Employee Performance Management – Virtual Assistants – AND Local Staff
Hours vs. Output Management Styles
There’s a tendency in the U.S. to focus on “hours worked” when managing employees. This is probably a hangover from the industrial revolution, where output was mostly consistent for each hour worked. If there is a major learning that we can pass on, one that often makes the difference between mediocre and breakout performance, it is to focus on “tasks accomplished” rather than “hours worked”.
Time and again we have seen staff ratchet up their performance when incentives, competition, or even just praise, rewards them for work done rather than worrying about whether the employee worked a full eight hours a day.
When it comes to offshore virtual assistants, tracking their time spent working is analogous to counting calories as a way of deciding whether you have a healthy diet. While it will tell you if you have eaten too much or too little, it’s probably the worst way to try to get healthy. Although MacDonald’s will probably love you for it!
Similarly, installing some software on a virtual assistant’s computer will tell you whether they are at their desk doing “something”, but it will not tell you whether they are working very slowly, efficiently, or even doing the right things. It will certainly not tell you whether they are creatively solving problems.
The best thing you can do for your business when managing staff is to clearly identify “what” needs to be done. Set initial expectations as to the rate those things need to be done. Treat them as key metrics and measure them. Then encourage reward and or praise your staff for improving upon their output.
Employee Management Economics 101
This leads to a key value. Valuing output rather than hours spent working.
We would rather see an employee work fewer hours (even though they got paid for more of them) if their output, their performance is equal to or greater than our expectations.
Making this mindset change becomes much easier when you internalize one key concept. This is, most people can find ways to work faster, more efficiently, AND produce better quality output if it is in their interest to do so. On the other hand, if they are paid by the hour and attention is focused on hours worked, if an employee cannot finish early for the day if they have completed their work then you will get hours worked, not improved productivity.
When “hours worked” is the key metric, it is in an employee’s interest to do as little as possible, just enough to keep the boss from being annoyed with them. This is true for any worker where “hours worked” is the key metric, where the business’s attention is focused. Where “tasks completed” is the key metric it is in the employee’s interest to figure out ways to work as efficiently as possible.
Work Expands To Fill The Space Available
If an employee has to work eight hours regardless of what they get done, why would they figure out how to get their work completed more efficiently? What are they going to do for the remaining two hours if they can get it all done in six? For a lot of knowledge-based workers, hourly pay kills brain cells.