Developing KPI’s: Accountability for Remote Workers

While Marissa Mayer’s decision to remove the privilege of remote work from Yahoo!’s culture was met with shock and bewilderment initially, the truth was that Yahoo!’s remote workforce have been slacking.  Since the company is only as good as its best slacker, putting an end to an easy pay check outside the office was the right move.

Since remote work is here to stay, companies need an objective way to monitor their employees.  Just like an employee sitting in office, a remote employee needs to guarantee a certain level of access to their co-workers.  So, how do you know your remote employees are actually working?

As an employee with a few years experience working remote and working with remote bosses, I’d like to discuss some of the data points I think are pertinent to measuring remote employee connectedness and availability.  As a former Citrix Online employee, I am all too familiar with using GoToMyPC and GoToMeeting as tools to enable a positive, productive remote work experience.

Lets take a look at some data points that could give any boss reason to reign in a slacking remote worker:

  • VPN Access – Timed Logged In
    • Most remote employees access company resources through a VPN for security.  Just like Mayer discovered a lack of VPN use at Yahoo!, tracking the amount of time an employee spends on the VPN is essential to understanding their connectedness.  One could also monitor GoToMyPC usage as an alternative to VPN access.
      • While the goal would be agreed upon between employer and employee as some employees may not need to be connected 8 hours a day, the employee should be accountable for at least 90% of the VPN requirement.
  • Phone/Skype Availability – Calls Answered or Callback Time
    • This is simple, if you call the employee, whether via phone or Skype, do they answer?  If they don’t answer, how long does it take for them to call you back?
      • The goal here is to have the employee answer the phone approximately 33% of random calls, with a response time of four hours for messages left.
  • Email Use – Messages Received/Response Time
    • This may or may not be for all employees but since email is taking over for phone calls, remote employees should expect to be in contact with their manager on a routine basis.  The KPI should focus on proactive emails during the period (i.e. did I receive an email from employee) and the response time for emails sent to the employee.
      • Goal is defined as receiving X number of emails from employee with a 24-hour response time for emails sent to the employee.
  • Meeting Attendance – Meetings Attended/Attendance Time
    • Is the employee actually attending team or company meetings?  This KPI tracks their attendance and how long they are connected.  After all, an employee who sits out of team meetings is not likely to be a productive member. Services like GoToMeeting make it easy to know who is connected to a meeting.
      • Goal is to have the employee attend 90% of a meeting’s length and attend 100% of meetings.  Making sure the employee knows to attend a meeting is, of course, the manager’s responsibility.

As you can see, any contact point the employee has with the company can be used to monitor their engagement.  You might be asking yourself how to track these KPI’s and who owns it.  Well, it depends on whether the company has a KPI program or whether a manager is interested in tracking their own team.   In my opinion, whether or not an employee is productive falls squarely on the shoulders of the direct report manager and it would be up to them to create the KPI’s suitable for the situation, leveraging IT and BI departments to access data.

Once a manager begins monitoring remote worker KPI’s, they enable an objective analysis and discussion of expectations between both parties.  Putting the KPI’s onto a shared dashboard is a great way to start off a one on one meeting.

What does an actual dashboard for remote employees look like?  Stay tuned, a mockup is in the works.  In the meantime, what are your thoughts on remote employee KPIs?  leave me a comment or hit me up on Twitter (@mooney1).

What Makes a KPI Special

A key performance indicator (KPI) is a vital tool for an organization seeking grow smart profits, expand customer loyalty, and build a scalable workforce.  While many companies stick a chronological set of numbers on a chart to project it on a wall in front of stakeholders, the reality is what they are seeing may not be a true KPI.   Its just a number unless its special.

To be special, the number needs to have most of the following characteristics in common:

  1. Represents a hierarchy either by time, or by dimension
    1.  Example: Sales broken by Year, Quarter, Month, Week or even day, then sliced by Sales Region
  2. Directly actionable with each stakeholder holding a piece of the action.
    1. Example: Sales are down 15% from goal, Sales Managers, Marketing Coordinators, etc can all speak to how their actions influenced the number
  3. Has  common definition across departments throughout the company
    1. Example: A sale is an action by a user from a variety of channels and promotions that resulted in payment and excludes affiliates for instance.  This definition is signed off by Marketing, Customer Service, Sales, and Product.
  4. Does not include hidden meaning and/or does not hide a trend
    1. Example: A number compared year over year, month over month completely ignores a trend that can be alarming.  While sales could be up year over year, this metric could hide a sudden drop in sales from the beginning of the year.
  5. When displayed with other metrics on a dashboard, the number represents a part of the story and does not represent a conflict to other metrics.
    1. Example: A number is where a chart shows Sales sky-rocketing, but another chart shows New Revenue way down, and yet another charts show Average Deal Size (ADS) flat.  The three charts give conflicting information, so one or more can’t be a true KPI for this business.  In fact, in this case, Sales is the corrupted KPI as it does not conform to a standardized definition.
  6. Supporting data is transparent
    1. Example: Analysts should be able to review aggregate data that rolls up to the KPI for audit reasons.  It provides transparency and allows for drill down capabilities. Often the Analysts receive direct support from a data team are sourced from data sources throughout the business.
  7. The number evolves with the business
    1. Example: A number is just a number unless it can change readily with the business. A team supports the KPI, new data is added when created, and definitions evolve as the understanding of the business evolves.
  8. A goal can easily be set and tracked from the number
    1. Example: If the number is fully understood, a goal can be set and tracked against.  If you can’t answer, “Where do we need to be by the end of the Year?”, then its a number, not a KPI.

Throughout my career, I’ve seen numbers and I’ve seen KPI’s.  The most successful companies I worked with not only have a data team to support their KPIs, but they engage in regular discussions of the KPIs at all levels of the business.  Successful, scalable, and profitable businesses are the ones using special numbers at their core.

When was the last time you saw a number masquerading as a KPI?

Where’s YOUR Documentation?

Any good reporting/analytics team in a company must have a foundation.  Whether the reporting/analytics team is in Marketing, Sales, Finance, or Customer Service, documentation is the foundation by which companies operate and communicate.

Without documentation there is no:

  • foundation to build reports
  • no defnition of data
  • no way of effectively communicating concepts
  • evolution of data understanding
  • reporting

For each employee working at a company, we have a responsibility to maintain documentation.  When the Business Systems team comes knocking with their questions of how your part of the business operates, you will be ready.

If you are presenting sales figures to the executive team, you NEED to have an understanding of what your figures include and don’t include.  It is your responsibility to understand your part of the business.

Even the janitor requires documentation.  What’s the sequence to cleaning the offices, how often do the desks and keyboards get wiped down, to how often they need to order toilet paper, maintaining an office for busy employees depends on documentation!

So, where is YOU documentation?