When working in the office, it was easier to look around and see what projects your staff was working on and keep tabs on employee productivity and performance. But with many employees now fully remote and some switching to a hybrid work environment, it’s more challenging for managers to understand what their teams are working on and the quality of their work. Today, managers must be more intentional with how they communicate with their employees in order to get the full picture of their contributions and performance.
Luckily, there are a few key ways to track employee performance that don’t require an individual to work from the office. From using goals to conducting ongoing one-on-one meetings, here are seven ways managers can accurately and fairly assess employee performance for in-office, hybrid, and remote workers.
7 Best Practices for Assessing Employee Performance
1. Use goals.
Employee goals are the most effective and objective way to set expectations for and evaluate employee performance. Since goals are established collaboratively between employees and managers at the beginning of the year or quarter, this process allows both parties to discuss what they expect to accomplish in a given period and align on what success looks like.
For example, if one of a content marketer’s individual goals is to publish five blog posts a quarter, both that individual and their manager can clearly understand what is expected of the marketer and what constitutes success. If at the end of the quarter, this employee has only published three blog posts, they know they will need to overdeliver the following quarter to keep pace with their goals and meet expectations for performance.
“Clear goals give leaders and the people they manage an agreed-upon set of standards to assess performance. These goals encapsulate the expectations of the job, enabling direct reports to understand what they’re accountable for, gauge where they stand, and avoid any surprises during one-on-one conversations,” said Mike Nuenke, Operations Manager at technology recruitment firm JDA TSG. “Goals also help managers communicate about performance throughout the year, keeping direct reports apprised of how they’re doing, what’s working well, and what they need to improve.”
In order for goals to help managers objectively and clearly evaluate employee performance, they need to be set using the SMART or OKR method so they are clear, attainable, and measurable. Managers will also need a designated place to safely store these goals so they can easily reference them as the year progresses and assess their employees’ progress.
2. Get the full story with 360-degree feedback.
Just having one person determine the overall performance of an individual can insert bias into the process and cause employees to miss out on valuable feedback from the very people they work with on a regular basis. In order to give a more holistic and objective view of an individual’s performance, your organization should consider implementing 360-degree reviews. In this type of review, an employee’s performance is determined by a combination of self, peer, and manager reviews. This allows managers to collect feedback from their employees’ colleagues, who can weigh in on that person’s work, time management, communication, teamwork, and more.
While managers can comment on the overall outcome of their direct reports’ work — like whether a sales representative met their quota and contributed to the company’s quarterly sales projections, for instance — they often can’t comment on the process to get there. For example, a high-performing sales rep might have overpromised clients features the company can’t actually deliver in order to meet their quarterly targets at the last minute, which can negatively impact your team, customers, and company in the long run.
Team members who work with an employee on a day-to-day basis can add much-needed context to that individual’s review and share helpful feedback that can not only help them grow to be a better employee, but also a better teammate. Again, a manager probably couldn’t provide that level of insight and feedback. However, with 360-degree reviews, not only do managers gain a fuller picture of their employees’ overall contributions and achievements, but their direct reports also benefit from receiving more tactical and actionable feedback that they can use in their day-to-day roles — a win for everyone.
3. Leverage a project management tool.
Using team-wide task management software, like Asana or Monday.com, can give managers insight into how project plans are progressing, while also keeping employees on-task. For any hybrid or remote team, project management tools are a crucial part of collaborating and communicating asynchronously.
These tools enable you to track everything from high-level key performance indicators (KPIs) to day-to-day tasks, giving managers both a general overview of and a detailed look at every employee’s output. This visibility can ensure that managers have an extensive understanding of their employees’ work and contributions throughout the year, allowing them to more accurately assess their direct reports’ performance and share more thorough feedback on their work during the next review cycle.
4. Adopt time-tracking software.
For added visibility into your employees’ day-to-day performance, consider using employee monitoring software or a time-tracking app. These monitoring tools can keep a running activity log of what employees spend time on throughout the day, as well as their personal productivity. These activity logs can help managers better understand how their employees are spending their time — and if they’re spending too much or not enough time on certain tasks — so they can better evaluate their performance and provide constructive coaching and feedback. Tracking tools can also help managers gain insight into employee strengths and weaknesses, allowing them to make more efficient decisions around assigning tasks and projects and identifying training opportunities for their team members.
Just note that many employees find tracking tools invasive and see them as a sign that their employers or managers don’t trust them. If you’re looking for a less obtrusive way to gather productivity data, ask your employees to keep a spreadsheet documenting their daily efforts and the estimated amount of time they spend per activity. This gives you insight into the approximate number of hours employees spend per task, without potentially breaching their trust and damaging the manager-employee relationship.
5. Monitor ongoing performance.
If managers simply evaluate employee performance in the weeks leading up to a review, they risk succumbing to recency bias and forgetting all the exceptional work their employees have completed throughout the year. In order to give a thorough assessment of an employee’s performance throughout the entire review period, managers should periodically touch base with their direct reports to learn what they’re working on, how they’re progressing toward their goals, and in what areas they need help. Weekly or biweekly one-on-ones are the best opportunity for these conversations to occur, and they give managers strong insights into ongoing employee performance.
“If you can promote a culture of open and honest communication, having one-on-one meetings with employees is a fantastic way not just to monitor their progress, but also to motivate and inspire them,” noted Tina Hawk, Senior Vice President of Human Resources at employment background check company GoodHire. “One-on-ones should be used to fill in the details of a picture painted by the data, encourage employees, and to stay close to the human reality behind employee performance.”
You’ll just want to make sure that managers have a convenient place to store all their notes from their one-on-ones and any feedback they share with their team members throughout the year. This way, managers can easily scan their notes come review time and recall how their employees were faring throughout the past year.
These casual one-on-one check-ins also allow managers to revisit and adjust their team members’ goals as necessary throughout the year. For example, if business priorities change or a goal is no longer reasonably attainable, managers can update an employee’s goals to be more relevant and timely to the business’s and the employee’s needs. Since goals are such an integral part of assessing employee performance, having managers and their employees periodically review them can help introduce fairness to the process and ensure that each individual has realistic, attainable targets.
6. Remain objective.
Having managers utilize goals and collect peer feedback for their employees isn’t enough to ensure your organization’s performance reviews remain 100% objective. You also need to make sure that managers don’t let personal biases influence their rating decisions. This is increasingly important as employees phase back into working from the office or adopt hybrid working schedules; you don’t want managers to rank employees they see more frequently in the office higher than their just-as-hard-working remote or hybrid colleagues. This unfair and non-objective ranking can foster resentment among teams and push your employees to doubt the effectiveness of your overall performance management processes.
Instead, conduct manager training ahead of your review cycle to keep unconscious bias top-of-mind for your People leaders. That can help ensure that they assess their employees objectively based on their achievements and work — not how often they’re present in the office.
7. Calibrate reviews.
Lastly, to make sure that your reviews are fair and equal for all of your employees, you’ll want to conduct performance review calibrations. Calibrations ensure that employee performance ratings don’t vary based on who is giving the review. For instance, Manager A might be more lenient and give everyone on their team a rating of “exceeds expectations,” or five out of five, while Manager B might have a different definition of what performance warrants that rating and give all of their employees “met expectations,” or three out of five, as they want to encourage their direct reports to grow.
Leaving an employee’s score to the discretion of their manager can lead to an unfair review process, but calibrations conversations can counter this by teaching managers to apply a uniform company standard when reviewing their direct reports’ performance at work, while simultaneously making employees’ performance evaluations more fair and honest.
Tracking performance across a dispersed team doesn’t have to be difficult — if you have the right tools at your disposal. Lattice’s People management platform can keep your team’s performance reviews, calibrations, goals, and career development opportunities all in one place, so your managers can seamlessly access all of their direct reports’ information come review time and ensure they’re sharing accurate, fair assessments and feedback. Schedule a demo to see Lattice for yourself and start building people-centric review processes at your organization.