Why The Pandemic Hasn’t Changed The Way We Measure Employee Productivity
Founder & CEO of QA Mentor, Inc., an independent software testing company headquartered in New York.
First, there was “work-life balance.” Then we transitioned to “work-life harmony.” Now the latest catchphrase is “work-life integration.” There’s no doubt that Covid-19 has been a game-changer for the business community, the full effects of which we’re yet to experience and properly contextualize. The pandemic is forcing more people than ever before to work from home, pushing enterprise leaders to question existing ways of tracking employee productivity.
But even before the coronavirus hit, a growing number of people were already working from wherever an electrical socket was available. The trend of the mobile and on-demand workforce has been with us for years. Even the term “digital nomad” is no longer considered as exotic as it was a decade ago. As far back as 2017, the Freelancers Union, in partnership with Upwork, projected that the majority of the U.S. workforce would be freelancing by 2027. This is because in the knowledge economy, work isn’t really a physical destination so much as a digital process delivery. In other words, we’ve been on this train for a while already. Covid-19 has just accelerated the pace of the journey.
In this modern employment climate, supervisors no longer micromanage their employees’ every move. Neither do they care how many hours employees clock in. Managers are thought of as coaches and mentors, not as bosses in the traditional sense of the term. The future of workforce management is increasingly anchored around broader assessment criteria and individual ownership of work. This is especially important given business divisions where targets aren’t as clear cut, as would be the case with sales or manufacturing. For example, departments like HR and PR that used to be considered administrative or back-office are expected to justify their existence in the corporate framework by demonstrating their connection to the revenue stream. What the pandemic has done is amplified this trend and brought it into sharper focus.
Measuring employee productivity comes down to a simple question: “What are the employees delivering?” How do we determine this in a remote culture? Here are a few ways:
Find The Right Tools For Measuring Employee Productivity
A whole slew of apps streamline employee management toward building stronger goal-setting cultures. The market is packed with all kinds of solutions that are user-friendly, easy to use and engaging to employees, and that promote autonomy and boost productivity.
If you want the best, look for tools that provide the following:
Instant feedback. Applications that facilitate feedback management help managers align important objectives, provide immediate comments to their team members and ensure that reviews are expertly done.
Activity Oversight. Social media groups and text messages are fast becoming obsolete. When it comes to workplace communication, secure, centralized solutions are the new normal. Managers can use them to prompt employees to review and agree to communication policies and add or remove members.
Predictable scheduling. As policies regarding predictable scheduling continue to expand across the globe, more and more firms rely on tools that allow employees to initiate voluntary schedule changes through shift swaps. They empower workers to choose shifts on their own and be more autonomous. At the same time, they enable managers to oversee teams’ shift-swapping and communication in the enterprise dashboard and keep records of schedules and employee information.
Geofencing technology for employee productivity and location management. These location-based service apps give managers greater control over requiring employees to be on certain sites and complete specific tasks.
Boost Employee Engagement, And Productivity Follows
Ernst & Young has found that the level of employee engagement is directly correlated with the level of client satisfaction and a company’s key operational and financial results. But to achieve that level of engagement, employees must be able to see how their role contributes to the success of their team and organization, according to Gallup. Today’s workforce wants jobs that come with a sense of purpose, and once employees find the right fit, engagement soars. This is especially true for the millennial generation and younger employees in general.
For this reason, generic employment surveys and annual reviews aren’t the best tools for gauging engagement. As Gallup further points out, activating performance development hinges on three components: establishing expectations, continual coaching and creating accountability. By focusing on these three bedrocks, managers foster employee interactions that are encouraging, purposeful and rewarding in ways that annual or quarterly reviews simply are not. While many managers want to simplify performance reviews even more, this move can be off-putting for workers and make them feel like a mere number.
Set Clear Expectations, And Regularly Stay In Touch
Considering that we have less opportunity for face-to-face meetings, it’s imperative that managers communicate clearly about what’s expected of employees. Better yet is to involve employees in creating performance expectations. Gallup has found that employees who have a voice in defining success for their role are 3.6 times more likely than other employees to be engaged.
The best way for employees to know what’s expected of them is to establish regular, predictable meetings. Defining management processes is a bottleneck for many enterprises, especially hypergrowth startups. But in a new remote culture, it can be even more challenging. Employees can feel out of touch if there’s no regular check-in to ensure alignment and that progress is being made. I like to think of regular meetings as roundtables or assemblies where each team member has the floor to raise questions. Just as important are regular one-on-one meetings where employees can share things they otherwise wouldn’t in a public forum.
Many people already worked from home before the pandemic hit, but the way we measure employee productivity has been evolving for years. To manage today’s workforce, companies need to continue to embrace new tools, boost employee engagement, set clear expectations and regularly stay in touch. This is the only way for enterprises to compete successfully in a technological reality that’s undeniably here to stay.
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