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30th September 2021

Performance Management in the Era of Hybrid Working

Performance management has always been considered a complex issue and even more so in the current era of hybrid working. Observing employees’ performance when they are working remotely and are not physically in the office can be challenging. Therefore, in today’s world, traditional, one-size-fits-all measures of productivity may no longer be effective. It may no longer be appropriate to track down how many hours an employee is spending in front of their screen to conclude that they are productive. Organisations will be more successful by assessing employee performance through outcomes, contribution and value [1] and so, managers need to rethink their practices. We hope that this article will provide you with some clarity over performance management in the current context.

What are we trying to measure?

Gallup’s [2] qualitative research suggests that employee performance should be measured through success in three key domains.

  • Assessing success should focus on how an employee sets goals and meets them.
  • Employees’ collaboration within the team should be perceived as partnering for effectiveness.
  • Assessing an employee’s interactions with clients should focus on how the work they put into this translates into results. In other words, on outcomes (e.g., client satisfaction, revenue) rather than outputs (e.g., hours worked, units produced).

It may also be worth looking at the organisation’s perceptions of presenteeism. Are employees asked to engage in lengthy back-to-back virtual meetings with no apparent reason to participate? If yes, then the company may be promoting output-based performance management.

The Gallup research further suggests that it is important to set up key behavioural competencies across the three domains. These include collaborative approach, leadership behaviours, ownership and accountability, etc. The competencies may vary according to the role and level of seniority. Careful consideration of the job in question is needed along with a thorough job analysis of each role’s success criteria, whether it be KPIs or behavioural indicators.

Although it should not be treated as a measure of performance per se, organisations need to start paying more attention to employee engagement. Time and time again, employee engagement has been shown to positively affect productivity, well-being, absenteeism, etc [3]. Key areas of focus for a truly engaged workforce should be working relationships, job satisfaction, well-being, job burnout, sense of belonging, levels of managerial support. By focusing more on having engaged employees, organisations have better chances of having high productivity levels.

What about the management?

Manager’s involvement in the performance management process is undoubtedly critical. Organisations should train managers to be able to support new performance arrangements. They should not assume that all managers are on the same levels of preparedness; they need to equip managers to assess performance based on outcomes, objectives and results. The adverse impact has been an issue even before the pandemic, but it has been highlighted even more so, for example, with women being more likely to take up the offer of hybrid work [4]. Managers need to be trained to spot any personal biases in their decision-making and how to offer objective and balanced feedback.

At its core, performance management is all about communication. The organisation via the managers need to set clear expectations and goals and make employees aware of what is a good and less good performance. Managers need to set regular 1-to-1 meetings with team members and discuss performance-related issues rather than treat such conversations as a one-off discussions. Perhaps, a worthwhile investment might be training managers on how to handle challenging conversations. Employees need to feel safe to voice any concerns about productivity loss without fear that this may impact their pay or progress.

As employees return to the office, organisations have to redesign employee assessment practices to better fit the hybrid reality. This article has focussed on two aspects of performance management (i.e., what are we measuring and the manager’s role) in what is a complex issue. We believe that it is urgent for organisations to be clear about developing new practices and policies that aren’t unintentionally disadvantaging people. By making these considerations, companies enable people to thrive at work and achieve success for everyone, the organisation, the employees and customers.

How can Impact help?

Impact are experts in assessing employees and supporting organisations performance management processes. We consult with your organisation to truly understand your specific needs. We can help you conduct comprehensive job analyses and come up with a detailed competency model and behavioural indicator lists that fit your organisation and support employee assessment. Impact has delivered numerous leadership/management development programmes supporting leaders to develop their people. We run workshops on recognising unconscious biases, performance management and handling challenging conversations.

Interested in finding out more about how we can help you with performance management?

Don’t hesitate to contact us.

 

References

CIPD: Planning for Hybrid Working

Gallup: Measure Performance: Strategies for Remote and Hybrid Teams

Engage for Success: Employee Engagement

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