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SMART goals for remote work lowers risk of layoffs

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The lack of shrewd SMART goals adapted to the world of working from home may have contributed to the widespread remote worker layoffs. Skip to the very end if you’d like to go ahead and read our recommendations on the adaptation of SMART goals for the remote workforce.

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Famous  Yahoo remote work ban in 2013

Remote worker layoffs have been appearing in the news. This gives people pause. Should human resource managers advocate for remote work policies? Or is it better to wait until the dust settles?

First, news flash! The massive layoffs of workers working from home is not new. While we like to think that Elon Musk opened the floodgates to reveal the 80:20 ratio in action (20% of the top talented workers perform 80% of the work and realize 80% of the productivity), the experience of Yahoo in 2013 takes the cake.

Back in 2013, the then Yahoo CEO, Melissa Mayer directed Yahoo employees working from home to immediately report to the office, as reported by Business Insider, Forbes and Washington Post. At the time, Mayer’s rationale for banning work from home policy was to:

  • increase employee performance and productivity
  • increase employee engagement

Most pundits reasoned, however, that the underlying cause of the remote work ban was to reduce the employee head count by “trimming the fat.” There was speculation that Mayer was using employee self selection. That is surreptitiously encouraging remote workers to make the independent decision to quit working for Yahoo rather than comply. Most  postulated that “it’s a layoff without the associated costs.”

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Massive remote workforce layoffs in 2022 and 2023

As a recap, Entrepreneur lists a few of the companies who have scaled back their remote work policies:

  • Twitter
  • Apple
  • Google
  • Snap
  • General Motors

Second, we’d need to peel the onion and ask, “why have certain multinational companies hastened to retract their liberal work from home policies and regress to the requirement to report to a traditional in person office instead?”

Remote work employers find gaps in 5 areas

ResumeBuilder  may have the answer. And then, maybe not. The company surveyed 1,000 employers. The data revealed that employers, after hastily adopting remote work policies during Covid-19  found a few gaps. They reported to have these expectations in mind when thinking of revoking remote work employee agreements:

  • 55% improvements in communication
  • 50% enhanced creativity
  • 48% increased productivity
  • 39% more positive company culture
  • 31% improved employee oversight

Maybe the failure to adapt the traditional SMART goals used to supervise employees reporting to a traditional in office setting may be the defining factor leading to the revocation of remote work policies.

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Improved infrastructure and systems necessary for remote work

It remains to be seen. Tom Medema, CEO, Bubbles, theorizes that companies are mandating the full return to the traditional office setting, not for the lack of communication, workplace devoid of creativity and lowered productivity, and so on. Rather, he says, “their [employer’s] underlying structures, norms and tools remain optimized for in-person work. Without implementing a new set of norms and expectations, communication strategies, handoff processes and collaboration tools explicitly designed to facilitate practical remote work, they are better off calling employees back into the offices.”

3 Suggestions for setting KPIs for remote workers

To address these complexities that have lead to the hesitancy to adopt remote work policies and/or restrict and cancel them outright we turn to Gallup. Gallup conducted a survey. Based upon their findings, we can determine take SMART to a whole new level. We will discuss the ways in which companies can improve communication, enhance employee creativity, innovation, and improve productivity while also maintaining remote-first employer culture.

Here are some suggestions.

  • establishing KPI (key performance indicators) that allow the remote working employee and supervisor to
    • set performance goals related to his/her work and specific tasks
    • identify benchmarks that measure the success or failure in achieving goals and job assignments (tasks)
  • setting performance metrics and key identifiers to measure how the remote worker
    • collaborates with other team members
    • uses time with colleagues to meet collective goals and complete collaborative tasks
    • demonstrates effective skills in team collaboration through unified goal and task completion
  • maintaining high quality customer satisfaction that
    • demonstrates high quality customer feedback, ratings, and reviews
    • obtains high customer retention, up-sell, re-sell rates
    • minimizes decreased incidents of customer complaints, escalations and incidents

Changes to SMART to improve remote work performance

The time tested method for getting the most out of employees, whether they report to a traditional office environment or work from home is the creation of  SMART goals.  SMART is the acronym for (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, Timely). Even when SMART goals are in place, we now need to adapt these SMART goals for the complexities of a work at home environment.

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The key is to take SMART and use the concept so that supervisors can rate their employees based upon their accomplishments (tasks completed, projects completed), rather than the number of hours they  allocate to office work (while working from home).

Based upon this information, here is an example of a SMART goal in action as it relates to a work from home employee.

  • S – m- a- r- t
    • Specific. The goals must be specific
      • What specifically needs to be done (task specifications and requirements)?
      • When does it need to be done (Year, Quarter, Month, Date, Time)?
      • Who specifically needs to do it?
    • Measurable. The goals must be measurable  
      • Examples of units of measurement (currency, time, units, products, reports, clicks, follows, sales, expenses/COGS, customers, users,  subscriptions, vendors, contracts)
      • Units measured based upon increases/decreases during a specific time period that can be directly traced back to a specific task and specific employee
    • Achievable. The goals must be achievable
      • The goals must be realistic. The tools and resources must be made readily available to support the achievement of the goals
    • Relevant. The goals must be relevant 
      • The goals must be relevant to the specific employee and align with the overall mission of the company
      • Examples of relevancy (increased sales/Sales Department; reduced costs/Accounting, Finance Department; reduced complaints/Customer Service Department; reduction in product returns/Quality Control, Manufacturing; reduction in government auditions/Compliance, Legal; reduced inventory held, Logistics)
    • Time-bound. The goals must include parameters of time
      • When does it need to be done (Year, Quarter, Month, Date, Time)?

If every remote first employer revises SMART goals to reflect the work at home environment, massive remote work layoffs would be a thing of the past.

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