Evaluating Team Performance

How to Evaluate and Appraise Team Performance in Virtual Teams

Performance appraisal is considered a challenging task by many business managers. When it comes to virtual workplaces however, performance appraisal for virtual teams becomes even more daunting.

With the virtual team members distributed globally and coming from different cultures and backgrounds, it is important to ensure that the entire process of performance evaluation is perceived as fair and upright by all the stakeholders.

Teams are the typical building blocks of an organisation. They provide companies with the means to combine the various skills, talents and perspectives of a group of individuals to achieve corporate goals.

Anybody who has been in business or manages staff on behalf of an organisation know, “There is no I in TEAM“.

In the past, we’d organise projects and colocate all team members because of the high levels of interdependencies that are inherent in the required activities.

More companies are organising projects and teams over distance, with teams increasingly consisting of people who are based in dispersed geographical locations, come from different cultural backgrounds, speak different languages and were raised in different countries with different value systems.

With all it’s challenges, the adoption of a virtual team model has the potential to create huge advantages as more understood about the use of virtual teams in R&D.

  1. Offers Round-the-Clock Productivity

    By selecting geographic locations appropriately and distributing processing to each location, it is possible to reduce project turnaround times to one third. All this without needing to introduce another shift.

  2. Creates the Foundations for Global Expansion

    By having a project team in a different location, it becomes easier to expand the capabilities by providing sales and support functions. Also, since the infrastructure is already present, it can be done at a lower incremental cost.

It’s a thought we’ve pondered for some time; for ourselves and also where we’re increasingly working with a geographically dispersed client base.

From our own experience evolving Semantia, Conversion Leadership, as well as research conducted into best practices for evaluating and appraising team performance, we offer the following strategies for high-performance virtual teams.

Hold Regular Team Meetings

Allow time to check-in with each team member; whether that’s a contractor, employee or even a client. Seek to identify cultural differences that will likely exist and develop a common understanding and respect for these among team members.

Establish Regular One-on-One Discussions

This time helps you get to know each team member and to provide feedback in a private and informal setting. They can also be a time for sharing ideas – especially in situations where the team member may be uncomfortable sharing them in public.

Provide Feedback in Real Time

Reprimanding a team member for something the did (or didn’t do) 6 months ago will achieve little positive outcome. Waiting 6 months before congratulating a team member on a job well done is likely also demoralising. Remember also, to reprimand in private and congratulate in public.

Negotiate Goals Together

During the appraisal or performance evaluation process, seek to offer your team member choices and to understand their rationale for the choices they take. People who feel they have some control over their job or life have been found to be much more likely to work to their highest ability.

Problem Detection and Conflict Resolution

We found there is a need to establish a process for managing conflict up front. This is particularly important when a conflict affects the performance of other team members or jeopardises the team’s goals or communication. Do team members know to whom they can turn to resolve a conflict? Who has the power to make a final decision, perhaps the project sponsor, business owner, or a subcommittee of senior stakeholders?

This sends the message that no matter what, the team must work together. There are many teamwork strategies and methods and available. In the end however, effective teamwork in a virtual setting, no single individual demonstrates that no single individual is responsible for the decisions about who does what and, certainly not, how it gets done.

Maintaining Team Order

You may also find it valuable to ask each team member to perform a 360o Review.

During a 360o Review, each individual team member evaluates both their own performance as well as the performance of other members of the team.

Be sure to stress that comparative evaluations will be used for developmental and performance purposes. There’s nothing worst than a 360o Review getting personal.

If for some reason you are required to conduct a team performance appraisal the following list of questions will help you begin the process.

  • Does your team have clearly identified actionable steps to achieve its goals?
  • Does your team monitor its progress using concrete measures and KPIs?
  • Does your team regularly and frequently assess how well they are working together?
  • Are your team’s successes (both big and small) acknowledged?
  • Is your team the right size, with the right mix of players for your purpose?
  • Does your team have the flexibility to bring in people and change membership to suit the current project?
  • Does your team have the right resources (money, time, people, authority)?
  • Does your team meet regularly?
  • Does your team have effective leadership?
  • Do your team members understand their roles and are they able to carry them out effectively?
  • Does your team have good networks and clear lines of communication with internal and external stakeholders and management?
  • Does your team have useful meetings with clear identification of tasks?
  • Does your team have effective ways of managing conflict?
  • Is your team functioning in a way that people freely express ideas and share opinions?
  • Does your team stay motivated?
  • Do your team members collectively have all the skills required to do their work?

This video from our Conversion Leadership client David Guest, summarises quite well what a business owner needs to be thinking about when seeking the right employees in their business.

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