woman working on laptop and using headset at kitchen table
Measuring employee productivity is more important than ever, especially with the rising number of remote employees. — Getty Images/fizkes

Measuring employee productivity has always been important, but it's especially critical in the modern world when so many workforces have gone fully remote.

It's easy for remote employees to be "out of sight, out of mind," but staying on top of their performance is essential for fostering an efficient team. With the right productivity metrics, you can ensure everyone is on track and making progress.

How to measure employee productivity

There are many simple ways to measure your employees' performance, even if their normal "9-to-5" schedule has been disrupted by their obligations at home.

Project management tools

Karen Oakey, director of human resources at Fracture, recommends using collaborative project management tools to accommodate different teams as employees try to balance their work and personal life.

"We use basic project management tools like JIRA, Asana and Google Suite, as well as internally-developed processes to track initiatives, project tasks and deliverables to completion," she said.

'Planned-to-done' tasks

Since the work of each department and employee is different, using a single productivity metric isn't always fair or accurate, said Sahin Boydas, founder and CEO of RemoteTeam.com. However, for consistency, Boydas's team focuses mainly on "planned-to-done" tasks.

"Employees are assessed based on how well they plan their work, alone or with the team, and how well they execute their tasks to meet deadlines," he said.

[Read: 4 Smart Strategies for Conducting Remote Employee Reviews]

Net Promoter Score

A net promoter score (NPS) tells you the likelihood of customers recommending your brand and its products to a friend or colleague. Becca Hoeft, chief brand officer of Sunrise Banks, found that calculating her company's NPS is a direct indicator of employee productivity.

"If our customers' needs aren't being met, then productivity will be down," Hoeft said. "A high NPS score is indicative of a well-oiled team that's sufficiently meeting customer needs."

Results

No matter what an individual employee's job title, measuring their productivity is all about results. Defining what successful results look like for each employee, depending on their projects, provides a more accurate picture of their overall performance, said Nerissa Zhang, CEO of The Bright App.

For example, she explained, a social media manager's measurable results might be to post a certain number of times per day or week on the company's platforms, or boost follower counts by a certain percentage each quarter.

What if an employee's productivity is slipping?

If an employee is falling short based on their performance metrics, the first course of action should always be honest, transparent communication without judgment or immediate punishment.

"If you notice the employee is consistently slipping, this should be the first flag to start the conversation before it snowballs into larger issues," Oakey told CO—.

Oakey advised having an open discussion about what's working and what's not, and really listening to what the employee has to say.

"Whenever an employee is not meeting agreed-upon deadlines or expectations, we have a personal conversation with them to see what's behind their slip in productivity," added Zhang. "Based on this conversation, we can determine the cause of the problem and come up with a solution together."

[Read: CO— Blueprint: Recruiting and Managing Employees in a Virtual World]

Whenever an employee is not meeting agreed-upon deadlines or expectations, we have a personal conversation with them to see what's behind their slip in productivity.

Nerissa Zhang, CEO, The Bright App

How to get everyone on board with productivity metrics

Employees typically understand why managers need to keep tabs on productivity, but if it's communicated poorly, your staff might feel like they're being micromanaged. Here's how to measure employee productivity without making your team feel like they're under constant pressure and surveillance.

Let them know how you're measuring productivity

Being transparent about how you're measuring your workers' productivity will both hold them accountable and inspire them to do their best work at all times.

"I recommend making staff aware of ... metrics you're using to measure employee performance," said Hoeft. "Discuss it in weekly team meetings and get everyone up to speed on how to improve the customer experience."

Set clear expectations

Oakey noted that clearly defining employees' deliverables, including deadlines, is key to ensuring everyone is on the same page.

"Set clear performance expectations and a path to open communication if questions arise or further support is needed," she added.

Get them involved in their own success

Employee involvement and support from leadership should be a priority for all managers when tracking their workers' productivity, said Boydas.

"Involve … employees right from the stage where you define the metrics [for] productivity," he said.

This strategy allows managers to "identify the uniqueness of each employee," added Boydas.

[Read: How to Write a Career Development Plan for Your Employees]

Foster a culture of open communication

Zhang said her team reviews weekly reports from their employees outlining what they've accomplished and worked on, including a section where they discuss any challenges they faced. This encourages employees to openly communicate their concerns without fear of reprisal.

"Your employees need to feel comfortable being honest when they're being tasked with providing unrealistic results or asking for additional support when they need it," said Zhang.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published December 07, 2020