July 25, 2021
Performance Management 13 March 2020
The Best Ways to Evaluate Remote Employees
Dillon Chen

Employee Evaluations are an important part of growing a company. When done properly, it can be a great source of information and essential to using Succession Pathways for retention within your company. Evaluations often consist of performance analysis that is used in employee improvement as well as internal promotions and pay raises. 

Things are a little different when evaluating remote workers as there is no daily in-person interaction to evaluate. While you can apply some traditional methods used with your in-office employees to measure their performance, here are some other ways experts in the industry suggest to evaluate your remote employees by:

Evaluate Quality and Quantity instead of Time Worked

Kristen Donnelly of Abbey-research.com holds weekly meetings with her remote employees that define a clear-set task list with negotiated deadlines. She says, 

"Realistically, if you're willing to have a remote employee, you need to be willing to shift the metrics to "tasks accomplished and quality of them" versus hours spent."

Kristen uses standard KPIs for her current remote employees but has helped other companies do online time cards and other cloud-based items to track these metrics.

When you have more than one remote employee, you should ideally have two or more employees working on similar projects to help you evaluate Quality and Quantity more accurately. James Pollard, a marketing consultant at TheAdvisorCoach.com, recommends that,

"You evaluate their performance by seeing how long it takes them to complete tasks and how well they do them. If you notice that one employee takes twice as long as the other one to do what is essentially the same thing, cut the slow employee off, because he/she is likely not managing time well." 

Evaluate based on Outcomes

With over 10 years of experience working remotely, Mike Desjardins, Founder of Cereslogic.com, is of the opinion that

"If you’re measuring performance correctly in an office environment, there will be very little difference in how you evaluate a remote employee vs. an office employee. Performance is best determined by outcomes, and whether an employee is meeting measurable benchmarks or goals."

This is true regardless of what kind of environment you’re working in. As a manager, it is up to you to set those measurable benchmarks and goals so that you get the desired outcomes. Chances are the employee is doing a good job if it benefits your company.

As a manager, it's best to let employees know what you want the outcome to be and help guide their work towards accomplishing that final goal. Daisy Jing, Founder and CEO of Banish says,

I've been working and handling a team remotely for years now. As much as possible, the highest priority is efficiency. We don't really care about our attire or how pretty everyone is - we just care about end results and teamwork. Our remote team revolves more on trust and passion. We trust each other every day and know that our passion will always make ends meet. Because we all have one mission/vision, it is expected that we are on par with each other.

Evaluate based on Clear Metrics and Expectations

Melissa Smith, the founder of The Personal Virtual Assistant, knows that metrics are important when it comes to properly evaluating remote workers. She recommends creating metrics based on expectations for the employee and then measuring employee performance based on the expectations set.

"Like any goal, employee performance cannot be achieved if no one knows what it is. The key to working well with remote employees is to be very clear and specific with all expectations. This drastically reduces the need for any micromanagement."

A few examples given by Melissa of ways performance could be measured include customer satisfaction, but only if the company has created a way to determine how and when customers are satisfied. Community engagement is another metric not easily evaluated, but you could offer the opportunity to implement new procedures, strategies, and ways for other remote employees to collaborate and have the employee track their own progress.

Evaluating with clear expectations is also used by Business Executive Coach Dave Schoenbeck who says, 

"When handing out tasks to individuals on a virtual team, it’s important that you very clearly dictate your expectations. Your explanation should include deadlines and defined details about the task itself."

This will ensure you are not disappointed in the finished product as employees will be less likely to ask for your input when they aren’t seeing you on a daily basis. When everyone is on the same page, you open up the gates to do more and form meaningful, professional relationships.

Evaluate based on Internal Feedback

When evaluating their remote employees, Matt Bentley of CanIRank.com recently implemented an internal feedback process where each employee completes 4 short surveys. Each survey covers a fellow consultant, a team lead, a manager, and a self-evaluation. The surveys are only two short questions asking for the strengths and areas of improvement for each survey subject.

"It’s quick and easy to complete but provides insight into how our employees are interacting with one another, how they feel about those leading them, and where they feel their talents could be utilized more effectively or where they might need more training."

Using this method is a good way to get an accurate evaluation because your employees themselves are the ones who are most affected by the outcomes.  

Evaluate with 1:1 Performance Reviews

As with your in-office employees, structured and scheduled performance reviews are a time-tested way to evaluate remote employees.

Shelley Hayes who manages a team of 20 mostly remote employees at Community Health Charities relies heavily on video check-ins on a team basis and also 1:1 with each employee. She says, 

"We evaluate performance using the same performance review standards and timeline for remote employees. New hires will never be surprised during a scheduled performance review as we definitely work on providing both positive and improvement feedback during regular 1:1's."

Holding regular performance reviews takes away the pressure and anxiety associated with the typical once-a-year review. It's also a good way to keep track of your remote employees' performance and make necessary adjustments sooner rather than later.

Trust in your Remote Employees

Even in the best of circumstances, it can be hard to evaluate the performance of your in-office employees, much less your remote workers! Trust in this situation on both sides is key to a strong relationship. Maura Thomas, the founder of RegainYourTime.com, gives the following advice when it comes to remote employees:

"To effectively manage remote workers, supervisors must believe—unless they have evidence to the contrary—that people are working even if they are not in the office. What’s required are metrics to refute or confirm anecdotal evidence and personal assumptions."

Maura continues on to say that for knowledge work, productivity metrics are hard to come by because productivity can be an intangible quality. Most existing metrics are based on industrial-age environments that are more product-oriented than service-oriented. Because of this, the typical quantitative metrics may be less relevant for measuring the productivity of knowledge work.

Unless your metrics show otherwise, trust that your remote employees are working hard to complete the tasks you give them. 

Evaluating Remote Employees is a necessary interaction to ensuring a good ROI on their work as well as assist with their development and growth. Through evaluation, companies can make their goals known and remote employees will see how their work aligns with completing those goals. This is especially important in order to help them see the big picture and continuously improve their performance no matter where they do their work.