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Clear goals, clear accountability: Measuring success for remote teams

June 19, 2020
Linzi Nield
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For companies that are new to hiring remote employees, one question often rises above all others, “How will we know what they’re working on?” or “How will we track their productivity?” Lack of visibility into the day-to-day efforts of remote team members can invoke fear in management. But, the data tells us they may be worried about the wrong thing. In fact, data shows that remote employees often work longer hours, taking fewer breaks. The bigger challenge facing remote engineers is around loneliness, isolation and burnout.  

At the end of the day, it’s not about time spent staring at a screen, it’s about output. By setting clear goals and KPIs for your remote employees – and holding people accountable for these – a culture of trust can be built in which everyone can thrive. 

Let’s look at a few mechanisms that will help you set transparent expectations for your team. 

Start by gathering input 

As you begin the process of goal-setting, be sure not to do it in a silo. Remote employees may already feel a visibility and trust gap that can widen if they’re not brought into the planning process. Along with regular sprint planning, meet with your team for a quarterly goal-planning exercise and ask what projects they believe could drive most impact.

Create effective goals

Four tips from team performance company Pathlight 

How do you determine the goals themselves? Pathlight, Terminal customer and a source-of-truth platform for managing day-to-day team performance, shared with us some of their recommended approaches:

  1. Set goals and KPIs at both the organization and individual level: Each team member should understand the broader company priorities and how their individual and team OKRs directly advance those company priorities. As a manager, it’s your job to help them see how their contributions relate to the broader strategic goals. 
  1. Set achievable milestones: It’s helpful to break big projects into smaller milestones. Support and encourage team members when they hit those milestones so they feel like they are making progress. At Pathlight, they are called mini-goals. Pathlight software helps track performance against those mini-goals, alerting both frontline managers and their leaders when the goal is close to being achieved or about to be missed. 
  1. Communicate goals frequently: Come up with something simple and catchy to communicate your goals. At Pathlight, for one quarter, the goals structure was HAMS: Hiring, Announcement, Make Money, Ship. It helps to start each team meeting with a quick recap of your quarterly priorities so everyone knows how they contribute to those top priorities. 
  2. Measure progress: There are plenty of tools for measuring and managing OKRs, such as Lattice or 15 Five. But what’s critical is to embrace platforms that not only help you set your OKRs but also measure the KPIs that help you achieve your OKRs. Whether it’s “X commits a day” or “X% of releases that are bug-free,” codify these KPIs, track and measure them in real-time. 

Drive accountability 

You can set goals all day – but unless you’ve built mechanisms to help the team get work done and be accountable for those goals, it’s possible some team members may fall short. 

Keep in mind a few of these methods to keep team members accountable. 

  • Create focus time. Communication can be a huge time suck for remote teams – be sure that managers are giving team members time to get work done. At Pathlight, they set aside two, three-hour focus blocks a week. During this time the team turns off Slack, email, and other distractions. Before it begins, each person shares what they plan to work on, helping everyone stay accountable. 
  • Report on progress: Build mechanisms where team members report on the progress of their goals each week, whether that’s an asynchronous update in a document or a round-robin during the weekly team meeting. 
  • Use 1:1s effectively. Instead of going over status updates, which could be done offline, use your 1-on-1s to coach and develop your report, resolve problems or blockers to their work and help them advance professionally. Encourage your direct reports to create an agenda for their 1-on-1s so they take charge of their own performance.

Ready for more tips on building and managing remote teams in our Remote Teams Playbook? Download it here

About Pathlight: Pathlight is a command center to manage, measure, coach and lead teams like a pro. Learn more

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