Remote work: How to manage your team

Performance management can get tricky whether you’re assessing staff in a virtual setting

Remote work: How to manage your team

While you can assess your remote employee’s performance based on their tasks and work outcomes, how do you determine whether leaders are doing their job well?

In today’s uncertain landscape, displaying leadership capabilities has become critical for everything from crisis management to employee engagement. But how can HR guide and assess leaders’ performance in our virtual world?

If we were in physical offices, Seemali Shukla, country HR leader - Australia & New Zealand at HP said it’s common practice for leaders to do their daily ‘rounds’ before starting work proper.

“First 20 minutes that you walk into the office, you don’t go and sit at your workstation,” Shukla shared in a panel discussion at HR Tech Asia Pacific Summit.

“You just walk around, go to every employee or whoever you come across while you’re going towards your desk, and just say, ‘Hey, how are you doing? Are you having a good day?’

“So how do we do that today in a virtual environment?”

Read more: Over-communication is key during any crisis—but especially COVID-19

Virtual reality
The team at HP have since turned to technology, using messaging platforms to continue the practice. But are daily “pings” on an app as impactful as having a chat with your CEO in person at the office?

Maybe not, according to recent research by Microsoft. The tech giant found that remote workers globally cited a growing sense of disconnect from co-workers as a top stressor amidst the pandemic.

Additionally, professionals in countries like Australia and Singapore cited an increased sense of isolation as their main source of stress.

Since remote work is here to stay for the long haul, whether partially or in full, how can you tell if leaders are doing enough to connect with their teams?

As all things, it starts from the top, said fellow panellist Joel Rethore, group head of rewards, performance & people analytics at Healius. To be precise, it’s about how invested the board is in developing good, genuine leaders.

Rethore shared that this year, the company board was enlightened to approve several new tools and processes to manage leadership’s performance — and it started with one key acknowledgement.

“The acknowledgement right from the top…that the line of sight is short,” he said. “And the only way to bypass the constraints [of remote work] is by saying to everyone, ‘It’s okay to shorten the line of sight, as long as you increase the frequency of checking in’.

“That’s what we’re doing with a big push, saying: here’s the way we’re going to evaluate the performance of our top senior executives, and here’s the way we also lead.”

Read more: The impact of COVID-19 on performance management

Track behavioural KPIs
To encourage frequent check-ins, Rethore said they tied it in with benefits or rewards and reminded leaders that keeping that human connection in a virtual world is critical to keep up the team’s overall productivity.

“[It] shed a big light on the fact that we want people to talk [and] to connect,” he said. “We want people to feel that they are part of a bigger whole — because that’s the way we perform better.”

Besides assessing whether leaders are making an effort to check in with their teams, they now have a performance management process that is “solely driven by behaviours”.

“I think it’s exceptionally important to have behavioural KPIs that just say… let’s make sure you’re accountable [and] let’s make sure you can talk to your peers,” he said.

Read more: Leadership compassion gaprevealed amid crisis

Transform communication
Rethore went on to point out that even the way leaders communicate has changed due to remote working arrangements.

“For a while it’s been a learning curve I think for all of us, including our senior executives,” he said.

He recalled that back in March when the company had their first virtual session with the CEO, they were “really top down” and not very frequent. Things are different now for Healius.

“To summarise the way [things are] are now, [leaders] talk to people in a way they would like to be listened to,” he said. “So there is much more awareness that there are people on the receiving end of the channel.

“And unless you make that conscious effort to talk like you will be understood, it’s very easy to lose people’s interest.

“The pandemic has led to an acceleration of that awareness of what is at stake when people communicate.”

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