Performance management for virtual teams

Performance management is the process of making sure that an employee’s outputs and daily activities are meeting the business’s goals in an efficient and effective manner. Mostly, managers prefer to maintain daily interactions and physical face-to-face meetings in order to create a complete overall picture of the employee’s performance. So how can this work if you are no longer co-located and you are managing virtual teams?

Remote working isn’t exactly new. It’s been slowly increasing in popularity over the last decade, and with the recent COVID-19 pandemic, its application has become widespread. 

This can put pressure on managers to continue providing effective performance management, while working from home. This highlights just how essential it is for managers to invest in developing their remote managing skills.

New to remote working? Feel like you might need some help getting to grips with time management now you’re not in the office? Check out our workshop on Getting stuff done.

So here are some top tips to help you better manage your virtual team in ways that continue to benefit them and your organisation.

Tips for managing virtual teams

Clarity for high performing virtual teams

It is important to set clear, structured goals, KPI and objectives for your employees, in order to help manage their performance. Laying out these objectives can help to create a coherent plan of action, which you can then follow up on. This helps your colleagues to structure their time management and focus on the right tasks.

Communication for high performing virtual teams

Communication is absolutely key in virtual teams. When working remotely, there are a range of digital platforms that can make it super simple for teams to keep in touch. Do ensure colleagues are able to see when everyone is available, and also able to offer flexibility when booking conversations.  This helps everyone to feel more connected, build trust between co-workers and allow for more open communication.

Check-ins for high performing virtual teams

Following on from above, just as you would in an office, have regular virtual meeting and check-ins. Dedicating time for each employee you manage means that you can have regular catch-ups with them and be on top of any work or personal challenges they may be facing. This is also key for staying updated with each other’s world in general. 

However, checking in is not the same as checking up on your team. Rather than monitoring whether team members are completing their tasks, try to find out whether they have everything they need to do so. In addition, build in time for relationship and team building. Just because you have gone virtual, doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a social element to work.

Trust is key for high performing virtual teams

Trust is a crucial factor in every relationship, both working and personal. When it comes to the relationship between managers and their team, having trust ensures that you can manage in a much more open and effective way. However, many remote managers are struggling with trust.

A study by HBR has shown that the absence of trust, and the resulting high levels of monitoring and micromanagement, negatively impact employees’ wellbeing and productivity. Furthermore, those managers who reported struggling with leading their virtual team also reported the lowest levels of employee autonomy and the highest levels of monitoring. At the same time, 49% of employees with high levels of monitoring reported being anxious most of the time, compared to only 7% of employees with low levels of monitoring. Similar trends were shown in other areas, including job satisfaction and work-home conflicts.

The Effect of Monitoring on Virtual Teams - HIgh levels of monitoring negatively impacts anxiety and work-home conflicts

It’s important to remember that activity is not the same as productivity. And while remote workers often have less visibility than their office-based colleagues, this does not mean that their productivity is any lower.

Dealing with underperformance in virtual teams

An important part of performance management is dealing with underperformance. However, spotting this can often be harder when managing a remote team due to issues such as the lack of visibility discussed above. So how do you actually spot underperformance? Besides the obvious failure to reach targets, there are many subtle signs we can pick up on. Is a team member constantly bargaining, trying to lessen the outcome of a given task? Are they frequently outsourcing tasks to another colleague or department? Or perhaps there are those who generally lower the motivation and ambition of the rest of the team by discouraging others from going above and beyond. While all of these can be a part of healthy time management and delegation techniques, it can be useful for managers to look out for patterns.

If you do suspect someone is underperforming, the first step should always be a conversation. Why are they not performing at their best? Try to consider all factors, and rather than blaming and pressuring the individual, work together to get to the bottom of it – how can you help them get back on track? What do they need to perform at their best?


It might seem more difficult to manage your colleagues when they and you are working from home, but it doesn’t need to be.

Trusting your colleagues to work, despite not having sight of them at all times, is a huge part of this. By setting out clear, measurable objectives and keeping up regular communication, trust will build as a result of that, making for much stronger working relationships.

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