This is one of the main questions that everyone in remote work (and also at the office) faces. How can you properly measure productivity?
First of all: when choosing a metric, you get what you measure.
- If you measure hours, people will log hours.
- If you measure lines of code, you’ll get lots of code.
- If you track features, you’ll get more features.
- and so on.
If the company (or you, as a freelancer) is billing by the hour, then more hours accounted for are, undoubtedly, better. Better for who(m)? The company you work for, for sure (at least in the short term). Better for the customer? Measuring lines of code looks like a nice form to prove activity. The more lines coded, the more an IT consultant has worked, right? Not really. You can code a lot of lines for a long period of time, but did those lines help progress the project? Same for tracking features or even bugs. Is more equal to better?
Why Should You Track Employee Productivity?
Productivity isn’t something that is always constant. Especially over a long period of time at home. So, throughout the workday, motivation and productivity levels can increase or decrease based on several factors (internal and external).
The best reason why you should track productivity (yours and also that of your team) is that you gain better insights into performance. If someone’s performance takes a dive, you will know that you have to resolve that before it builds into a bigger problem.
The Best Strategy to Measure Productivity
Tracking Milestones. Simple as that.
Not major or enormous milestones that might take a lot of time and effort. Take those and break them. Break them as small as possible. Celebrate those milestones achieved.
We know that this blogpost starts to look a lot like a self-help book, but actually these tips work. It works because of two main reasons:
- By tracking milestones you’ll know how long it should take for someone to achieve said milestone and how long it took them. That feedback helps you fix that time discrepancy by giving the tools your employee needed.
- Celebrating small milestones releases feel-good endorphins. These endorphins reinforce your success and make future success more likely. Also, that celebration reinforces learning of what works well and why.
When you don’t acknowledge an achievement, you are training your brain to note that what you are doing is not very important which reduces motivation and ultimately results in subpar performance.
Is it easy to measure productivity?
There are a lot of tools that will help you track productivity, but the bottom line is that software engineering and development processes do not resemble factory production processes and shouldn’t be tracked as such.
Even if you assume all engineers are equally talented and motivated, are all problems equally difficult to solve? Are all solutions equal in scope or complexity to implement? Are all environmental factors equal (e.g. computer resources, specification resources, acceptance criteria, time requirements)?
So try to be aware of the maximum factors that affect your project/team, before designing your productivity management tool. And once again… break up the milestones. The more, the better.