As businesses across the globe are becoming more agile and the concept of work is evolving as well, a lot of real-world problems are arising for employers.
These are a few issues that top the list:
- How to schedule work across offices around different locations, cities and even countries
- How to encourage collaboration when teams work in different corners on the globe and across time zones
- Measuring or gauging employee performance via time (clocking in or clocking out to be more precise) when schedules and duties differ
The concern here is that with agile work, a lot of employees no longer work from standard offices and are performing their tasks offsite, working from home or remote locations, or working odd hours, without access to infrastructure to provide a time-based evaluation. As such, slacking off has become a concern for employers, both because it is happening and because you think it might be happening as well (which is worse because it puts you in a bad spot mentally).
So, it's good to understand your options as a manager, or as an employer. To help keep expectations clear and build transparent models of gauging employee performance, here are a few tips that can help you engage with your human resources.
1. Non-invasive performance review mechanisms
First things first – your employees are the engine that drives your corporate machine. They are the lifeblood that pumps through your industrial veins, so it is important to acknowledge their concerns and build an environment that is communicative, transparent and welcoming.
It is good to be straight with your employees. I have experienced horrible examples where some of my past employers didn't understand me coming in late and didn't acknowledge me going home late either.
Part of my job was dealing with international customers, across time zones – something that caused me to sit in late and something I would make up for on my other workdays. Your employees are taking time away from their families to be with you. Their time spent with you is an investment, so help them better manage it. Be clear with them and open up communications – tell them that employment is a performance-oriented task and, as such, their performance is subject to evaluation, coaching and improvement.
A good way to do that is to sit down regularly with your employees and chat, asking them how their workdays are proceeding and if they require any support. This will help you get a sense of their work direction and also help set up a non-invasive performance review mechanism.
2. Set up skill-based expectations
It is a good idea to match employee skills with organizational expectations. You may have star performers who are spending time in the trenches waiting for a good opportunity to come along that helps them shine.
This is where your human resources (HR) departments come in handy. Regular surveys and employee roundtables help you get a sense of where employee morale lies. They also help you explore individual talents and get a sense of employees waiting to be discovered.
When you've built an environment where employee strengths are matched with organizational expectations, you have a recipe for success. According to Harvard, setting up "the organization of your dreams" is about adding value to your employees instead of merely extracting it, and the work itself is intrinsically rewarding.
If you've built an environment that acknowledges employee strengths and build work for them around that, you've built a dream company around your dream team.
These sessions are different from the ones you should regularly do with your employees or staff. Those are done to keep people motivated and in check. These are done to help plan successions, transfers and/or promotions.
3. Employ systems that help measure and achieve productivity goals
Now that a conducive work environment has been built, it is time to employ tools to assist with respect to both measuring performance (not as a way to judge) and to improve it as well. Since I have been mostly consulting clients on how to improve their internal and external processes – to help boost efficiency and market reputation – here are a few tools that I recommend to people and advise businesses to at least try:
- I've been using Slack, and it's a pretty good tool to organize conversations and encourage collaboration. It's also a pretty nifty tool to help build structured internal communication, and it helps employees work better and faster, which keeps the productivity flowing and in check.
- Another brilliant tool to manage employee schedules is Monday.com. I love how customizable it is. It feels non-invasive and assistive. The idea is to build systems that are natural and welcoming, that don't feel like the border police.
- Another key area that is often overlooked is time management. A lot of clients come to me with this exact problem: "How can we employ systems that are non-invasive and real-world?" They are seeking systems that maintain timesheets and monitor attendance while employees are working across geographies trying to meet employer interests. I recommend Deputy to all my clients who manage storefront teams or front-line staff. It's a very good tool that helps employees report back very organically.
The objective is not to make employees feel like their performance is being monitored; it is about building enough trust for them to acknowledge that transparency and self-improvement is in everybody's best interest.
4. Coach and motivate till it hurts
It's very important to keep employees motivated. As a consultant, the one thing I wanted to do was to turn a typical HR head into a Head of Happiness – that is the title that I've thought of adopting one day when my own startup sees the day of light.
The reason for the entire Head of Happiness pitch was my inspiration with the city of Dubai and promise to turn Dubai into the happiest city on the planet. That, among other things, is the vision of Dubai's leadership and its visionary leader His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, someone who understands that the future is built in the present.
To build such visions and to help your employees see the bigger picture, you have to make them understand what the bigger picture is in the first place. That is why, with most organizations that I coach, I spend the most time on its people.
Because people will translate your ideas into reality, to keep them moving forward, you have to coach and motivate them. Coaching is all about imparting the right amount of wisdom to boost productivity and not overburden the individual. Motivation is both monetary (in the form of appraisals – bonuses, incentives, promotions, etc.) and non-monetary (in the form of retreats, offsite trainings, employee appreciation, etc.)
Summing it up
Sometimes, in business, we lose sight of what's important, why we took the leap in the first place. I have this final piece of advice for all you folks out there: Sit down once in a while and review what your purpose was. Did you really want to be the best soap maker on the planet, or was it something simpler? In an effort to achieve profits and to maximize the business's potential, we sometimes deviate from our core, and that (though we might fail to acknowledge it) makes us unhappy in some form or the other.
Your purpose is important for your employees as well. Your absolute focus gives them the confidence that their careers and their lives are in good hands, and that confidence lets them focus on what's important – performance.