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Shifting The Goalpost: How Should KPIs Change in Remote Work Mode?

Shifting The Goalpost: How Should KPIs Change in Remote Work Mode?

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With remote and hybrid work transforming the employment scenario, here's how key performance indicators need to evolve to match the changes.

Let us come to terms with how deeply the idea of working remotely has taken root. As per data collected by Global Workplace Analytics, 69% of the US workforce was working from home at the peak of the pandemic. 82% of the surveyed U.S. employees told the firm that they would want to work from home, in brief spells, once the pandemic is over while 46% of those were open to jumping ships if they were not allowed more leeway when it comes to working remotely. 

Another survey by Australian research agency PaperGiant found that Indian employees were echoing similar sentiments. Employees from India- more than any other country surveyed - wished overwhelmingly for remote working benefits. As many as 66% of white-collar employees are interested in working from home and 61% said that they manage to effectively work from home.

The tussle between the two work models

Despite the highly documented benefits of working from home such as increased productivity, reduced expenses, bigger savings, corporates are a tad bit reluctant to extend work from home facilities permanently and to all employees. Corporate culture, for one, is difficult to preserve and sustain in the long run when a sizable portion of the employees work remotely. There is also the spectre of diminished employee morale that managers have to grapple with vis-a-vis remotely working employees. 

The ingredients of an effective KPI policy

Today, HRs face a challenging vista. They are drowning in a sea of data when it comes to assessing employee productivity. However, these data sets are more suited to a bygone world. The new virtual setting demands a reimagination of our existing KPIs or Key Performance Indicators. 

The need of the hour is smarter KPIs. For instance, Google uses an innovative employee productivity measuring framework that has broken off from the earlier models. Called Objective and Key Results (OKR), it assesses each employee's workload by their objectives and links it to the total output of the organization. Under the OKR system, employees outline their key goals for the year ahead, identify the steps to achieve them, and review them quarterly. 

Desperately needed in the current work landscape are evolved KPIs that are keyed into the right parameters to assess remotely working employees. Companies that fail to incorporate them risk alienating individuals working from home and consequently losing them to firms that value them and prioritize their demands. It is high time for firms to revisit their outmoded frameworks and employ new lenses to review the output of remotely working employees.

1. Smarter KPIs assess self-discipline 

Some KPIs are easy to assess and administer. For instance, the productivity of those on the sales team can be evaluated based on their monthly sales figures or on their quote-to-close ratio. However, crystal clear KPIs are not possible for all verticals. It is in such a situation that HRs can effectively judge the efficacy & productivity of the employee on two counts: self-discipline and lucid communication. 

A measure of self-discipline can help HRs & managers identify employees that are struggling with their performance and are likely to fail in meeting their quarterly or annual goals. A more straightforward way of measuring KPIs could be the capacity displayed by an employee to complete tasks assigned to them in a given timeframe. However, in the pandemic era, the management would be wise in not demanding too much too soon on this front. As boundaries of personal and professional lives meld into each other and overlapping demands overwhelm employees, they must be given time to cope with the new dynamic. 

2. KPIs that prioritize effective communication

Effective communication of an employee can be gauged from his ability to put his message across clearly to his juniors, clients and vendors. If team members often find themselves muddled with their agendas and priorities, the team leader is, obviously, lacking in emphasizing goals and setting reasonable timelines. Managers fail as team leaders when they cannot successfully motivate an employee or discipline them when they fail to toe deadlines. Communication finesse and the wherewithal to keep employees focused through professional ups and downs is what separates good team leaders from mediocre ones. 

3. The shift from measuring activity to measuring results

One glaring flaw that quite a few managers suffer from is to confuse frantic activity for hard work. This is not to say that there is no overlap between the two but, at the same time, one needs to be mindful that there is no thumb rule to suggest that one necessarily follows the other. Sound and fury and long work hours don’t mean anything if the results don’t speak for themselves. The gift of the pandemic is that it has set smarter employees free from the yoke of logging in long work hours just to appear hard working. A good majority of managers now understand that working smart invariably beats working hard. A smarter KPI measure should spell out clear, precise measurable goals and the steps to achieve them. 

4. Proactiveness

The pandemic has taken a toll on all of us, be it team leaders or employees. At such a time, the senior leadership of a firm needs to be more conscious about incentivizing and fostering employees who have taken the effort to upskill and keep themselves ahead of the curve by picking up new skill sets. Wherever possible, a firm should dole out financial help in helping employees pursue new competencies. This helps cement employee loyalty while it works to the benefit of the company in terms of better productivity and the cultivation of in-house talent.

5. Continuous and clear feedback 

With the pandemic setting in, annual reviews should, ideally, become a thing of the past. Interactions and reviews are being re-engineered today to deliver immediate and path-correcting feedback. What good is an annual review which kicks the feedback can down the road and drags its feet on quick redressal of employee bottlenecks? A quick chat with a team leader on what went wrong and how it can be prevented from reoccurring in the future can help employees course correct and nip recurrent mistakes in the bud.

Bottom line

The hybrid-working mode is a double-edged sword. Sure, there are cons to it but a strategic, nuanced, and empathetic balancing act can help a company yield the best possible dividends. The promise of the new paradigm lies in how it can help flatten out deeply entrenched hierarchies which have been scuttling creativity, fresh ideas, and new growth impulses for a long time. Further, as the KPIs are realigned to cater to a post-pandemic work milieu, an opportunity to redesign the office environment stands gleaming brightly for those keen on grasping it. 

What is the new office environment we ought to aim for, you ask?

One in which productivity and work quality are at the very best thanks to robust team morale; one that discourages hyper-competition and fosters harmony and cooperation between employees. It is up to team leaders and HRs to tailor together a work environment where individual members feel valued, have their talents acknowledged, and receive support through a rough patch. This is possible only when KPIs are set out clearly and are implemented without any bias or inconsistency. All of this is possible when companies- starting right from the top leadership- start treating their employees as long-term investments.

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