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Rethinking Performance Management in a Post-Covid World

Recently, a friend who works as a senior manager for a reputed IT company shared that during an internal meeting, the team leaders were asked to be considerate with the ratings while appraising their team members—the reason being, work from home is tough on everyone. While many may be trying their best to deliver, sometimes, the results are just not visible enough. Employees may also find it difficult to highlight their work or be vocal about it.

True to what he said, there is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown performance management systems into chaos. This warrants that HR managers should rethink performance management to build high-performing workplaces. Research however proves otherwise.

A recent survey by PeopleStrong, an HR technology company, shows around 80% of corporate professionals are unhappy with their current performance management system. Moreover nearly half of respondents feel that performance reviews are not data-driven, increasing the possibility of a biased performance review.

Going by other feedbacks from employees, nearly two-thirds of employees feel a continuous feedback exchange mechanism that should be incorporated, transforming managers to be better coaches.

On companies viewing performance success in the next 3-5 years, around 55% of the respondents are inclined to have a mentorship culture being imbibed into their workplace. The respondents feel that market-readiness for the next level of growth can only be achieved by remaining extremely agile and innovating faster by taking more risks.

“Traditional performance evaluation and management models were bound to be re-engineered for the future. Pandemic fast-forwarded the transformation, bringing in digitization and automation, earlier than expected,” the survey authors said.

On what to expect in the next 3-5 years, around 75% of the respondents agree that collaboration, constant communication and a mentorship culture between managers and teams will become the future mandate of a high-performing workplaces.

“Growth-focused sentiment currently runs high amongst the manufacturing industry, as it has been impacted by the lockdown the most. Respondents perceive that product innovation with faster execution will be the elixir that will keep them forward in an already competitive marketplace.”

Needless to say then it is of utmost importance to create a growth mindset within the employees and amongst teams to smoothen the performance management process.

In a recent article, Michael Schrage is a research fellow at the MIT Sloan School of Management’s Initiative on the Digital Economy, listed out what the C-suite leaders and HR managers should consider when rethinking performance management in a post-Covid world.

Commit to a continuous feedback culture. Performance management systems must facilitate ongoing feedback on professional progress, growth, and development opportunities. Executives must define the feedback experience for their people. Doing so forces leaders to define and develop a shared perspective about what high performance means.

Commit to clarity between assessment and development. Managers should make clear when feedback targets performance assessment versus cultivating new capabilities and skills. For remote workers and distributed teams, human resource policies must balance assessment and the safe cultivation of new skills and capabilities.

Commit to transparency. Post-pandemic performance management credibility and trustworthiness depend on transparency. People must be able to see that their contributions to meetings are recognized. In short, transparency is the foundation for a performance culture that can also literally be seen as a fair and equitable culture.

Commit to performance management and KPI alignment. High-performance accountability requires clear and concise KPIs or key results. Linking performance management to KPIs or objectives and key results is the strategic duty and obligation of serious leadership. Managers along with the HR should ensure that performance management activities support measurable, valuable business outcomes.

As a result of the uncertainty the pandemic has posed on our lives, performance management will continue to play a key role in ensuring employees feel that their contribution is valued, it gives them some stability and motivation moving forward. As Kristina Dorniak-Wall, Senior People Scientist, Culture Amp, aptly summed up in a blog post, “Adjusting performance management processes can have a big impact on how employees view their workplaces as well as their roles in it. Organizations that recognize and reward employees and help them learn and develop through feedback, and treat them fairly, will likely emerge stronger from the pandemic than those who do not.”

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Sohini Bagchi
Sohini Bagchi is Editor at CXOToday, a published author and a storyteller. She can be reached at sohini.bagchi@trivone.com