Your leaders are the glue that holds your organization together. If you are responsible for learning and development, you need to be sure you are preparing them with the skills they need to succeed. That includes the skills needed to lead and manage performance in virtual teams.
Here are three things your leaders should be doing to better manage performance in virtual teams.
Delivering Ongoing Performance Feedback
While formal, annual performance reviews are still common practice in most businesses, they can actually have a negative impact on professional growth, morale and retention. Research found 57 percent of millennials have had a negative reaction to a performance review—28 percent looked for a new job and 35 percent complained to coworkers. However, eighty-five percent of millennial employees said they would feel more confident in their current position if they could have more frequent performance conversations with their manager.
Millennials in particular are also used to receiving constant feedback, whether it’s from a status update on social media or from an employer. Annual performance evaluations feel outdated and irrelevant to them; they would much rather have more frequent interaction and feedback.
In order to deliver feedback more consistently, virtual managers need to leverage technologies like Google Hangouts and Slack for instant feedback, as well as performance management systems like 15Five. Some companies even use smartphone apps to give instant feedback.
These solutions allow managers to check in on a regular basis, help employees set goals and hold them accountable. Although they can greatly enhance communication between managers and employees, they should not replace virtually coaching entirely. To ensure leaders are making the best use of technology to support their coaching, follow these best practices:
- Build mutual trust through both formal and informal conversations
- Establish formal processes to monitor performance and provide feedback
- Never provide negative feedback using an app. These tools are most useful for providing praise and recognition. Negative feedback should always be given face-to-face – either in person or using video.
- Identify a mentor at the employee’s location who can be a resource when you are not available
For more tips, check out our previous post on using technology to enhance virtual coaching.
Setting Standards and Expectations
Setting expectations provides the foundation for providing effective performance feedback and coaching. This includes setting goals with employees, documenting those goals and using them to guide performance conversations. Coaching conversations, especially ones that focus on development, do not have to be as difficult or uncomfortable when everyone agrees on what “good looks like” and what outcomes are expected and when they are expected. (If your performance manage process could use an overhaul, here are a few things to consider.)
Providing Incentives and Recognition
Ignoring employees has an incredibly damaging effect on their engagement in the company. Forty percent of employees who reported they felt ignored also reported that they were actively disengaged with their work, according to a recent Gallup poll.
Distance and lack of proximity increases the possibility employees may not get their manager’s attention on a regular basis. When managing performance in virtual teams, it’s even more important to use rewards and recognition to drive employee productivity, engagement and motivation.
Here are a few things virtual leaders may want to consider:
- Build a virtual community through organizing online chats and video conferences to encourage staff to share ideas and concerns.
- Make an effort to recognize individual efforts on a regular basis. When someone takes initiative or exceeds expectations, mention it on a team call or send a note that specifically points out their accomplishment.
- When offering rewards for a job well done, find out what individuals would prefer in order to provide a reward that aligns with their interests.
Need more help guiding your virtual leaders to success?
While these tips are a good starting point, more formal training can help virtual leaders take their skills to the next level. Learn more about how to make it happen in this guide, The Business Case for Virtual Leadership Development.