Tracking customer-facing team performance has become a hot button issue in a post-COVID-19 world. Startup Pathlight is among the companies trying to make hay with new tools dedicated to tracking productivity and transforming management in a remote-first world. Computer Business Review spoke with CEO Alex Kvamme.
We were all forced into this work-from-home experiment, and it’s likely to continue for the foreseeable future in some shape or form. What have been some of the challenges for employees and leaders?
Our current situation can be divided into two groups of challenges—BC (Before Covid) and AC (After Covid). During BC, you had the usual challenges of getting everyone on your team aligned on what was expected of them, getting them to be more productive and organized more effectively. Then you had the ongoing issue of having to deal with increasing amounts of data and analyzing it, which takes up a lot of time.
Today, we’re all working remote and managers are expected to use the same playbook as before the pandemic, but the pressure is even greater now as a result of what’s going on. Everyone is expected to raise their game, and become more organized, more data-driven, and more communicative. Everything is changing rapidly and managers need to be sure that everyone is on the same page during these stressful times and aligned on those goals.
There have been a few stories about companies using technology to “monitor” or “spy” on their employees. What are your thoughts?
The rise of remote work has prompted many companies to adopt employee monitoring software to keep an eye on employees. Many of these solutions track things like activity and computer usage and many are installed without employee consent. This is a blatant breach of trust — which has serious long-term implications on employee morale.
While many of these companies have good intentions, employee monitoring is a short-term fix that very quickly becomes counterproductive and toxic. But it’s more than that— it becomes destructive when it reaches that level.
Rather than relying on monitoring and surveillance technology, managers should embrace a “trust and verify” management approach as the only sustainable way of managing a remote team. Relying on surveillance and micromanagement to oversee your team might be a more efficient short-term solution, but it’s always going to be more destructive and demoralizing in the long term.
What do you think the effect of using these technologies will have on a company’s culture?
Ultimately, oversight tactics like leveraging surveillance technologies and micromanaging are counterproductive and communicate to employees that you don’t trust them. Imagine your manager coming up to you and flat out saying “I don’t trust you” — how would that make you feel? This is precisely the message this type of activity conveys. And it will quickly erode morale and lead to decreased productivity. Trust is the secret ingredient to managing an effective remote team.
Is there a better way to manage employees? Surely, there is tons of data that lives within enterprise systems. There has to be a way to leverage that.
The best companies and managers today are turning employees into their own managers. To achieve this, managers need to pay attention to leading and lagging indicators. Leading indicators refer to goals of effort, input, or activity to ensure that the day-to-day system is working. Lagging indicators refer to goals of output or effectiveness. The great part is you don’t have to be an all-star analyst to do this.
It sometimes feels as if every manager is expected to also be a data analyst given the growing management software stack, endless dashboard and reports. But that’s a waste of a manager’s time. This should all be automated to provide fast and effortless visibility into data and metrics.
If you’re a manager, and find data intimidating, have no fear. There are easy ways to make this work for you. For example, your company might have 50 different KPIs or metrics they deem important, but upon closer inspection, you might find that only three to five of those are relevant to you and your team. The ability to pare these down and focus on what matters is what will enable you to focus on growing and enabling your employees — instead of just crunching numbers.
The end result here is that giving employees data will help them better understand where they stand, how they are performing, and what steps they need to take to improve. Self-management is the future of management — especially in a world where hybrid / remote work is permanent.