Manage performance by output not hours

For many, becoming a line manager is part and parcel of climbing the career ladder. But if you’re not a natural leader – or you haven’t been sufficiently upskilled to become one – it can be difficult to get the most out of your direct reports when you sit next to them every day, let alone in a new, more flexible working world.

The solution is to focus on output rather than input, and look at the finished product you want from staff, and how to measure that.

Gauging performance by results could create opportunities for more diverse people to move up to management: If we properly manage staff by outcome, and they work their day more flexibly from home, then we could see different people rising to the top and being successful.

Increased remote working during lockdown has also instigated a trend of employers installing surveillance software to track their employees at home and make sure they’re doing their jobs when they’re supposed to be.

Research by review website Top10VPN found demand for such software jumped 87 per cent in April this year, compared to monthly pre-pandemic averages.

But this approach, is not a trusting way to operate. Performance management is supposed to be a “positive” process to support and develop people.

In his 2012 book Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours, Pozen offers an alternative productivity measurement system that he calls “performance objectives with success metrics.”

“People should spend real time figuring out what their goals, priorities, and objectives are, and agree on success metrics on how you can tell after a week or a month whether you have achieved those,” he says.

Pozen’s system empowers workers to work on their own schedules, so long as they’re able to complete the agreed upon tasks within the agreed upon timeframe. Though it may require extra effort on behalf of employers and managers, however, Pozen believes that the practice of defining goals helps organizations better focus their efforts and better utilize their human resources. “It’s more than just replacing hours; it helps develop consensus on what the organization is trying to achieve, and how they measure success,” he says.

Redefining how you measure productivity can be a daunting task, but maintaining the status quo is often more difficult in the face of today’s remote working reality.

Moving from a workplace that emphasizes hours to one that emphasizes output is no small feat and requires employers and managers to have a number of systems already in place. Chief among them, is a culture of trust.