Performance Management in a Post-COVID Workplace: Things to Consider

The dramatic spread of Covid-19 has disrupted the way organisations work, with many experiencing adjusted goals, furloughs, and even layoffs. In order to better respond to the current context, it has become necessary for organisations to re-evaluate aspects of their performance management system – and in some cases adopt an entirely new system.

Even experienced managers and employees may find performance management conversations daunting when they are not carried out properly. And during this period when we are already dealing with a lot of uncertainty and economic downturn, employees’ worries are likely to escalate.

Here are some points you need to consider when managing employee performance in the age of COVID:

Collect Perspectives

When it comes to getting a 360-degree review, managers need to actively solicit feedback. And now organisations are placing an equal – or greater – emphasis on peer reviews as they do on a manager’s review because they have proven to accelerate an employee’s skillset and leadership development. With their willingness to share candidly “the good, the bad, and the ugly,” peers can provide insights that lay the groundwork for focused leadership development or executive coaching.

Here is another reason why it’s important to incorporate team-based feedback into performance conversations. A research by Gartner reveals that there is a 3.5% increase in the utility of performance management and a 14% increase in employee performance when employees are evaluated by peers with interconnected work and shared goals. Notwithstanding, in a 2019 Gartner survey, 99% of respondents said that direct managers evaluate employee performance whereas only 17% said they are evaluated by their teams.

As a manager, solicit feedback from other members of the team to learn about a person’s strengths and areas for improvement. Also, make sure that you collect information on an employee’s ability to work remotely. Find out whether they are effective at communicating while working remotely and if their productivity has increased or decreased since moving to remote work.

Summon Compassion and Empathy

When you’re gathering feedback, it is crucial to keep context in mind and fully acknowledge the varying circumstances your team members are operating under. If an employee, for instance, has faced trying circumstances outside of work, such as a family member with COVID-19, do not disregard it. Similarly, if it has not been possible for an employee to do their full job remotely, you should also factor that in.

With the emergence of COVID, the targets that were set for this year are no longer applicable. Instead of judging your employees against the company’s pre-pandemic objectives, concentrate on your individual employee’s growth and learning.

COVID has hit people’s mental health in different ways. So be compassionate and empathetic, and give people a little more latitude. Acknowledge and reward your employees’ resilience and capacity to adapt during these challenging times. And they may in turn become more engaged with your organisation.

It’s Time to Burn the Boats

Even if you cancel bonuses, award ceremonies or merit increases, don’t stop tracking performance and communicating to your employees that you appreciate and need high performance.

Truth be told, traditional performance management systems are likely to disengage your people in normal times and thus will do far worse harm today. Now is the time to burn the boats and leave old practices behind. As an employer, you must adopt a performance management strategy that is not just adaptive and responsive but also calibrated to the new workplace.

This shows that the need for fundamentals of good management is stronger than ever: agile goals, extraordinary coaching and high accountability systems. When the smoke clears, you need to know who your stars were – and you have to keep those people engaged.

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Author: Paul Keijzer

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