10 Tips for Setting Goals as a Remote Company
Newly remote founders and team leaders need to adapt to a new environment, work on communication more than ever before and set clear goals and expectations to keep the team on track. All that without time-wasting, micro-managing or allowing their team to feel undervalued.
So, how to make sure you have an effective goal-setting system in place?
Without clearly communicated goals and measurables, team members will lose vision of the company’s longer-term mission in their day-to-day work, become unmotivated and prioritize tasks that aren't of high value.
Now, aligning your team’s efforts with the company's goals is hard enough to do in an office. When your team members are spread across the globe, working in different time zones and schedules, it becomes even more difficult. Having an effective goal setting process is necessary. Remote-first companies have had time to discover the best ways to collaborate remotely, but the companies recently pushed into remote work will have to adapt quickly.
With some effort, you can find ways to make your remote team collaborate even better than if they were working together in a physical office. If you still have doubts on whether you can make this work for your company or not, refer to the key stat from PwC’s survey that 83% of employees say the shift to remote work has been successful for their company.
“I was able to connect more deeply with 135 people spread across 6 continents, than I could have ever done in an office.” - Darren Murph, CEO of GitLab, “How to transition to remote”
Just like in any other traditional company, remote teams can struggle to see the bigger picture.
With that in mind, we’ll share advice you can implement whether you are working on a hybrid-remote model or a fully remote company, on how to collaborate and communicate effectively while ensuring the well being of your team and contributing to your overall mission.
Setting Company and Personal Goals Remotely
1. Lay Out Your Expectations and Processes from the Beginning
Before any goal planning, goal setting or brainstorming can begin, you need a process in place to follow. After discussing your yearly and quarterly goals with the team, you have to find a clear way to put that in writing. It doesn’t matter if this document exists on Notion or Google Drive, the most important thing is to have it available to everyone in the team, whenever they need it.
Make sure the goals are written down in a clear, simple way that everyone in the team will understand. Set key dates, milestones and verbalize the communication channels, or calendar software, that you’ll be using to discuss and communicate goals and progress.
Manage projects and deadlines with tools that have a friendly interface and allow you to use custom tags, color-coding to set accurate deadlines and keep everything organized. There are several great software options out there, such as Trello, Airtable, Asana, Jira and, of course, Infinity.
While it’s recommended to experiment and find which ones work best for your team, be careful not to create more noise and confusion by onboarding everyone to an unnecessary number of tools to use. Stick to 3-5 main ones, and make sure everyone understands how to use them efficiently.
Understanding your team’s workflow will help you simplify the process. If your team is divided into Marketing, Design, Development and similar departments, it’s understandable that the project management tools they use will differ. If the entire team knows exactly where to go in order to check the yearly, quarterly and monthly goals, everyone will stay on track.
2. Set Yearly, Quarterly and Monthly Goals
Not all goals have the same timeline. Some goals you want to achieve by the end of the week, others by the end of the year.
It’s important to differentiate and define these yearly, quarterly and monthly goals so that everybody understands how they contribute to them. By understanding the bigger picture and mission of the company, team members can align their daily tasks to achieving these goals.
3. Frame Daily Tasks Around Long-Term Goals
Once you’ve got a good idea of your yearly and quarterly goals, it’s time for everyone in the team to make sure their daily tasks align with and contribute to both the short and long-term goals. Team management software can help you to keep track of and communicate these goals to your whole team.
Depending on the size of your team and how asynchronously you want to collaborate, a weekly meeting can resolve many issues around communication. Your team members can share their key goals for the upcoming week, providing insight into each person’s tasks. This allows your team members to reassess their own efforts and help out a team member to hit the overarching weekly goals.
This practice also helps eliminate the need for micromanagement, which means more time for founders and team leaders to focus on higher priorities, and a better working environment for employees. If everyone deeply understands the weekly and monthly goals the team is working towards, they can structure their work day and tasks in a way that’s beneficial for the company, while still staying in charge of their own work schedule and lifestyle.
Allowing a flexible working schedule does not mean alienation from your team. Weekly & monthly check-ins will give your employees enough time to brainstorm together, collaborate and have opportunities for informal communication. And most importantly, they’ll have a clear picture of their roles and responsibilities at any given moment.
Working from home and having the complete control of your work schedule means that every employee has to think strategically when structuring their to-do lists. Remote work requires discipline and having clearly defined goals will help your team stay conscious of what they’re doing every day to contribute to them. Going over them as a team every week will make sure that everyone’s goals are aligned.
4. Set Goals That Reflect Company Values
Setting goals means nothing if employees don’t understand the company’s culture, its values and its overall mission. Taking the time to communicate your company’s culture and set an example allows team members to invest in the mission too.
Motivated teams work better, especially when they are more committed to the company’s goal. Your company mission can be the driving force for all of your efforts and motivation; make sure it’s written down in Notion or another knowledge management tool your team has access to. You should regularly use it as a base to set both your company and team goals.
But why stop there? Recently, there have been a number of remote companies publishing their entire product roadmaps with specific goals they are trying to achieve that year. This doesn’t just strengthen your connection to your team, but to the community supporting your company as well. It’s a great way to communicate your company mission by showcasing everything you have in the pipeline for the year.
5. Effective Communication and Trust
Many remote teams rely on centralized communication platforms, like Slack. Depending on your team, this might not be enough.
To cultivate a positive company culture, it’s important to make everyone feel like they’re a part of the team. Remote communication requires intention, as it’s unrealistic to expect a messaging tool like Slack to completely replicate in-person collaboration. This gap can be bridged by scheduling regular video calls through Zoom or a combination of communication tools that reach beyond simply messaging. If you’re missing the watercooler chats too much, hang out next to a virtual one in offices for remote teams such as Teamflow & Sococo. Prioritize messaging tools that provide an opportunity for everyone to participate equally.
Ensuring all team members are collaborating and communicating effectively will help structure their daily tasks to consistently contribute to the mission. You don’t want a team member spending all day on emails when they could be making a more significant impact working on something else.
It’s easy to get caught up in meticulous tasks and lose sight of the bigger goals they contribute to. Consider having a meeting at the end of every month where product managers update the entire team on the goals previously set for that month. This practice helps maintain your team’s focus on how every week contributes to your monthly and quarterly goals.
This is also a great opportunity to celebrate achieved goals and brainstorm solutions for roadblocks and issues.
“My goal is to manage teams that hit their goals. And when they do, how do we celebrate that win and actually stop and reset?” - Danielle Morrill, “Effectively working and managing teams remotely”
6. Use Measurable Goals to Track Progress
Setting measurable goals is key to tracking your progress.
With that in mind, you shouldn’t let them take over. Your goals and milestones should be ambitious, but if you don’t reach them, approach it with understanding rather than getting caught up in numbers.
Measuring goals is all about balance. Be bold when setting them, trust that your team is doing everything in their power to reach them, and be open to new strategies and ideas.
7. Encourage Personal Development and Knowledge Sharing
Building a company culture where team members can look after their wellbeing is key to a happy, healthy and productive team. As a remote company, you can hire the best talent worldwide. The freedom of working remotely from anywhere in the world is a benefit itself, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t offer additional benefits to your team.
Companies that encourage personal development and are willing to invest in their team will be able to get the top candidates. As a remote company, there are a number of exciting benefits you can offer to your team: from a yearly budget for personal development (books, courses, conferences), a yearly stipend for home office upgrades and paid time off, to coverage for essential benefits such as health insurance.
There are a number of companies emerging that offer benefits that weren’t available to remote teams before.
- Remote Health is a global health insurance product that covers the whole team, no matter where they are in the world. Your entire distributed team can be covered under one plan, instead of having to find health insurance solutions for every single employee in each country. This product also offers benefits such as dental, maternity, remote pension, and more.
- Bravely offers mental healthcare solutions specifically for remote teams, keeping in mind the unique pain points of remote work.
- Thriver allows you to set up a prepaid “Treat card” for a specific use such as team lunches, drinks, etc.
- Wavy & Icebreaker let you organize engaging cultural events and team building activities that can make up for the lack of in-person company retreats you might be used to.
Additionally, if you have company merch, it’s worth putting in the effort to send a personalized package to every employee. This is especially valuable during the onboarding of new team members and helping them feel a part of the team from the get-go.
Think about what your team would truly benefit from. Start with essentials, and add more as you grow. When a new role opens up, you can be sure people will reach out to their personal network and recommend your company as a great place to work. Don’t just support remote work, but flexibility in your team’s lifestyle.
8. Find Ways to Improve in All Aspects of Your Company
Far too often, goals are only focused on projects, deadlines and very concrete measurables. The number of sales, new features or users shouldn’t be the only goals you’re focusing on.
Remote teams rely on a completely different set of skills from a traditional company.
“If you're hiring an engineer, you need them to be a good coder. But when you hire remotely, you have to put an emphasis on communication skills and their ability to work with a remote team.” Matt Drozdzynski, CEO of Pilot, “Hiring international employees remotely”
Why not have “A healthy and motivated team” as one of your goals? You want to make sure everyone is speaking their mind and being taken seriously, so this is a goal worth optimizing your team for. These goals may be much harder to measure, but are no less important than other company goals. After all, without them, your remote team won’t be able to function efficiently, or in some cases, at all.
9. Support Goals with Incentives
While not totally necessary, it can help to motivate your team by offering an incentive for reaching a particular goal. This can be for short-term personal goals or long-term company goals where the whole team reaps the rewards.
These incentives need to be planned carefully - don’t make the goal too impossible to reach that an employee will burn out trying to achieve it. Equally, it should be challenging enough that the team will feel a sense of achievement and accomplishment.
This can be achieved by giving everyone a raise after a certain milestone or goal is reached, allowing everyone to take time off after completing a big project, having a team retreat somewhere to celebrate, and similar. It’s important to implement strategies that prevent burnout in the long run.
10. Make Time for Goal Reviews
So, you’ve set your company goals, helped your team set their own personal goals, organized them into weekly, monthly, quarterly and long-term goals. What next?
Just because you’ve set your goals, this doesn’t mean you can rule a line under your agenda. Goal setting is an on-going process that should be regularly reviewed and adjusted when needed.
The entire team should regularly revisit them to make sure they still align with the company’s values. When you discuss company goals regularly with your team, it becomes easier to notice when a certain goal doesn’t fit your mission or shouldn’t be prioritized.
Weekly, monthly and one-on-one meetings with founders and team leaders give everyone in the team the opportunity to reflect on whether they’re missing something, is there anything you should be improving on or is there anything you’re forgetting?
It’s important to bring up issues as they come up and can be more easily dealt with. If your team believes in your company’s mission and is motivated to contribute to it, they will help make the company an amazing place to work from.
Remote Work Can Make Your Team Stronger
Remote work gives companies a substantial competitive advantage. It gives you access to the best global talent, offers team members a better work-life balance and can even be more productive than office-based teams. You can create a team of incredible remote workers from all over the world. Geographical borders no longer impact your recruiting process for new roles.
But, if you’re not mindful of your company culture, the perks of building a remote team can quickly fade away, along with the success of a company. If you take away one thing from this article, remember that goal setting is all about how today’s actions impact your company’s vision of tomorrow.