Discover how to improve team performance by finding and leveraging the right metrics
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During the cattle drives of the late 1800s, cowboys’ livelihood depended on how many cows they could herd across the plains. If every member of the drover's crew played their part on the perilous journey, they could count on a large reward. So, the trail bosses would look for men that could work together well and learn quickly.
Just as these groups contributed to the development of small American markets, your own high performing teams impact the success of your company. And although you can’t count how much livestock your team has brought to town, you can still find measures that are just as concrete and objective.
So, here’s our guide to conducting effective team assessments that do just that. You’ll discover what steps to take, which metrics to assess, and how often to evaluate performance.
Want to know what really good teamwork looks like?
Switchboard improves collaboration through its digital collaborative workspace that lets you share—and simultaneously work—across multiple apps.
How do you conduct a team assessment?
Trail bosses were big fans of real-time feedback: If a cowboy endangered the herd by ignoring adverse weather conditions, they’d immediately hear about it.
Since your remote team isn’t at risk of stampedes or bandits, you can afford to take a less ad-hoc, more systematic approach. Follow the step below to build your own framework for effective team assessments.
Define clear SMART goals
It’s easier to make changes when you can measure and accurately track projects, which means every team and project needs SMART goals. This stands for:
Using SMART goals, you can track your team’s progress toward their objectives and get tangible data to inform your assessments.
For example, a product marketing team might set goals that look like this: “Improve brand loyalty by increasing weekly average user engagement from 12% to 20% by Q4.”
This goal is specific and time-bound because it explains how and when to achieve the overall objective of improving brand loyalty. It’s relevant because building loyalty supports the team’s efforts to retain customers and increase the brand’s reputation. It could be made more measurable and achievable by adding more actionable details:
“Engagement will be measured by tracking customers’ use of features and overall time spent in-app. To improve engagement, customers will receive in-app notifications to educate them on valuable features and provide additional content for customer success.”
Choose relevant, actionable metrics
Metrics are quantitative or qualitative markers that indicate your team’s progress toward its goals. The most effective ones are relevant to your department and lead to actionable insights.
For example, a good metric for a marketing team is lead conversion rate because it demonstrates how effectively they turn customer interest into sales. A bad metric is the number of emails sent—while measurable, it doesn’t reflect the quality of campaigns or their impact on sales.
Establish assessment criteria
Once you know what you’re measuring, you can figure out what the numbers and scores mean about your team’s performance. This will give you the criteria for your assessment.
Going back to the marketing example, let’s say they decide the following benchmarks for the percentage of lead conversions:
- Excellent — 10% or higher
- Good — 5% to 10%
- Okay — 2% to 5%
- Poor — 2% or lower
The team bases this on the fact that converting 10% of leads enables the company to reach its forecasted profits whereas 2% won’t cover the department’s salaries or expenses.
Do your research
If you know your assessment criteria, you’re ready to start gathering data and collecting feedback. This isn’t a one-off task but an ongoing process. Keep track of your team’s performance metric over time, as well as relevant details that might explain dips or peaks in performance.
For example, if a sales team member closes fewer deals in June as they did in May, it’s helpful to note that they were focused on getting onboarded with the sales enablement platform that your organization launched that month. The more details you have, the easier it’ll be to analyze the data in the following step.
Run your assessment
As the data comes together, you’ll see whether it meets your criteria and begin to spot trends and patterns. Then you can make inferences about your team’s overall performance.
For instance, a dip in productivity levels in December indicates that your team experiences extra challenges during that month.
You can confirm your ideas through further investigation and follow-up questions. Perhaps some team members find the end-of-year reporting unintuitive and require extra guidance. Or maybe attendance is lower in winter, due to holidays or sickness, and the dip has nothing to do with performance.
With all the data in hand, all that’s left to do is share the information with your team. Your role as team leader is to end the discussion with employees feeling empowered and knowing their next steps.For the best results, give constructive feedback and emphasize the actionable takeaways. So, you might say “let’s start checking in once a week” instead of “we don’t check in enough.” This helps give team members action steps to follow so they know exactly how to improve.
Pro tip: Use Switchboard to share assessment results in a streamlined and interactive manner. You can upload reports, data visualizations, and feedback summaries so your team simultaneously has access to the same information. Afterward, create discussion channels to let employees ask questions and give their interpretations of the results.
Adjust and improve your process
From the moment you share your assessment results, encourage questions, feedback, and decision-making. This creates a two-way dialogue where you also learn from the evaluation process. You never know when an employee might have extra insights like how you haven’t factored an ultra-demanding client into your productivity analysis.
You can also reexamine the evaluation process to see what works and what doesn’t. Imagine you provide training on how to use bookkeeping software to help your accountants to run payroll faster—but nothing changes. It turns out that lack of skills wasn’t the problem, so you need to spend more time speaking to your people to locate the real issue.
Using a combination of feedback and your self-analysis, you can adjust the evaluation process to be even more relevant and insightful for your team. You can also use it to develop action plans and influence training decisions.
Most important metrics in a team performance evaluation
A key element of modern team performance management depends on knowing which metrics to use and what they entail.
You can find more accurate, relevant insights to help your team reflect on their performance and improve their work.
‘Productivity’ is a nebulous term that varies between teams. Depending on your industry and department, you might consider these ways of measuring ‘productivity’:
- Task completion rates
- The number of projects finished on time
- Sales volume
- Revenue generated
Calculate the total output and the amount per individual team member for the clearest overview. You can see whether an average score means everyone’s meeting standards or whether half the group is underperforming while the other half is excelling.
If you implement an effective team performance assessment, productivity is one of the metrics with the most noticeable effects. You are 1.25x more likely to have higher productivity than other companies in your industry.
Quality of work
Productivity levels can be misleading so it’s essential to compare them alongside quality. For example, fast project completion rates mean nothing if you’re producing substandard work.
The following KPIs measure your quality:
- Adherence to standards
- Error or defect rates
- Project performance
- Quality inspection scores
- How you compare to industry standards
When it comes to quality, it’s especially important to get a mix of quantitative and qualitative data. Numbers can easily obscure problems. For instance, designers might produce beautiful, highly functional e-commerce sites but keep forgetting the integrated reviews the client specifically asks for.
Nearly everything we do at work impacts our customers or clients. So measuring their experience is another way to gauge your team’s effectiveness. Here you can check:
- Customer satisfaction ratings and questionnaire results
- Your net promoter score (NPS)
- Client turnover
- The number of complaints
Context is everything here, though. Some clients may rate your team more harshly than others or praise them less freely. A “well done” for one project might carry more weight than for another.
Employee engagement and satisfaction
While clients have useful perspectives, they don’t have a deep insight into how your team operates. For example, they don’t see how you manage conflicts or share information day to day.
For a closer look at team performance, you can ask your team via:
- Feedback sessions
If these are anonymous, members of the team are more likely to feel comfortable commenting on your team’s performance. That’s especially if they enjoy working together and feel guilty about criticizing one another.
Even if you make employee feedback psychologically safe, there’s no guarantee teams will be candid. But one metric that doesn’t lie is your turnover rate. If team members keep requesting to move elsewhere or leave the organization altogether, that hints at some serious underlying issues.
To calculate your turnover, simply divide the number of employees who left by the total at the end of the assessment period and multiply by 100. For example, if you have a team of 15 people and two drop out, you get:
2 / 15 = 0.13 x 100 = 13%
You can benchmark your turnover rate against your industry on the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) website to see if you’re above or below average.
Collaboration and teamwork
As collaboration is key to team performance, it’s crucial to measure it. You can quantify and collect data on teamwork through:
- Meeting frequency and duration
- Shared workspace activity times
- Observation of teams at work
- 360 degree reviews
Observation and reviews give you an insight into common struggles and how teams feel about them. By encouraging them to give examples, you can build a clear picture of their strengths and weaknesses. Someone might say:
“Andy seems like he listens to feedback but he never acts on it. At the last review, I told him the target market wanted more integrations with project management software. We received reviews after the launch that customers couldn’t connect with their favorite apps and Andy never acknowledged it.”
Figures like meeting and activity times also indicate whether your team can collaborate effectively. Too little suggests employees avoid working together for some reason. Too much may mean team processes aren’t efficient.
Learning and growth
Team development metrics indicate how quickly your department can learn new skills and adapt to changes. To measure this, look at:
- Test scores
- Training attendance levels
- Sign up and course completion rates
- Progress toward development goals
- Mentoring participation rates
Again, it’s best to consider learning metrics alongside one another. While scores indicate your team’s depth of knowledge, the time taken suggests how easy they found the new skill.
How often should team performance assessments take place?
While you may not be able to tie your feedback cycle to seasonal cattle drives, you can find a frequency that works for your people.
The experts at SHRM say you should do team assessments no less than twice a year. Ideally, it would be even more often but the exact frequency depends on your context.
Project length can be a deciding factor. If you have long-term initiatives that last two to three months, this can provide the basis for a review cycle. The pause between projects can also give your team some breathing space to reflect on their work and focus on self-improvement.
Your industry may also dictate the frequency to a degree. Tech companies may need more frequent assessments than others due to constant changes and developments. If people are struggling to use a new feature on your software, you need to know A.S.A.P.
Then there’s just logistics. You can only conduct team assessments as frequently as your time, budget, and resources will allow. There’s no need to hold monthly assessments if it's constantly disrupting your regular tasks or racking up expenses.
How Switchboard improves team performance
Once you’ve conducted an assessment, the next question is how to facilitate ongoing improvement and motivate your team as a leader. As experienced cattle drivers, trail bosses used their first-hand knowledge to provide on-the-job training to all newer “tenderfoot” cowboys. That’s because they were always on hand and most tasks were a team effort.
Switchboard can help you improve team performance in the same way and, bonus, you don’t have to do it on horseback.
Using our visual collaboration tool you can organize all the apps you use into meeting and project rooms. This cuts down the time spent switching between apps and tabs, so everyone can focus on doing their tasks well. More importantly, as you’re all in one place looking at the same documents, it’s easier for you to guide your tenderfoot colleagues through challenges.
You can also keep evaluations consistent by storing the data, feedback summaries, and visualizations in the room so you can simply update them.
Improve all year round with team assessments
In popular culture, cowboys are loners who roam the open range facing challenges and dangers on their own. The reality was that trail bosses usually hired around 10 men to herd the cattle. Moreover, every member of the group was essential to the success of the mission from the wranglers to the chuck wagon cook and the tenderfoot.
Things are much the same today: Your department’s performance isn’t carried by one rugged John Wayne type—but by all the members of your team.That’s why it’s important to conduct team assessments alongside individual ones to show them where to improve.
By following a process and using relevant metrics, you can give your team meaningful feedback that helps them keep improving all year round. This will help identify issues fast, support your people to overcome challenges, and show them where they’re excelling.
To carry out reviews in context, use a digital workspace like Switchboard to collate performance data and feedback. Since it’s easy to bring in all your preferred web-based apps, you won’t have to go hunting for information each time review season comes around. Plus, each team member gets an always-open, persistent room to track their own progress, leave notes, and review feedback any time. That way, you’ll drive progress together.
Want to know what really good teamwork looks like?
Switchboard improves collaboration through its digital collaborative workspace that lets you share and simultaneously work across multiple apps.
Frequently asked questions about team performance assessments
What are team performance assessments?
Team performance assessments are a structured evaluation process that examines the competencies and effectiveness of a group within an organization. These assessments investigate various aspects of teamwork that contribute to success like communication, collaboration, and goal setting. By analyzing these factors, you can gain insights into strengths and areas for improvement and then use them to help your team improve.
What are the benefits of conducting a team assessment?
The benefits of conducting a team assessment extend far beyond improving performance in the short term. Through an effective evaluation, you can identify challenges, optimize team processes, and become more productive. What’s more, you can find ways to strengthen the team dynamic so employees are enthusiastic to collaborate with one another and value teamwork as part of the company culture.