How to Apply KPIs to a Remote Workforce
Measuring productivity from a distance
With the world of work turned upside down by the pandemic, measuring company performance is more crucial than ever. Applying updated Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure remote employee productivity can improve a company’s bottom line. Managers are able to better monitor individuals and teams while employees work on clear, actionable goals.
Upwork estimates that 1 in 4 Americans, over 26% of the workforce, will continue working remotely through 2021. Some adaptations should be made to KPIs for telecommuters. Blending home and work life, schedule flexibility may need to be considered when meeting KPI deadlines. However, logging KPI results may be a natural fit for those telecommuters that are already accustomed to remotely managing their own workload.
According to industry surveys, employee productivity increases at least 13% when working from home. Let’s explore how remote worker KPIs can tap into that productivity and give your business vital data without micromanaging your workforce.
Key Performance Indicators provide a reference point to evaluate processes and detect improvements. Metrics are determined by a company to measure progress on defined projects or goals, either by an individual employee, team or department.
If you have not yet heard of SMART Objectives, this outlines a well-defined measurement system to fulfill specific company requirements. Objectives are created by the employee who takes ownership of the project or task.
How to create a SMART Objective KPI:
- Specific: a KPI should refer to a specific task or action.
- Measurable: if it can’t be measured, then we cannot interpret the data or use specific tools to do so.
- Achievable: the KPI objectives you set must be achievable under the conditions you have.
- Relevant: it’s also vital to ensure that the metrics you choose are relevant to your business and that they add valuable information.
- Timely: finally, each KPI must be limited to a time period and subject to regular reviews.
Here is an example of a smart KPI:
Increase attendance in our quarterly department meeting to 90% for the June 2021 meeting by sending out a notice one month in advance by email and posting on shared calendar, sending email reminders one week in advance, and calling non-respondents one day in advance, to gain more feedback on our new Project X before launch.
- S: Increase attendance in our quarterly department meeting to 90
- M: 90% attendance
- A: by sending out a notice one month in advance by email and posting on shared calendar, sending email reminders one week in advance, and calling non-respondents one day in advance
- R: to launch a new product campaign
- T: by the June 2021 meeting
Using SMART Objectives, you can further define each element to track milestones. By employees sharing SMART Objectives as they progress, team members and management can see how the project is developing. Shared data can be applied to decision making and evaluation.
HR consulting firm McKinsey reports that goals don’t have to be the bane of an employees’ existence or create a tremendous burden for management. When done right, goal setting improves commitment and helps clarify an employee’s role while also showing where their accomplishments aid overall company objectives. Greater transparency and motivation increases quality of the final product while meeting delivery times.
Special KPIs for remote workers
Communication effectiveness: People working remotely must still have the ability to communicate clearly with co-workers, clients, vendors, partners or management. Aram Lulla, President of AF, HR and IT Divisions at Lucas Group wrote in an article for Forbes that effective communication can be measured using SMART Objectives too, based on an employee’s existing role.
Some examples of areas of communication to set Smart Objectives include promptness of returning client emails or calls, being polite and concise in customer communication as measured by customer reviews, endeavoring to produce reports that are free from typos, spelling and grammar errors and being on time to and prepared for phone and video meetings.
Self-discipline: While teleworkers overall are more productive than their office counterparts, productivity of individuals working from home can vary greatly. Self-discipline—the capacity to work independently and complete a specific task in an allotted time frame—can be gleaned from project KPIs. For example, a clear measurement for self-discipline is tallying how many tasks an employee completes on schedule, not counting tasks where the delay was outside the employee’s control.
However, companies might want to have some flexibility with this metric. Is it acceptable for a remote worker, with children at home because of the pandemic, to catch up on work in the evening and meet a deadline later in the day rather than at 5 p.m.? Training or guidelines should indicate how to communicate deadline flexibility to other team members, including when they will receive materials or information.
Learning skills: Another area that may apply more to teleworkers than those working at headquarters is the ability to learn new skills. Though all employees should have this metric within their goals, many remote workers had to learn a new way of working, without the convenience of a fully stocked office, business machines or network. Whether adapting means learning a new piece of equipment, finding out how to remotely (and securely) access a company network or learn new software, these are all examples that can be incorporated into KPIs, and help companies evaluate an individual’s learning curve.
You can read more about how to create SMART Objectives with employees in this guide.
Annual reviews are outdated
Businesses have had to be more flexible to change over the past year than ever before. So it makes sense not to wait until an annual performance review to make corrections or praise and elevate an employee.
Google uses a similar system to SMART Objectives in measuring employee performance called Objective and Key Results (OKR), and many other companies have followed their lead. OKR breaks away from traditional performance reviews. The purpose of OKR is to organize each employee’s workload by objectives that are tied into key results for the organization.
In lieu of an annual review, OKR metrics are set and reviewed annually and quarterly. Annually, employees set their own objectives for the year ahead. They then identify key steps to be taken, which are broken down into quarterly objectives. Key results, which can be reviewed quarterly, give a clear indication if goals are on track. Three actions are assigned for each result the company wants to pursue.
You can read more about OKR in this study, Getting Started with Objectives & Key Results.
Put remote KPIs into a remote work guide
Now that you have provided employees with the right information and tools to develop good habits and maintain productivity, put this information in a Remove Work Guide attached to your personnel policies.