Article: Unclear goals & micromanaging stymie productivity: Blue Prism's Serine Loh

Performance Management

Unclear goals & micromanaging stymie productivity: Blue Prism's Serine Loh

While almost all organisations have been able to get their remote technology game up, what they need to continue to focus on is ensuring common access of information, data, and organisation news so that silos don’t get created, says Serine Loh, Head of HR, APAC at Blue Prism.
Unclear goals & micromanaging stymie productivity: Blue Prism's Serine Loh

As organisations continue their journeys of digital transformation, there is a shift in focus with regard to performance management. Organisations are moving to outcome-based productivity instead of tracking hours. Performance assessments have evolved from an annual activity to a continuous dialogue intended to boost employee performance through feedback, and not just evaluate it, says Serine Loh, Head of HR, APAC at Blue Prism, the multinational robotic process automation company. 

Organisations are also consciously spending effort on skilling their managers to work alongside tools. With learning content supporting this mindset change and art of conversations, the overall approach has become very human-centered, adds Serine.

Here are the edited excerpts of an interview with Serine where she talks about the different dimensions of performance and productivity. Serine is an experienced HR and talent lead with a history of working in global technology software environments and for high growth startups.  

Can you give us an overview of performance management at Blue Prism? What are the new performance indicators that you use for your hybrid workforce?

At Blue Prism, our philosophy and processes of OKR principles support an outcome-based culture that tides over online, offline and hybrid workforce setup. Our performance evaluations are continuous – as managers review and track against OKRs. We also have established formal mid-year check-ins and annual reviews. 

For FY22, we are adding a specific dimension to performance for people managers. We have developed a GREAT Manager framework that helps people managers provide consistent management experience for their distributed, hybrid teams. The framework ensures a consistent understanding of the role and expectations. It uses a feedback process with the team for managers to get better on what they are doing well and what can be done better. Hybrid teams spread over different geographies share feedback on how their managers are engaging with them for growth, trust and direction. 

How is the role of leaders changing when it comes to tracking and encouraging the performance of your dispersed workforce?

A key contributor to high performance is autonomy and keeping a check on workplace stress. Our values expand PRISM and stand for

  • Professional
  • Robust & Respectful
  • Integrity
  • Success-Driven
  • ePowered

These values are at the core of our actions with leaders walking the talk with our remote-first teams. With regular one-on-one conversations and Objectives and Key Results (OKR) philosophy team members are enabled and supported to take decisions related to their areas of work within their time zones. Employees know what they are aiming for individually and collectively. While they operate in their own time zones, they ensure that outcomes and handovers are duly met through established protocols. A variety of live and asynchronous communications – including recorded meetings, an internal news network, MS Teams channels – help keep the machine working together for higher performance. 

With employee wellness being recognised as a core element to productivity and performance, how can organisations bridge the gap between employee health and productivity?

At Blue Prism employees have been at the center of all programmes and processes. In times of stress, such as the pandemic, we made available flexible work hours to help employees find the balance. This generated positive sentiments towards the organisation, and employees ensured that product and customer deliverables were not compromised. 

Through our HR initiatives and benefits, we make available a variety of workshops to support the emotional well-being of our employees. We recognize the need for employees to make social connections despite being spread across the region, and our engagement activities help build camaraderie. We have recently launched a channel on MS Teams called “How Are You?” with the intent to generate discussions and share thoughts that help employees feel supported and get a sense of belonging.   

What according to you are the top challenges to boost employee productivity and measure performance, especially for remote workers?

From a management point of view, unclear goals and micromanaging get in the way of productivity of not just remote workers but all types of employees. It is compounded in a remote work setup as it leads to unnecessary lead time while employees wait to get their manager to provide clarification and sign-off across time zones.

From an organisation point of view, it is important to have the right platforms and technology set up for remote work. Thanks to the pandemic, almost all organisations have been able to get their remote technology game up. What they need to continue to focus on is ensuring common access to information, data, and organisation news so that silos don’t get created. These can result in teams working on disjointed information which hurts the end results.

How are compensation and benefits programs evolving in 2022? Is this going to be focused largely on skills?

As a technology organisation, we lay a strong emphasis on skills. Through our periodic benchmarking exercises, we look at baseline compensation for skills and roles with comparative organisations. With the more broad-based roles such as HR, marketing getting matched against industry trends. With these as baseline compensation, merit-based increases and annual rewards continue to be basis performance. in this manner, our compensation and benefits programs balance skills-based and performance-based rewards.

Over the last two years, feedback and appreciation culture has come to the fore along with the importance of employee listening strategy. Have you changed anything in this line?

Listening to employees is key for Blue Prism. It shapes all of our people-focused initiatives. We seek feedback from employees through multiple forums – an annual GPTW survey, pulse checks, informal connects with leaders and formal connections with managers. 

Similarly for appreciation, we have a variety of rewards programs including expense-paid holidays for high-performing employees, Share Plans, and spot awards during engagement activities. We also encourage our employees to appreciate each other through an online recognition wall. With this, employees can share feedback and gratitude and keep it visible for everyone if they want to share it loudly and proudly.

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Topics: Performance Management, #PerformanceBeyondProductivity

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