If one were, to sum up 2020, it could best be described as a year like no other. The realities of the COVID 19 pandemic brought forth many unique experiences. Amidst this, the large-scale disruption and the need for overnight transformation has been the prime necessity of the year gone by. This transformation has mandated the organizations to re-evaluate their existing processes and systems to ensure timely response to the new normal. A prime example of such a function has been the performance management systems. The circumstantial fluidity, ambiguity over the future, adoption of new virtual/hybrid methods of working and the blurring of the walls between home and work demands a complete overhaul of existing performance review methods and processes. More than ever, now is the time to ring in the changes concerning the performance management system.
The unforeseen developments of 2020 have forced many organizations to revisit performance management and introduce changes while revisiting their operating models, the goals and metrics of measurement. However, the key business objectives remain unchanged. One such metric is: Every employee is responsible for their own efforts and giving their best to accomplish the objectives set for them. The signs of a winning team in 2020 undoubtedly include a display of grit, determination and resilience in abundance.
The orchestration of this delicate balance between the evolving circumstances and how the employees perform to their best of their ability in a virtual atmosphere requires agile, collaborative systems with processes personalized to individuals. To address the performance of virtual/hybrid teams, organizations cannot rely on the one size fits all approach. The time is apt to take a new performance management approach in terms of i) what to measure, ii) how to measure and iii) how to address virtual teams.
What to measure?
The existing metrics of performance management are not just ineffective today but an overbearing reliance on these metrics can result in an adverse impact on employees’ morale. Under the current context, the focus of the performance review should be on the employees’ inputs first and foremost. With an agile approach, all the tangible efforts should be recognized preferably on a real-time basis. For example, for the sales and business development teams, the initiatives taken towards addressing the client requirements through client meetings could be an important input to gauge performance. The underlying rationale remains the same. The greater and the more effective the inputs, the desired outcomes would inevitably follow. So, while there is flexibility in how the organization addresses its workforce, the core objectives remain unchanged.
Under the Work from Anywhere (WFA) regime, discussions around productivity have taken more precedence. As organizations look to drive productivity, this will require a collaborative approach with tasks monitored daily and having continuous real-time conversations around the tasks. This means going beyond the classic feedback mechanism and having a feedforward mechanism in place. While feedback should be provided to employees, organizations need to ensure that employees receive action-oriented solutions via feedforward regularly.
How to measure?
Instead of having the traditional review and assessment discussion usually at the end of the year, which many organizations may look like a task to be completed and an open item in the checklist, continuous system of engagement, extended discussions and collaborative sessions would be more effective and beneficial both for employees and organizations.
Especially in the era of current virtual/hybrid workplaces, the focus should be on regular virtual conferencing and a high number of skip-level meetings compared to the traditional year-end appraisal methods. Managers and organizations now need to don the hats of a nurturer and have frequent discussions with their teams on a daily basis virtually. During these meetings, while empathy is essential, the managers need to motivate the employees to stay on the path to success.
How to address?
The reality of virtual workplaces has led to unique circumstances and a different set of challenges for each individual. Taking cognizance of these factors, the post-pandemic performance reviews should celebrate the spirit of collaboration. Organizations need to look beyond individual accomplishments and value teamwork during such stressful times. Apart from this, organizations need to see this period as a growth opportunity for their employees and focus on their learning and development.
The most crucial need of the hour is compassion. More than ever, managers now need to actively reach out and support their teams in these difficult times and emerge stronger together as one team.
Role of technology in performance management:
As virtual/hybrid work models have established themselves as the new normal, the role of technology has significantly increased across all facets of business. Performance management is at the forefront mainly on account of:
- The need for extensive increase in communication and heightened transparency has resulted in a significant increase in the reports for governance.
- Extensive collaboration required across teams and even between members of the same function/teams given the WFA regime
- Virtual mode of working has resulted in the need to automate several tasks.
The pandemic with all its challenges has given all of us a moment to reflect and such thoughts re-emphasize the age-old adage of teamwork and the culture of a winning organization. It is these intangible attributes of the organization which sets them on a path to success even during such unanticipated times. A common factor among winning organizations is that each contributor feels empowered and appreciated and shares a clear outlook of their path. Thus, an effective performance management system and the revamped processes would continue to play a pivotal role crafting successful organizations, notwithstanding the circumstances.