First, let’s get our definitions straight. The Oxford Dictionary defines motivation as the “desire or willingness to do something.” Seems like a fairly abstract concept to attempt to measure, right? Abstract, but no doubt important. When engaging with individuals in person, motivation is felt more than it is objectively measured. You can instinctively sense the hustle and hunger of a motivated employee expressed in their work ethic and pure effort to get something done. When managing distributed teams, especially large remote teams, motivation is much harder to gauge by intuition only. If you really reduce motivation to its basic elements, however, there are two distinct behaviors that can be detected and quantified: compliance and engagement.

1. Compliance

A motivated employee, based on our definition of motivation, will consistently and reliably show up to take on their responsibilities - they will maintain a state of attentiveness and commitment to the tasks at hand. The way to measure this effort is through compliance.  By establishing consistent check-in routines for your employees, and collecting data on the rate at which your employees participate, you arrive a rate of compliance. This compliance percentage is a thermometer for your team's motivation. Establishing a baseline compliance measurement allows you to experiment with new ways of communicating, customize incentive programs, build new collaboration tools, and employ a variety of other strategies to improve your rate of compliance. Focus on this one metric and you will see results.

Compliance report

2. Engagement

New management and project collaboration technologies are producing terabytes of rich data and metadata that are mostly underutilized at the moment. Response rate to team members, days-in-a-row active on a team communication platform, number of questions answered, and frequency of comments on projects are just a few examples of data that can be compiled to examine larger trends. These data points seem trivial on their own, but they become a powerful measurement tool when aggregated. The results define our second motivation metric: engagement. Your most motivated employees are the ones who consistently interact with their managers and team members; they ask questions to confirm that they understand a task, seek feedback and team input when necessary, and are forthcoming with information to their peers. For remote teams, the vast majority of interactions happen via a single platform or a system of integrated platforms. Enlightened organizations are now using tools to compile this data and generate an engagement score. Nurturing and rewarding those employees that engage regularly while exposing those that don’t will have far-reaching positive effects on the culture of your organization over time.