In light of COVID-19, many organisations have been remote working for a few months now. However, despite this, some businesses, or even departments are struggling to manage their staff performance effectively. How can we ensure our virtual teams have a high-performance culture? What part does high trust play into high performance and limiting underperformance?
On our recent webinar, with around 120 people attending, we conducted a poll on the impact of trust, wellbeing and productivity. Of those polled, 78% thought that trust directly impacted the level of productivity in staff. In addition, 62% believed that high trust led to high productivity, and a further 13% thought low trust generated low productivity. So, if there are issues with underperformance in your organisation, the question is why? Is it due to poor management, lack of clarity, or a low trust culture leading to a lack of motivation?
Trust is the foundation of all successful relationships and without it, it can lead to a truly toxic culture, which impacts not just productivity but job retention as well. With low trust in a remote working environment, concerns are magnified without the fake reassurance of being able to physically see people throughout the working day. However, this lack of visibility should not mean that managers resort to micromanagement. Often this only exacerbates the issue. We’ve heard horror stories of mandatory timesheets that must detail every second of the day, and in this current climate, do you really want this to reflect as your organisations values? As one with little to no trust?
We trust those who meet our expectations time and time again. But how can this trust be achieved if those expectations are not clear in the first place? The best start to building trust is to be open and honest about organisational and role expectations from the outset. From here, you can co-create objectives with clear agreed milestones, deliverables and timelines that are documented by the individual. This not only provides clarity to the individual but will also provide visibility of which work has been completed, without the dreaded micromanagement. Find out more about how to write SMART objectives in our free white paper here.
Now that you have clearly defined goals, you can move the focus from input to outputs. Use statements like ‘I don’t expect you to be nailed to your desk 9-5, I just trust you to get the job done well’. The vast majority of people will pay back this trust in goodwill and increased productivity. This also helps to show that you understand that your staff may have other commitments at home e.g. children. Therefore, you are encouraging a positive culture of understanding and trust.
Empower your employees by being available for support and encouraging them to ask questions if needed. Utilise Skype or similar for quick responses but encourage a call if you sense confusion or radio silence. Without empowerment, staff can feel overwhelmed or feel as though they are not up to the task. This ease of on-going communication should be separate from weekly catch-ups, which we recommend you honour and pre-diarise. Attending these weekly virtual check-ins provides the individual the opportunity to reflect on their own wellbeing, what they’ve achieved in the past week, as well as the ability to refocus on new tasks for the week ahead.
It is crucial that we encourage a culture of personal responsibility and accountability, where it is safe to own mistakes. Don’t allow blame to fester in any way. If mistakes are made, use it to allow the individual to grow and learn by asking what they could do differently next time. Another way to encourage this high trust culture is to share your own personal challenges or pain points. By leading by example, this can encourage others to open up about challenges fairly.
Most importantly, we should recognise great performance and share with the team or through wider forums. Perhaps you might even have a performance management tool like Actus to help with this. As a result, this not only encourages those who have received recognition to keep up the positive momentum but the wider team as well. We’ve often said there is no substitute for knowing your people. This is important for many reasons, but in this case, by being aware of when your employees are working longer hours or having a low day, is critical. Encourage ad hoc breaks, with the reinforced messaging of the focus on outputs not inputs. A decline in mental wellbeing is not good for them, or the business.
Certainly, it is important to note that you can try your best to create a culture of high trust and high performance, and there might be a small minority that continues to underperform for other reasons. If, but only if you have tried everything as outlined in our infographic on building trust as a remote manager, and you find that someone isn’t delivering despite clarity, support and feedback then don’t be afraid to take action. It is good to recognise when to have the tough ‘line in the sand’ conversation and if it is appropriate to formalise. Remember to be hard on facts, and open-minded on reasons. With this conversation, you may be able to understand the root cause of the underperformance. From there, you may be able to work out ways to remove the cause.
In this blog, we have outlined ways in which you can build a high trust culture in order to limit underperformance. This content is based on a recent HR Uprising Podcast hosted by the CEO of Actus Software, Lucinda Carney. We constantly strive to build a better workplace for people, whether that be by providing quality software, webinars, free resources, or through our HR Uprising Podcast. Why not sign up for our latest webinar on ‘Dealing with performance issues (virtually)‘.
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