How do you give a performance review to a department that was stuck without work due to the pandemic? How do you rate a department that has suffered losses due to circumstances beyond their control? Would it be fair to schedule a performance review at a time when employees are under a lot of stress due to a global pandemic?
These are all questions that have come up in a pandemic world. When the world is constantly changing, how can you move forward with a performance management system that doesn’t take this dynamism into account? The answer is you CAN’T.
Even before the pandemic, only 14% of employees strongly agreed that their performance reviews inspired them to improve. Many organisations that believed their performance management system was modern, realised that their systems did not incorporate technology, agility and were not accessible. These have become a priority and will affect performance management not for months but years to come, especially as remote working comes to the fore. About 20 to 25 percent of the workforce in advanced economies could work from home between three to five days a week.
What Needs to Change?
Keeping the pandemic and the dynamic changes the world of performance is going through right now, here are some of the elements you must focus on to change your performance management.
Focus on Team Over Individual
The only viable management style going forward will focus on establishing a rhythm of collaboration and shared accountability. Managers need to make an effort to communicate and use collaborative techniques and technologies like shareable services that allow transparency across teams and make employee work visible virtually. Teams also need to be aware of the shared outcome before work is assigned so that they can work towards the goal together.
As the goal would be shared, the performance reviews would also need to focus more on the goals of the team instead of the individual. In the new normal, processes and deliverables should focus more on cross-functional cooperation so communication and collaboration will be key.
Promote Frequent Conversations and Reviews
Instead of having a year end appraisal, organisations need to have more frequent conversations with their employees, especially their remote workforce. New systems need to be introduced to build trust as managers may not have visibility of the employee workload and performance. Regular retrospectives, daily check-ins and check-outs and instilling a more regular feedback culture is more important than ever.
As the situation is constantly evolving, it is important to keep communication lines open to highlight changes and prepare for pivotal assignments. Miscommunication and micromanagement takes place if trust is not built with management through meaningful and regular conversations.
Schedule Regular Follow-Ups
Gallup research has found that remote workers’ productivity depends on the role of the manager. Keeping this in mind even if conversations between upper management and employees are not regular, communication lines between the manager and the employee need to be frequent.
Employee understanding of organisations’ decisions and their implications during change is far more important for the success of the initiative than employees “liking” the change. This is why two way communication between management and peers also helps employees feel more in control and gives them the space to voice negative emotions.
Encourage Dynamic Goal Setting
Employees need to be prepared for dynamic adjustments. Many goals may no longer be relevant due to the fast changing environment or discontinued projects. It is important to update goals which could result in poor outcomes.
This would require employees to inculcate an “agile” mindset. A mindset that is ready for change and could in the future even anticipate the change before it is intimated by management. This can only be achieved if managers are given more authority and freedom to change goals as per the requirement of the situation.
This requires a mindset shift. Upper management and managers need to focus on output instead of the fixed processes. Providing flexibility empowers teams to set their own goals and complete their assignments independently.
The mindset of the employee would also need to shift once this flexibility is given, the goals will no longer be set by the organisation but by the employees and managers themselves. Therefore, in the performance review, the traditional categories will have to be removed and space for employees to add their goals would need to be given.
OKR (Objectives and Key Results) is a promising way to set goals, track them quantifiably and keep employees engaged with the process.
Reward Innovation, Discourage Rigidity
There’s a natural tendency to become risk averse and rigid in times of crisis. Don’t foster an environment that feeds on fear, instead encourage disruption.
HR managers should also take this opportunity to disrupt the traditional performance management processes. Do away with rigid structures and biased performance reviews. The current focus needs to be on adaptive, responsive and flexible performance management systems. Make an effort to highlight the value of innovation by employees in their performance reviews and ensure that their risks are worthwhile.
Recognise and highlight employee contributions that should be emulated and provide development opportunities to people whose work has been affected by the pandemic.
Streamline Through Technology
The increased adoption of digital tools for performance conversations gives businesses an opportunity to reach more of their workforce.
Use this opportunity to streamline the performance management system with the help of technology. With the constantly changing business environments and functions, it becomes important to invest in a performance management service to overcome complex challenges. Find a management system that is adaptable and can measure performance metrics. A performance management system that is online and empowers employees to create their own goals will create a sense of accountability as well.
As there is a greater need to manage and engage the workforce with the right tools and resources, thus revising the performance management system will only help the organisation improve, for the better!
Build a better performance management system today by:
- Updating the traditional performance management system.
- Rewarding and coaching management to take on more responsibility.
- Doing away with year end goals.
- Rewarding collaborative over individual performance.
- Having frequent and meaningful conversations about performance.
- Building an “agile” mindset.
- Streamlining your performance management system with the help of technology.