Remote work has become the norm in 2020, and it has brought forth newer challenges for organizations. While productivity has increased over 13% after this switch to remote mode, employers are still struggling to figure out a way to measure and quantify the productivity of remote workers.
It is now more important than ever to have defined key performance indicators for all your remote workers. But before getting into how you can evaluate them, you need to formulate a plan to deal with remote work
What Are Effective KPIs for Remote Employees
KPIs or key performance indicators are tools that help employers quantify employee performance in real, measurable terms. When it comes to performance and productivity, there are a lot of vague assumptions in place. Also, each employer or manager has their own idea of productivity. Some may find punctual employees to be effective, while some may not care about their timings at all as long as they complete their work on time.
In this case, how do you make sure that all employees are judged effectively and fairly? This is where KPIs for remote employees enter the picture. They serve as a point of reference for employers when evaluating employee performance. KPIs for remote workers are objective and offer a fair indication of remote employees’ performance.
When you have teams working remotely, KPIs are especially effective. When you don’t know when the employees start work or how many breaks they take, the only effective way to measure their productivity is to have defined KPIs for remote workers for each process. This will also allow you to formulate a remote work based pay strategy for your employees.
So how do you ensure effective KPIs for remote workers?
There are several ways to determine KPIs for remote workers, but one of the easiest and most effective ways is to make sure that the KPIs for remote workers are SMART. SMART is a planning tool, but it works really well for KPIs too. After all, KPIs are a method of planning towards success. SMART KPIs are:
Make sure that the KPIs for remote workers are not vague or ambiguous. Do not set goals like ‘improve the quality of the blog’. Ambiguity will only lead to further chaos. Be specific in what you expect, and communicate it well. A good example of a specific goal would be:
Proofread all the blogs and make them error-free.
Setting KPIs for remote workers is supposed to help you quantify performance. Make sure the KPIs for remote workers are measurable in clear and precise terms. If you were to make the above-mentioned goal measurable, it would look something like this:
Proofread 20 blogs and ensure they are error-free.
A lot of leaders believe in setting the bar high to inspire their team to do more. But there’s a difference between setting a high bar and gearing up for an impossible task. If the KPIs for remote workers are impossible to achieve, it will demotivate your employees and they won’t be able to perform at their best. Evaluate each of your employees’ capacity before you set KPIs, that way you will know if the KPIs you set for remote employees are achievable or not.
The work culture in each company is different. What is considered important in one organization may not be of any importance in the other. In this regard, the nature of KPIs differs from workplace to workplace. However, it is important to stay relevant for the sake of efficiency. ‘Dress appropriately’ may be good advice, but it cannot be a KPI for remote employees as it is irrelevant to your employees’ work unless they are in an exclusively client-facing role. Here’s a sample of KPIs for managers:
Calculate the working hours of all your team members and report it to the Human Resources department.
The KPIs you set for remote workers may be fantastic in every other aspect but if they aren’t time-bound, you will not be able to quantify them. Take the above-mentioned example – Proofread 20 blogs and ensure they are error-free. Here, the employee knows what is expected of them in clear, measurable, and defined terms but they have no time limit to work within. An employee might finish 20 blogs in a month while another might take three months. Are both these employees equally productive?
In order to have a clear understanding of your employees’ performance and productivity, you need to ensure that the KPIs for remote workers have a time-bound deadline. This way, you and your employees will have a clear picture of expectations vs. performance. A good example would be:
Proofread 20 blogs by the end of the month and ensure they are error-free.
SMART KPIs are tried and tested in several organizations and have proven to be an instrumental tool in evaluating employees.
Consider OKRs as an Add-on
Most organizations use KPIs for remote workers to quantify and evaluate performance. However, with Google’s adoption of OKR, there has been a noticeable shift towards OKRs. OKRs are Objectives and Key Results —it’s an evaluation mechanism designed by Andy Grove for Intel. This system allows you to define objectives and tie them to key results that act as smaller goals for your employees. A good example of OKRs would be:
Objective – Increase website traffic by 50%
Key result 1: Create 50 pieces of informative content for visitors.
Key result 2: Promote created content on social media.
Key result 3: Run a Google Ads campaign to gain more visitors.
You may wonder what the difference between OKRs and KPIs for remote workers is. The key difference is that KPIs are activity-based goals while OKRs are objective-based goals. Take a look at the same example to understand this further:
Proofread 20 blogs by the end of the month and ensure they are error-free.
Objective – Improve the blog quality
Key result 1: Proofread all the blogs in the next quarter
Key result 2: Create guidelines for content creation
Key result 3: Run all content assets through QC
The key difference in the above given examples is that KPIs talk of a single task whereas OKRs align all the tasks under an objective. So, which one should you use?
To succeed, you should ideally use both of these systems. KPIs for remote workers are really helpful for ongoing projects and small-term goals. However, if you’re starting a new project, or want to realign your company’s objectives towards a single goal, OKRs are your best bet.
Effective Metrics for Remote Workers
No matter what system you use for evaluation, or what your principles behind the evaluation are, it all boils down to the ‘how’. How do you evaluate them? What metrics do you use for evaluating remote employees? While several organizations have their own concept of these, BSC designer has classified these metrics into three important pillars:
Employee learning skills
It’s no surprise that self-discipline ranks number one when it comes to KPIs for remote workers. A remote employee can only be as effective as their self-discipline. And when your entire team is distributed, it is especially important to quantify, assess, and reward self-discipline. But how do you measure a concept as ambiguous as self-discipline?
Set up the metrics in a way that self-discipline is measured through each task. Quantify it through the following measures:
Was the task completed on time?
If not, was it communicated in time?
Was it up to the expected quality mark?
If not, were the reasons communicated in time?
These questions will help you evaluate an employee’s self-discipline in tangible and measurable terms.
According to Buffer’s 2019 State of Remote Work report, 17% of the respondents mentioned that communicating or collaborating with their team was the biggest challenge they faced while working remotely. Clearly, communication is a pain point for remote work. And ensuring that your team practices effective communication tactics can alleviate this challenge.
You can use the following factors to quantify effective communication:
Are the requirements for the task communicated to the supervisor effectively?
If working in a team, are all relevant factors shared with the team members at regular intervals?
In case of a glitch or blockers, is the issue informed immediately?
Were the instructions paid attention to? Is the quality as expected?
In case of delays or quality issues, were explanations provided before the deadline?
Is all the documentation crisp, clear, and error-free?
While this list is not exhaustive in any way, it will give you a clear understanding of your team’s communication skills.
Employee Learning Skills
Remote work throws a wrench in your regular processes. Teams have to deal with delayed communication channels, equipment breakdown, network errors, and a lot more. On top of that, while these issues can be fixed easily in an office, they aren’t easily resolved in a remote setting. Your team must be equipped to learn new things quickly while being able to follow instructions to a T. This is where employee learning skills enter.
Measuring learning skills can be tricky, as everyone learns differently. However, the acquisition of new skills and their application can easily be observed. You can use these questions to quantify these skills:
Do they take up learning new skills of their own volition?
If confronted with a task that requires a new skill set, do they volunteer to learn it?
When a new skill is learned, how is it applied to the task?
How long does it take for them to learn the new skill?
How effective is their work after the acquisition of new skills?
How quickly do they understand instructions?
How well do they perform tasks after getting thorough instructions?
These questions will help you grasp your employees’ overall learning skills. An employee with good learning skills is a big asset to your organization.
There are several other ways to determine KPIs for remote workers as each organization has a different set of requirements. However, this will give you a general idea of how to go about setting up your KPIs for remote workers.
Measure the quality and quantity of work over the time spent doing it. This will enhance your employees’ trust and improve their productivity.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you set KPIs for remote employees?
KPIs for remote employees are different from those for regular employees. You need to focus on the results over the time spent. Set KPIs that measure the output over input.
How can I monitor employees that work remotely?
An easy way to monitor is to break down the KPIs for remote workers into smaller goals and touch base with your employees frequently to keep a track of their progress.
How do you measure productivity remotely?
Productivity metrics or KPIs for remote workers such as ‘the number of leads converted’ can be a good measure of measuring productivity remotely.