person working outdoors on a laptop
PHOTO: Steve Halama

As telecommuting becomes more common, management styles have to adapt accordingly. Gone are the days of the surprise office drop-in to check on an employee who works down the hall. It is rarely effective to micromanage anyone in that way, but it’s nearly impossible to do so with a team of people who work remotely.

Whether people are working from home or from across the world, managers have to develop a level of trust with their out-of-office employees. This trust should be supplemented by a careful assessment process that provides a way to ensure that employees are doing their jobs.

Managers and business owners can use several tools and techniques to assess the performance of remote teams, both individually and collectively. Here are some tips for creating a remote assessment plan that is effective and thorough.

1. Time Isn’t Everything

Assessments of remote employees should focus on outcomes, just as any decent in-office assessment would. Be wary of judging employees’ productivity by their hourly input. The nature of remote work is such that employees can often set their own hours, and if they can achieve their goals in minimal time, they shouldn’t be punished for it. On the contrary, quick and effective work should be praised and encouraged.

Of course, it’s still important to note if an employee is slow to respond to messages or rarely clocks in. Nonetheless, while time on the job should be a consideration, don’t assume that employees are lazy or disengaged just because the number of hours they work is low.

Related Article: Bringing Your Remote Workforce Into the Fold

2. Deliverables Aren’t Everything, Either

Assessments, by their very nature, have the potential to be dehumanizing. Managers who conduct assessments have to be careful that performance reviews don’t leave employees feeling as though they’ve been reduced to numbers on a page.

A solid performance assessment for a remote team won’t focus exclusively on each employee’s output. Good assessments are holistic — they consider employees as members of the company family. To get a complete picture of an employee’s success, managers should inquire about job satisfaction, communication needs and the employee’s connectedness to other team members.

Don’t forget that the person you are assessing is just that — a person.

3. Make Time for Staff Assessments

Managers and business owners should set aside time monthly, if not weekly, to assess their teams’ performances. Those assessments don’t always have to involve formal sit-down performance reviews. The assessment process doesn’t have to be entirely based on direct communication with individual employees; some of it could involve looking at their recent deliverables and the status of their progress on high-priority projects.

By scheduling regular time for check-ins, you’ll know when you need to connect with employees one-on-one about their performances. This consistency will help you maintain a clear, overall picture of a team’s progress and productivity.

Related Article: The Dual Rise of the Digital Workplace and Remote Work

4. Use Internal Feedback

Let your staff do some of the assessment work for you by soliciting peer evaluations. While this won’t work for some of your more isolated employees (a one-person IT department, for example), it will certainly generate valuable feedback from remote employees who work closely together. Often, people who communicate daily will be able to offer insights that you couldn’t gather from metrics alone, especially in a remote team environment.

Assessment Is Your Responsibility

If your remote team is highly productive and doing excellent work, you might not feel the need to create a system of assessment. That can be risky, though — there might be a handful of stellar remote employees doing the bulk of the work and becoming resentful, while the remainder slack off and still get credit for the team’s performance.

As a manager or business owner, you must ensure that responsibilities are carefully divided and no employee is overwhelmed or under-engaged. By scheduling time to conduct remote assessments that are outcome-based, holistic and supported by peer evaluations, you will ensure that your team continues to grow and improve and that no employee is left behind.