-to-one conversation of this nature generally feels more comfortable than a phone call, especially if any sensitive topics come up. You will be able to witness non-verbal behavior, which helps to judge things such as understanding or frustration. And don’t discount the effect of a visual on attention — seeing each other promotes both sides giving the performance review the full concentration it deserves.