Managers of remote staff who are dispersed across the world, need to find effective ways of setting goals and monitoring their achievement.

Because technology has changed so rapidly and enabled the expansion of remote work, it’s becoming more commonplace to have teams distributed that are location-independent. But these new working styles mean that managers also need to adapt and communicate with staff in different ways to ensure productivity.

It’s therefore important to take the time to actually meet with your remote staff to set goals collaboratively, to monitor their progress, and to follow up with them on a regular basis. This is part of the new best practice in terms of remote management of staff.

Because you can’t chat informally in the company canteen or pop into a colleague’s office for a quick catch-up, it’s important that communication with remote staff transitions to being more intentional. This includes scheduling meaningful goal-setting sessions that provide specific goals, that have clear metrics and deadlines. It also requires that you schedule check-ins and post-goal evaluation meetings to identify challenges and find ways to resolve them.

It’s also important that managers help to motivate staff who work from home, because otherwise their productivity may be affected. Remote staff may have a lot more freedom, but they also need direction and support to keep on track. They may also need mentoring and feedback to help them grow and realise what’s expected.

It also helps to share your expectations and working culture with your staff so that they know upfront what’s expected of them and so they can better meet those expectations.

If staff feel happy, engaged and that they have a strong connection with their managers and the rest of the team, this can have a variety of positive effects. Effective and regular communication is therefore critical to successfully managing staff – particularly in the virtual staff setting.

Below are some tips on how best to conduct goal-setting sessions with your remote staff.


1.   Connect with employees

The first step is to take time getting to really know your employees on a personal level so you get a better sense of what their passions are, what’s important to them and what motivates them. This can also help you find out where their strengths and weaknesses lie, and what level of support or mentoring they need.

New employees should be given some formal onboarding where they are introduced to company policies, processes, working culture and where they are introduced to other members of the team. Try to actively connect employees with other colleagues through video chats, workshop sessions, or even Slack conversations.

It’s also important to give new staff an overview of the company mission and long-term goals so they can see their part in the bigger picture. This can help employees feel more connected to the organization.

To connect with your employees and get to know them better, you can schedule some virtual informal chat sessions where you take 10 to 20 minutes talking about the work day, and getting some general feedback about what was enjoyable and where any challenges lie.

Finding out more about what things motivate your employee, can then help you when you later chat about setting goals.

It’s important to go beyond surface chit-chat and really try to strike up a personal connection, as this can be a particular challenge when working remotely if it’s not intentionally cultivated.

This can establish a feeling of connectedness, which can help employees to feel more motivated and part of a team. It can also help to enhance productivity and reduce staff turnover.


2.   Define your expectations and company values

If you take time to explain to your staff what you expect of them and what your company values are, and why they are being asked to take on specific goals and tasks, they will be more likely to perform well. That’s because they will understand the big picture and they won’t have to spend ages on trying to figure out what you want them to do.

Part of defining clear expectations is letting staff know how you would like them to communicate and submit work. For example, will it be done via Slack, email, or some other platform or tool.

If your company values collaboration, you can hold regular brainstorming sessions and team meetings and encourage active participation and sharing of ideas.

By explaining company values, processes and expectations, staff feel more empowered to contribute towards company goals. It also helps staff to prioritize their tasks more effectively and to really take ownership of the projects they are working on.


3.   Find out what motivates employees and offer rewards

Once you know what motivates your staff, you can try and find ways to combine their ambitions with their tasks. It can be a delicate balancing act to try and ensure you meet the needs of the company and those of the employee.

When you set goals with your staff, it’s helpful to show them how meeting those goals can also help them achieve their other personal goals. This could be learning new skills, being mentored, receiving educational training opportunities, or a salary increase.

Some remote employees who perform well, feel so overlooked and unappreciated that they become despondent and isolated. It’s therefore important for managers to keep in regular contact with employees and to acknowledge and reward them for their good work. This could be in the form of public recognition at team meetings or via an email to all staff.

You can also ask employees what they really dream about on a personal level and then try to help them work towards that goal.


4.   Set goals and create an action plan

When meeting with your employee to discuss work goals (and you try to combine those with factors that motivate them) you need to ensure clear communication around your expectations.

It’s a good idea to write down the goal that you would like them to achieve – for example, writing a new Communications Strategy for the company. Then let them know what they need to do to achieve this goal and see whether they have the skills and capacity to achieve that goal.

If they need some support, then take notes and perhaps you could get another employee to assist or to mentor them so that they are able to achieve it.

Then you could let your employee create an action plan of how they will achieve the goal. The action plan should be detailed, quite specific, measurable, and achievable – and you will need to review it together. Naturally there should be timeframes in the action plan.


5.   Identify supporting resources

It’s common for people to get distracted and side-tracked from completing goals, so systems that support staff to stay on track can be helpful. When you set goals with your remote staff, it’s important to identify what supporting resources they need and how they will be able to access them.


6.   Communicate effectively and regularly

Managers need to strike a balance between communicating regularly and not micromanaging staff. It’s best to give remote staff the flexibility and autonomy to manage their goals within the deadlines that you set and then to measure their performance according to whether they were able to meet the goals on time and effectively.

Regular check-ins can then be used to make sure they are keeping on track and to see if there’s any support that they need.


7.   Check-ins, feedback, and evaluation

It’s also important for managers to schedule time for regular check-ins with employees to see how they are coping and if they need any help or support to achieve their goals and tasks. You can then also monitor what progress they are making and if they are managing to keep on track with their action plan.

Managers should take an active role in providing feedback and guidance before the completion of the project to ensure that goals are being appropriately implemented. That way you can also adjust goals or their implementation where necessary, if for example an employee has misinterpreted an instruction.

It’s also important to give feedback and to have a formal evaluation of the work submitted or performed, so that employees can continuously learn and enhance their skills. It also helps employees to figure out what is expected for future work that they plan to submit.

You may decide to schedule weekly check-ins and it’s useful to have employees track their own progress and to set the discussion topics for meetings. Even if you notice an employee is not able to do this effectively, then that is an area that you can help them to improve on.

Remember to give kudos where they are deserved and to take opportunities to encourage and motivate your employee to continue working productively and effectively.


Final thoughts on effectively setting goals with remote staff

Many of us have busy online work lives that require lots of multi-tasking and time-management and we may feel like there’s just no spare time to personally connect with remote employees. However, managers who set tasks for staff without any consultation, assuming they know what the staff member wants and needs – may be in for a surprise down the road.

Employees who feel supported, engaged, part of a team, valued and respected will ultimately be more motivated to achieve goals and to perform well. Likewise, employees who have a personal connection with their managers, are also more able to ask for advice or help when needed, and are more likely to make suggestions or to innovate new ideas.

Generally, more engaged and motivated employees are happier, more focused and driven to achieve overall company goals. That’s why it’s important to create a real connection with staff, to clearly define your expectations dns company values and culture, to find out what motivates them, and to collaboratively set goals and reflect on their achievement.