How to Manage Your Remote Team: Setting Goals
Setting clear goals with specific metrics, following structured timelines for check-ins and evaluation periods, and creating expectations and cultural norms upfront helps managers of remote teams envision success and achieve it.
Remote work is becoming more common. Technology is evolving on a consistent basis to make it easier and easier for professionals to communicate outside of traditional office environments, across time zones, and even in the air. This means that more employees are adapting and working remotely than ever before - if only for a few hours each week.
These changes in technology and working style necessitate subsequent changes in management styles.
Effective remote managers have learned to adapt to the changing times and adjust their practices so that their teams can be even more productive than they were in the office, crushing professional goals while living flexible lifestyles. They’ve learned that communication needs to be intentional, and that they can no longer count on popping into an employee’s physical workspace for a “check-in”.
The key to these remote managers’ success (and yours!) lies in meaningful goal-setting. Remote employees have the freedom to decide where they want to work, but they still need clear direction from their managers in order to stay on track. Setting clear goals with specific metrics, following structured timelines for check-ins and evaluation periods, and creating expectations and cultural norms upfront helps managers of remote teams envision success and achieve it.
Factors to Keep in Mind When Setting Goals with Your Remote Team
If you’re already setting individual goals within your organization, you’re on the right track, and the transition to setting goals for your remote employees will be relatively seamless. However, if your company operates on more of a deliverable-by-deliverable basis, you may want to consider implementing goals for each of your remote employees so that everyone is on the same page and working toward the same outcome.
While remote employees tend to be self-motivated (a recent study by And Co and Remote Year revealed that fewer than 7% of respondents thought that they needed to have a manager present in order to be productive), it’s important to ensure that they feel like they have enough managerial guidance to prioritize their work.
That’s where goal-setting comes in.
Every organization has its own goal-setting process, but we’d like to suggest a few key factors for you to focus on when creating benchmarks and milestones for your remote employees.
It seems obvious, but starting the goal-setting process by determining your employee’s desired outcomes and your own are is an essential step. Do you want to focus on personal or professional goals? Are the best goals focused on your employee as an individual or as a part of a larger team? What is the ideal result for you as a manager and for the employee?
Setting aside time to have an in-depth discussion about goals with your remote employee will ensure that each of these is crystal clear. You’ll both know what you’re hoping to achieve by the end of the month, the end of the quarter, and the end of the year. With this general outcome in mind, your remote team can feel confident knowing they’re working on projects that will help them be successful. Additionally, you can feel comfortable knowing that they’re making progress toward goals that will have a meaningful impact on the company.
Goal-setting is so much more than just choosing a sales target or an execution goal that “sounds right” and asking your employee to hit it. For remote employees, implementing S.M.A.R.T. goals is much more effective.
S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. Each of these principles is integral to creating goals that make sense for each employee, are based in data, are actionable, and are easily identifiable as completed or not completed. This is the step in the process where you and your employee will take your desired outcomes from step one and flesh out the details. Use these prompts to get you started:
What is the exact result that you would like to see your employee achieve? Be specific in your wording so that there is no gray area.
Example: Paulina will make $25,000 in sales by the end of Quarter 3.
How will you be able to tell if your employee achieved their goal or not? What metrics will you use to measure this goal? If there is not a metric associated with your goal, it is not a S.M.A.R.T. goal, and should be re-evaluated.
Example: Travis will increase traffic to companyx.com by 40% by the end of Quarter 3.
In this case, the metric is traffic, or pageviews, on the company’s website.
Is this goal within the realm of possibility? Have you looked at past data in order to determine a goal that will require effort to complete, but is not unreasonable?
Example: Helena will secure 10 new clients for Company X by the end of Quarter 3.
If, in the past, Helena has only been able to secure 3 new clients per quarter, this goal may not be entirely achievable.
Does the goal make sense for the company? Does it align with where the company wants to go and grow over the time period?
Example: Maurizio will plan 3 team outings during Quarter 3.
If fostering company culture is not a priority for Company X, this goal may not be entirely relevant for Maurizio this quarter.
Does the goal have a deadline? Is there a date and time when you can determine if the goal has been completed?
Example: Kyra will complete 25 employee evaluations by the end of Quarter 3.
Determining clear key progress indicators (KPIs) for each of your employee’s goals is one of the most important steps of goal-setting, which is why we’re giving it an extra shout out!
If you’re creating quarterly goals, then find the KPI that best represents the outcome of the benchmark you’ve set for your employee.
If you’re focused on a yearly goal, then decide where you’d like to be on this goal by the end of the year, and back into the metric your employee should focus on each quarter. This “retro-planning” can help your employee focus on a short-term goal that will help them achieve their year-long goal in the long run.
How Often Should You Check In on Goals?
Remember, remote employees are working flexibly from coworking spaces in your community or around the world. You won’t be able to stop by their desk and ask them how their goals are coming along. Instead, put time on your calendar on a consistent basis to catch up.
We suggest holding weekly 1:1s where you can chat with your employee over a video call to discuss current projects and deliverables, in addition to a weekly meeting where your entire team can align on collective goals. Then, hold monthly sessions where you can review their goals and the progress they’ve made so far, as well as any roadblocks that they may be experiencing. This is a good cadence for ensuring that your remote employee is staying productive, but also to check in on their wellbeing and feelings about their position.
BONUS: Pro Tips for Managing Remote Teams
Now that you know how to set goals for your remote employees, you may be searching for other tips and resources that can help you be an effective remote manager. Look no further.
To maintain an enjoyable company culture, schedule regular time with employees for non-work discussions. This will help replace the traditional “water cooler talk” that takes place in conventional offices. A great way to implement this strategy without having awkward, drawn-out conversations just to have them is to show up a few minutes early for video calls and catch up with your employees and colleagues then. You’ll have just enough time to make a human connection with them without it feeling forced.
Discuss working norms and expectations with your remote employees upfront. Many companies allow remote workers to not only choose where they work, but also when. However, if your company operates on a strict schedule, and your remote employee needs to be available during a specific time period, make that clear. Communication is key in remote work, and making sure that your entire team is on the same page is critical.
Technology makes remote work possible, but if you don’t adapt your company’s communication channels to reflect that, you may wind up with missed signals or over communication. Embrace channels like email and video calls, but also think about integrating an instant messaging channel like Slack for quick, one-off questions or non-work related shoutouts. Talk with your team to determine which channel should be used for which purpose so that everyone is communicating effectively.
While we’re on the topic of tech, there are a ton of digital tools out there to help your remote team stay organized and productive. Think: project management tools, cloud storage software, time zone calculators, and more. You’ll want to look into what’s available, cost-effective, and what could be the perfect fit for your team.
Finally, hear what Remote Year CEO Greg Caplan had to say about flexible work at the 2018 Future of Work Summit held in Brooklyn, New York. His unique perspective as the co-founder of a fully-distributed company may just surprise you.