Limited Visibility Into Employee Performance: How to Leverage Data for Remote Team Management

Nov 16, 2023 | Performance Management

In hybrid and remote workforces, having limited visibility into employee performance poses a challenge for managers and HR. Today, 66% of workplaces follow a hybrid model, while 30% are preparing to adopt one. However, many organizations lack the tools to adequately observe employee performance remotely. Unprepared for these transformations, 68% of managers feel overwhelmed.

However, few organizations have taken action to support managers in effectively managing employees remotely. In 2022, just 16% of employers said they had changed their performance management strategies.

Lacking insights about daily performance, managers may struggle to identify employees’ needs, track achievements, and determine how to coach them. However, leveraging performance data and analytics can deliver invaluable insights to inform decision-making. By using these solutions, organizations can substantially strengthen performance management outcomes.

Table of Contents

1. The Consequences of Limited Visibility Into Employee Performance

2. The Importance of Leveraging Performance Data and Analytics

3. Best Practices in Boosting Visibility into Employee Performance

4. Employee Performance Data FAQs

The Consequences of Limited Visibility Into Employee Performance

Having limited visibility into employee performance data brings serious consequences. Without the proper tools, HR professionals have difficulty identifying top performers, addressing underperformance, and recognizing achievements. Let’s discuss these consequences in more detail now.

Poor Decision-Making (and Prevalence of Bias)

“In most organizations, success is more likely a reflection of winning a popularity contest, or harnessing a strong reputation, than actually contributing to the organization’s success,” write Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Ben Waber in Harvard Business Review. Talented employees may go unrecognized as those unprepared for promotion are allowed to advance.

Too often, managers rely on “following their instincts” to measure performance, they explain. That’s not a viable strategy, because a complex range of factors from interpersonal behaviour to job skills influence performance. Failing to look at performance through an analytical lens causes managers to fall prey to bias. Yet using subjective ratings remains the most common method of performance evaluation.

Today, 64% of leaders and managers believe employees working on site perform better than those working remotely, for instance. This belief reveals proximity bias—the tendency for managers to believe those with whom they work most closely are performing better. And this bias can lead to unfair decisions related to training and advancement, undermining inclusiveness.

Underperformance Issues

Underperformance may go unnoticed without adequate visibility into how employees are performing. Managers may not detect issues—or their causes—until they’ve been affecting the employee and organization for some time. One individual can undermine the success of team projects by missing deadlines or producing substandard work. By the time a manager notices the issue, it may have become quite severe—and the root causes may be difficult to identify.

Lower Engagement and Retention

Management accounts for 70% of employee engagement. When managers lack visibility into direct reports’ performance, the support they can offer will be limited, decreasing engagement. Additionally, they’ll fail to notice and celebrate employees’ wins, lowering morale. If employees lack visibility into their own progress toward goals, engagement will plummet further. 

In response to these issues, job satisfaction will decline, along with employee retention. If people believe they’re being treated unfairly, or that their managers aren’t coaching them to success, they won’t stick around. 

Now, let’s explore the solution to limited visibility into employee performance.

The Importance of Leveraging Performance Data and Analytics

HR professional is looking at employee performance data
Credit: fauxels / Pexels

The right tools give you access to powerful insights without needing to hire a data engineer. At the team level, managers can use data to spot issues like distraction, collaboration fatigue, and overwork, notes Gabriela Mauch in HBR. They’ll not only recognize underperformance issues—they’ll also see exactly what’s causing them. In such ways, analytics tools will enhance managers’ coaching abilities.

Performance data and analytics can also help HR detect the warning signs of disengagement, burnout, stress, or other problems across the workforce. Further, these tools can reveal which employee groups are affected (e.g., new employees or particular age groups). “Data can help leaders pinpoint who needs help, how quickly the problem is spreading, and where they should prioritize immediate action,” writes Mauch.

Data will also help managers spot top performers, so they can offer them the right enrichment opportunities, stretch assignments, and recognition.

Performance management technology can spark meaningful conversations about employee growth and career paths, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) notes. These tools make what matters more visible, so managers and employees can discuss it. Further, these solutions can help HR understand the ROI of performance improvement initiatives. They’ll see exactly what’s working and what is not.

Best Practices in Boosting Visibility into Employee Performance

HR professionals discussing how they can have more visibility into employee performance
Credit: RDNE Stock project / Pexels

Let’s now explore strategies for collecting and leveraging employee performance data. We’ll discuss the types of data you can collect and how you can use it to dramatically improve employee performance management.

Leverage Tools That Promote Objectivity

Using the right tools will allow you to look at employee performance through a more objective lens. Solutions that gather performance data and deliver clear performance analytics will provide this objective input. Goal-tracking software is a key one. Coupled with a strong analytics and reporting module, it will deliver powerful insights on performance changes for both individuals and teams.

Importantly, the right tools will not just highlight a range of factors affecting performance—they’ll also detect relationships between these variables.

Respect Privacy (and Be Transparent)

Don’t try to monitor every minute of employees’ workday, as Mauch advises. This erodes trust—and it’s not actually helpful. Collecting data on total work time, use of collaborative tools, and number of task switches will prove more relevant (while avoiding invasions of privacy), she notes. Communicate what types of data you aim to collect, too. Transparency will help foster a sense of trust and a positive attitude toward your efforts.

Determine Metrics to Observe

Decide on specific metrics for each role and level, as Chamorro-Premuzic and Waber advise. Make these KPIs known to employees, ensuring that they support company KPIs. Here are a few points to consider:

  • Keep in mind that total hours worked in itself is not an accurate measure of productivity. After all, an employee could be working longer hours due to difficulty with focusing. However, you can look at whether an employee is devoting a reasonable amount of time to their work.
  • You can also look at the time particular tasks take to complete. Is it increasing or decreasing? An increase in time spent on the same task could indicate burnout, Forbes notes. However, you should also consider the quality of the output. Has it risen or fallen in turn? Likewise, are employees devoting the most time to the highest-priority tasks?
  • How quickly are employees moving toward goals? Are they reaching project milestones on time?
  • Time spent in meetings is another worthwhile metric to consider. What percentage of time do employees spend in meetings? Has productivity risen or fallen as meeting time has increased or decreased?
  • Also track the inclusiveness of your efforts. Are employees of particular demographics receiving more support or being viewed as the most promising talent? If so, broaden the reach of your employee development initiatives.

Conversations with employees will also provide a clearer look at their performance, as we’ll address next.

Discuss Work Preferences

“Behavior analytics solutions can help leaders understand and build a baseline for employee norms, including peak productivity periods, normative schedule preferences and workflow bottlenecks and redundancies,” writes Forbes. This can enhance engagement, inclusion, and performance significantly.

Performance management data can help open conversations about these preferences. For example, do collaborations tend to happen at specific times? You can set group norms, and help employees learn when they handle particular types of tasks most productively, with these insights.

Hold “Listening Sessions”

Schedule employee listening sessions where you talk with teams about issues affecting performance. Strong insights about the root causes of performance fluctuations can emerge from group dialogue. Sending out periodic employee surveys can also strengthen your awareness of such issues. 

These subjective measures will complement the collection of “hard data” through a performance management platform. Further, analytics software can track employee listening data over time to identify trends.

Have In-Depth Discussions

Holding weekly one-on-ones will give you a clearer window into employees’ performance. During these conversations, ask thought-provoking questions that help you understand their challenges and recent successes. Checking in several times a week will give you an even clearer picture of how they’re doing. 

Ask questions such as these to gain their perspectives:

  • “What’s the biggest hurdle you’ve faced this week? How did you handle it, and what was the result?”
  • “What concerns do you have about X project moving forward? What could help to resolve them?”
  • “Are you experiencing any interpersonal issues at work? What steps could you take to resolve them?”
  • “What resources or training do you need to take your performance to the next level?”

Leave space for employees to ask their own questions, too.

Focus on Outputs

When managing remote employees, you won’t see exactly how they carried out their work. (Even in-house, you won’t be watching them every moment of the day.) Ultimately, though, that’s okay. Focus on assessing the quality of the actual results they’ve achieved—their assignments completed, their contributions to projects.

Look at work in progress when appropriate, too, offering feedback. Ask to review a draft of a report they’re preparing before the deadline, for instance.

Conduct 360 Surveys

Ask for 360 feedback from each employee’s colleagues on how they communicate and collaborate with their team. The employee should complete a self-assessment as well. You can compare its results against peer feedback to identify blind spots.

As you leverage these strategies, you’ll strengthen employee performance management across your organization. Underperformance issues will be efficiently resolved, while top performers will grow even stronger.

Employee Performance Data FAQs

Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions on employee performance management. 

Does HR need special training to track analytics?

Additional training is certainly beneficial; for one thing, it might help you clarify ideas to senior management. Some organizations are creating a new role called an “analytics translator” that specializes in this area, McKinsey notes. However, with intuitive software, you don’t need to be a data scientist to start leveraging analytics. The system will synthesize data and clearly present findings to you.

How can HR build investment in using performance analytics?

HR should train managers and teams on how to use performance-tracking software on a daily basis. After all, such platforms will prove most valuable when the teams themselves are using them. HR should also emphasize that these tools empower people to steer their own growth and improve managers’ coaching. 

As you use performance analytics to gain visibility into employee performance, you’ll strengthen your ability to support their growth. Managers’ relationships with employees will grow stronger as they hold meaningful discussions on these findings as well. Top performers will receive the support to advance, while struggling employees will receive the extra guidance they need. As a result, teams will grow more cohesive, support one another’s objectives, and move effectively toward their goals.

With the fast-paced nature of today’s business world, strategic goal-setting has become more crucial than ever. Support growth and goal achievement by helping employees craft strong performance goals in these ways.

See for yourself how the right tools can boost visibility into employee performance. Demo our product!

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