Measuring progress and productivity of workers

Work Has Changed, So Must the Way We Measure Productivity

May 21,2020 Collaboration and Productivity
Kaya Ismail
By Kaya Ismail

With the global pandemic forcing employees to work from home, many managers are still trying to figure out how to adapt to the change. In fact, 76% of HR leaders in a poll by Gartner reported that the top employee complaint they’re receiving during the coronavirus outbreak is concerns from managers about the productivity of their teams working remotely.

If employees can’t be seen working, how can managers ensure the work gets done?  With this question in mind, we’ve asked business leaders and managers how measuring results are changing, whether measuring even matters, and the future of employee management.

How Measuring Results Is Changing

“The overnight move to operating with a remote workforce has created an opportunity for companies to become very clear on what metrics, goals and results are business critical,” stated Lindsay Dagiantis, VP of Human Resources at Chicago, IL-based Envoy Global. They’re rapidly shifting the tools and technologies they use for communication to ensure managers have visibility into the progress of employees. “Technology has a big impact on this,” Dagiantis said, “but it’s also an opportunity for companies and managers to rethink what is being measured and why.”

“Now that remote work prevents managers from ‘looking over the shoulder’ of their employees to verify productivity, there are still many ways for teams to effectively communicate and stay on track,” added Caitlin Haskins, Senior Account Director at San Francisco, CA-based 10FOLD. More specifically, she suggests that teams adopt a unified task tracking approach with firm deadlines, and regularly meet to discuss whether deliverables are on-track. “During COVID-19, we set up a daily report for these metrics to be sent via email,” she added, “so it’s easy for senior managers to see how we’re tracking for our clients at a higher level.”

Does Measuring Results Matter?

“We’ve discovered visibility is key,” said Haskins, “each team member not only can track their own progress in key areas, but also enter it into a platform where senior leaders can see and have confidence about the productivity of the team.” She sees this as crucial for understanding whether the firm has the capacity to meet client demands, especially because productivity could have shifted as employees adjust to working from home. “As a result, in many cases, we’ve noticed an increase in productivity during COVID-19,” Haskins continued, “everyone knows how important it is to be accountable and is responding to our new ways of tracking results.”

Blake Stockton, Senior Workplace Specialist at New York, NY-based FitSmallBusiness also believes measuring results can significantly increase efficiency. “This system provides a feedback mechanism for both the supervisor and employee,” he said. While measuring results by hours is easier, tracking tasks and deliverables paves the way for better relationships between employees and supervisors. “Measuring results allows for a conversation around what went well or could have gone better completing the deliverable,” Stockton explained, so there’s “a time to reflect on if there should be more efficiency.” By measuring results, therefore, there’s a sense of accountability that can lead to better results.

For Dagiantis, measuring results is crucial for enabling employees to do their best work. “Greater efficiency will follow from measuring results,” she said, “and in turn, foster innovation and creativity.” That’s because it’s difficult to create more efficient processes without having an understanding of how changes impact productivity. “Companies and employees that take this time to seek out ways to embrace new innovations and efficiencies,” Dagiantis continued, “may notice greater results when our world begins to normalize.”

The Future of Management

“The transition back to in-person offices will be a gradual one,” Haskins stated, “and  for the safety of our employees, we’re not rushing it.” She believes the crisis has forced her team to narrow the metrics they track to only those that matter most to the business in the near-term but could be just as critical for long-term success. “To ensure we keep delivering the best results for our clients and support for our staff,” she said, “we’ll keep tracking productivity and results the way we are now.”

Dagiantis believes today’s challenges may spark changes in the way results are measured but is hesitant to say every company will make the shift.“While some may opt to communicate deliverables and goals differently,” she concluded, “we’re still a ways off from a full transformation to a results-only workforce.” Only time will tell if remote work and results-oriented management will be the new norm.

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