Performance is such an important word in management, but with the sea-change caused by the COVID19 pandemic, the usual performance management criteria are not as applicable as they once were. In fact, the coronavirus has ensured that way HR Departments handle performance has to change.
You might really wonder if things have changed all that much. The quick and simple answer is – yes. After all, for most companies, the vast majority of their personnel have been working from home. This has meant the normal procedures have had to adapt to the new situation.
Meanwhile, the challenges that employees have faced (and, in fact, are still facing) by working away from the office have compounded the usual challenge they overcome anyway. Between the inconvenience, the distractions and their mental drain that have all been reported, to measure an employee’s performance via the ‘normal’ standards would be grossly unfair.
Perhaps that is why Facebook announced back in March, at the start of the COVID19 pandemic, that it would be writing off its employee performance reviews (for all 45,000 employees) as ‘exceeds expectations’ for the first half of 2020. They also granted them a $1,000 bonus to help staff through any COVID19-related issues.
Traditional Performance Management Criteria
The value of traditional performance management systems has been open to interpretation for several years. Seen as reliable and fair by some, they have also been criticised as doing more harm than good when it comes to inspiring employees.
In fact, there is a growing belief that the existing system criteria are quite rigid. And in these uncertain times, that rigidity is causing even greater problems with established procedures. It comes down to the design and make-up of performance management systems.
Traditionally, the annual goals are set by the manager and the reviews are held infrequently. When feedback is given, it is given irregularly and any recognition given to employees is garnered heavily from their performance in achieving the set goals, with no consideration given to their overall value to the company.
New performance management systems are better equipped to address the specific realities that modern – and indeed COVID19 and post-COVID19 – working environment incorporate. These would include:
- Flexible Goals
- Ongoing Reviews and Regular Interactions
- Dynamic Accountability and Incentives
The new business world is being forced to embrace the ability to adjust immediately to changing forces. That includes assessing how employees can best deliver value to the company they work for. A flexible (or agile) way of thinking is, therefore, more important than ever; agility that encourages employees to manage their own goals while anticipating changes that may sweep around the corner. Employees should be rewarded for identifying new ways to make a positive impact.
According to one Gallup survey, just 47% of employees say they receive feedback from their managers a few times a year or less, while 19% do so just once a year. So, communication between manager and employee is can typically be poor.
Interactions are key to achieving this. So, hold conversations at weekly, monthly or quarterly intervals, and which focus on building collaboration and clarifying targets, to create shared accountability for performance and development.
Of course, managers can’t gain trust immediately. Trust needs to be earned, and while this was widely accepted before the COVID19 pandemic, it has now become essential.
Pre-COVID incentive structures make little sense now, seeming unfair and unrealistic. So, it makes no sense to hold employees to them. By adopting a performance goal-based approach focused on clearly defined expectations allows for a more flexible or task-based approach.
Managers should be allowed the authority and flexibility to tailor goal setting to the team and individuals as work changes. However, avoid the temptation to stop the progress review. It is now essential to continue them and to recognize the contribution and success personnel have made and delivered to the company.
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