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Managing performance virtually: issues with ‘teleworkers’


An article from Human Resource Development Quarterly on the Zigon Performance Group website looks into factors affecting the success or otherwise of undertaking evaluation with teleworkers, and finds that assessing whether the individual is suitable for this type of working first will have a significant influence on their subsequent performance.

The study finds that the key factors influencing managing teleworkers are opportunities for face-to-face contact and opportunities for evaluating performance.

Bearing in mind that if workers have questions and queries, it's much more difficult for them to receive answers and support remotely, frequent phone conversations are critical, not least because it's easy to overlook e-mails or misinterpret the way things are written in them.

In terms of evaluating performance, much as in a traditional office-based environment, there is a clear need to provide goals for achieving success, which are visible and obvious to both teleworker and manager.

Above all, there is a need to make sure that teleworking is suitable for the employee, otherwise dissatisfaction will show itself during performance appraisals in other ways. A lack of regular face-to-face contact where an employee is dissatisfied can lead to difficult review sessions when manager and teleworker do get to meet.

The key issue here is whether an individual is suited to the nature of teleworking. Some employees do need regular contact with other workers; others flourish without it. "Weak employees are likely to become weaker without the guidance or the energy that others in an office can bring to them", say the reports authors.

In the examples given, based on Sales and Marketing departments with remote workers, those who performed best in that situation were already high performers who had excellent written and verbal communication skills and were extremely motivated and self-disciplined. They also had an excellent awareness of what their organisation was trying to achieve, and their role in achieving its goals.

To conclude, the amount, kind, and quality of contact between supervisors and remote workers who are suitably placed will either enhance or diminish worker satisfaction and success, but to really establish whether the set up will work, an organisation should ascertain whether a worker is suitable for teleworking before they start.

For further information on managing and selecting teleworkers, Islington Business Hub has a useful set of questions to ask and tips on establishing telework agreements.


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