Several months in, it looks as if remote work arrangements are set to continue in many parts of the world. While some businesses have not decided how they might want to move forward post-Covid-19, others seem to be leaning towards continuing remote work arrangements beyond the crisis for either all, or at least a proportion of their employees.
Since working under management’s watchful eye is no longer an option for many of us, HR leaders have finally begun rethinking performance management.
Phrases such as “outcome-based measurements” and “measuring results instead of activity” have been bandied about for years, but it seems organisations only started taking these suggestions seriously when the pandemic hit.
HR leaders we speak with have recalibrated their data-driven dashboards to measure outcomes more effectively. But to do this well, you need to address other aspects of your organisational culture.
A CULTURE OF TRANSPARENCY
Michael Schrage, a research fellow at MIT Sloan School of Management’s Initiative on the Digital Economy says that “post-pandemic performance management credibility and trustworthiness depend on transparency.”
“People must be able to see that their contributions to meetings are recognised and/or that their blown deadlines cost the company a big client. This requires significant shifts in data governance: Connecting and aligning feedback transparency to data collection must become a core cultural value and practice. In short, transparency is the foundation for a performance culture that can also literally be seen as a fair and equitable culture.”
TAKE CURRENT REALITIES INTO ACCOUNT WHEN RECALIBRATING KPIs
While it’s tempting to measure certain metrics the same way you did before, it’s just not realistic to do so. For example, depending on the type of business you’re in and how the state of the economy is affecting it, salespeople may not meet targets even if these are recalibrated.
Some companies have introduced qualitative measurements such as the ability to innovate amid a crisis. Innovation may not lead to immediate success, but should be taken into account and commended nevertheless.
Others have even begun assessing individual’s ability to show empathy and compassion for their team members during what could be a challenging time. For instance, does the employee check in on team mates and help them with technical or other challenges they might be facing in adjusting to working from home? If so, this should be commended and factored into their performance assessment.
PROVIDE CONTINUOUS FEEDBACK
MIT’s Schrage highlights the importance of “a continuous feedback culture.”
“Feedback — data-enriched, KPI-aligned — simultaneously promotes situational awareness and self-awareness. Feedback is how people get better at getting better. High-performance systems require high-performance feedback. Better-quality feedback means better-quality outcomes,” he says.
This should be built into your performance management platform and according to Schrage must encompass professional progress, growth and development opportunities.
ENSURE CLARITY – PERFORMANCE VS DEVELOPMENT
The crisis has surfaced the importance of ensuring employees develop new skills and capabilities. According to Schrage, development matters.
As such, this should be factored into your feedback process as well.
However, he says “managers should make clear when feedback targets performance assessment versus cultivating new capabilities and skills. Especially for remote workers and distributed teams, human resource policies must balance assessment and the safe cultivation of new skills and capabilities.”
This crisis is an opportunity to recalibrate the way you manage people. A great deal has been said about digital transformation, but most would agree that it is people who determine the success of any transformation. While employees are expected to be flexible and adaptable during uncertain times, the people who lead and manage them need to be so as well. One of the best ways to set the tone is to ensure these values are reflected in your performance management system.