Change and performance management - how do they go together?

Roly Walter
28th July 2020

Major change is difficult for any organisation and the people going through it. In this article we set out the implications for using Appraisd, and performance management in general, when an organisation is going through substantial change.

As we all know, many businesses will be initiating drastic revisions to their business plans as a result of the international travel bans, the advice to work from home, the closure of the high street and the many other challenges generated by Covid 19. The general level of confidence in the economy will be weighing heavily on any FD's mind when looking at the payroll.

But when a company goes through substantial change, what happens to the previously important HR programmes to engage, inspire and motivate employees?

A few months ago an employer might have been proudly telling the world about their commitment to develop and nurture its employees, considering this to be a savvy investment in the firm's future. Indeed many clients adopt Appraisd to deliver this exact promise. The next moment they've gone suspiciously quiet while employees are nervously waiting to know their fate and whether redundancy may be a possibility. How do we reconcile this? Are these worthy goals only important when things are going well?

Annoucing changes

At this stage, I think organisations need to have an honest narrative and not brush over fact that priorities have changed.

Often plans will be thrown out and employees may find their reporting lines have altered. There is likely to be a huge amount of uncertainty of what the future will be, how teams and departments will be structured and even whether the company can survive. It's hard to have a performance review when you don't know who your manager is or what your job will be.

Spokespersons need to make it clear that:

  • Change is a painful process for everyone, but essential for the business to survive.
  • The company previously made commitments around people development and growth. Those commitments will necessarily change during this period to focus more on moral and practical support.
  • You will be asking employees to put their aspirations on hold while finances are under strain. They will need to find their own energy and determination in the face of challenging circumstances.
  • The company's goals and priorities may change without notice, but employees should be ready to adapt and switch to new priorities as they become clear.

Using Appraisd during this time

For many organisations who already using Appraisd but going through this process, we have some additional advice.

  • Change your corporate goals to reflect the new situation. If your goal was to increase sales by 50%, it's OK to put this goal on hold and say so. Set new short-term goals, perhaps focused on customer retention or smooth running of standard procedures. Set goals that ensure nothing vital slips through the cracks while employees are departing.
    Ask the Appraisd Customer Success team to help you change your organisation's overall goals within Appraisd.
  • Put your in-depth and formal year-end review process and ratings to the side. Now is the time for small, frequent check-ins focused on workload and wellbeing. Our Customer Success team can help thorough this, offering advice on how to communicate with your employees. Here is an example of what this could look like:

    To all,

    During this period, we will not be doing formal end-year|mid-year reviews. Instead, managers and team-members should use Appraisd to hold monthly|weekly|fortnightly check-ins using the "Current work|Working from Home|Other" template.

    This short template is designed to ensure that your manager understands and recognises the effort you're putting in and the challenges you're facing. It's a chance for your manager to help you understand priorities and to explain what they can of the current situation.

    We will not be grading or rating competencies - this process is about taking care of each other and treating team members with respect and dignity.

    The Appraisd check-in process is a great way to ensure this is happening, so please use it.

  • Allow employees to have check-ins on Appraisd with buddies or mentors: people other than their regular line manager. Make use of the integrated video call feature in Appraisd to build personal connections quickly.

If there really is no clarity on reporting lines and cost cutting is paramount, your Appraisd account can be paused for a small fee, ready to resume when things have settled enough for check-ins to begin again.

After changes are complete

Once the organisation has gone through the change process, it's time to address the new situation in a positive way. Now, you can:

  • Define the aims of the business and how employees fit into it, giving them a renewed sense of purpose.
  • Restate your commitment to employee development and growth as a worthwhile investment. Budgets may be restricted, but managers will be tasked with listening to and discussing issues and aspirations with empathy and goodwill.
  • State that the business requires everyone to help out: Help by taking care of themselves and each other, taking care with your work and your customers.
  • While managers must take extra time to recognise their team-members' achievements, there will be things that employees need to do that are unseen, times when they go the extra mile without anyone noticing. Thank them in advance.

Using Appraisd once change is complete

Appraisd is a powerful platform for providing clarity and direction to employees at a time when they're being asked to dig ever deeper for the sake of the business.

From a practical point of view, there may be changes you should make to your Appraisd account that will re-engage managers and employees in a way that's sensitive to the past and acknowledges that the there may be further uncertainty to come.

All of the following can be done quickly and simply:

  • Get rid of ratings and grading from performance reviews and cut out any unnecessary approval workflows or questions
  • Switch to regular, frequent check-ins plus a career conversation every six or 12 months.
  • Adopt Appraisd's instant feedback and praise feature and start developing a feedback culture if you haven't already
  • Move away from annual objectives and adopt a quarterly cadence, perhaps using a framework like OKRs. At the very least, make objective more meaningful with milestones or action points tied to clear corporate goals.
  • Adapt the tone of voice in templates and forms to be less formal, more pragmatic and human.
  • Use the announcement feature to state the change in a few sentences.
  • Make full use of the Appraisd Customer Success team who are always here to help, give you advice and generally kick things off again in a positive light.

Remember: performance management shouldn't be an expensive or resource-intensive process. Regular feedback and check-ins are far more cost effective than a few days' management training, so make sure your Appraisd account is configured in the optimal way for your business.

If you have any thoughts or questions, please email or call us on +44 (0)20 7202 7979.