In a constantly evolving world, where new technology is driving new ways of working, business processes need to adapt to stay relevant and useful. This article looks at the latest trends in performance management and what approaches are appropriate for the post-Covid workplace.
Insight into the latest trends in performance management
Making predictions is a dangerous game. As any gambler knows, anything can happen and even the firmest of favourites is never a dead cert. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us just how unpredictable the world can be, sweeping across the globe and impacting almost every corner of the planet. At the start of 2020, almost no one saw it coming.
There is no doubt that it has changed the course of many people's lives, especially how and where they’ll work in the future. The impact of remote working has touched many businesses, forcing them to rethink how they operate, their relationship with employees and what the future will look like.
How to ensure employees who are working at home, physically separated from their teams and other colleagues, can maintain their levels of performance, stay aligned with the organisation’s goals and continue to progress, is a question that has suddenly leapt to the top of every senior leader’s agenda.
While we can’t be sure exactly what work will look like even in a couple of years' time, the lessons and experiences from the pandemic are likely to shape the latest trends in performance management, at least in the short term.
Latest trends in performance management
Is the annual appraisal a thing of the past?
While the move away from the annual appraisal has been going on for some years, this has been a slow drip, rather than a mass exodus. Our own survey in 2019 found that a third of employees still had an annual appraisal. The pandemic seems to have been a catalyst to really get businesses engaged with more continuous performance management.
Employees need SMART objectives that are relevant, and that relate to their current situation. Line managers need to stay in touch with their direct reports and ensure they know what they should be working towards and how to achieve them. Businesses need their teams to be aligned so that everyone is working towards the same goals.
This has required HR, senior leaders, and managers to embrace shorter review cycles and introduce more frequent check-ins. This process will continue as employees and managers become more comfortable with this approach. The latest trends in performance management include the process becoming more relevant to day-to-day activities, providing a useful framework for managers and employees to keep focused and engaged, wherever they are working.
“If businesses have not already done so, I think they will need to rethink the way that they review the cycle of an employee’s performance and also their wellbeing. We have decided to move away from the usual “yearly appraisals” and move to regular check-ins, to review an employee’s progress towards objectives set, aligning new objectives where required, making the whole employee experience even more positive whether they remain office-based, or home-based”. <div class="author">Neil Wainwright-Farrar, Head of Learning and Development at Clarity Travel</div>
Focusing on more than performance
One thing that the pandemic provided was an opportunity for organisations to stop and reflect. It’s not often that you get a chance to step back from a situation at it with fresh eyes. Some of our customers paused their review cycles, taking the chance to consider what was most important to support employees during lockdowns, with many juggling childcare, health concerns and worries about the future.
Wellbeing at work has become a much larger huge focus for many and the link between performance and wellbeing was highlighted for all to see. We developed our working from home check-in form in response to demand from clients which gave managers a clear framework to review performance alongside how employees were doing in one simple document. This has proved to be very popular and assessing wellbeing as part of regular reviews is one of the latest trends in performance management.
“We’ve opted for a mini-review to ease staff back into the process, focusing on their wellbeing, which is vital in an organisation like ours. Ensuring that we maintain a covid-secure environment is an extra pressure on school staff. If they are to perform to the best of their abilities and maintain the high standards expected of them, we need to reassure them that we are here to support their health and wellbeing.” <div class="author">Lisa Rose, Human Resources, Aldenham School</div>
More employee-driven learning
The last few years have prompted many people to reassess their lives and their careers. It has given them an opportunity to reflect on what they’re doing, think about whether they are happy in their role and consider the future. The “Great Resignation” has been a huge topic over the last few months, with predictions that up to a third of employees in the UK will change their jobs this year. To help employers keep their best talent, the latest trends in staff performance management focus on assisting employees develop the skills they need to succeed, both now and in the future. Performance management should empower employees to take control of their own learning and development, tracking their progress and integrating with holistic plans around their progression.
“Companies can take advantage of this newfound curiosity and desire to learn. “However, they should be aware it needn’t be a race for them to churn out their own content. There is lot of existing material that can give their people the skills to self-direct and manage their own learning. Building in frameworks as part of their approach to performance management, such as a coaching option that focuses on personal development is an approach that we’ve been piloting effectively at Talentstorm.” <div class="author">Rachel Arts, Director of Learning & Development Consultancy, Talentstorm</div>
Getting managers up to speed
Line managers have been under huge pressure since the beginning of the pandemic, not only having to manage their own performance through difficult and changing circumstances but that of their employees too. According to the latest statistics from the HSE, work-related stress, anxiety and depression accounts for half of all work-related ill health cases.
An effective performance management process relies on managers buying in to the process and having the skills to execute their role effectively. Many will have never managed a remote workforce before and have very quickly had to deal with new circumstances and adopt new ways of working. Also, if an organisation is changing their approach to include more frequent check-ins, line managers may need the training to help them understand their role and what is required of them. It is not fair or realistic to expect them to instinctively know what to do.
The latest trends in performance management include a focus on upskilling managers, to give them the tools to ensure they have the confidence and knowledge to manage remote workers. If hybrid or remote working is to be a success, managers must learn how to get the best out of employees whom they have much less face-to-face contact.
“The changes we’ve made to our reviews, making them more light touch and clearly focused on objectives, job descriptions and wellbeing has highlighted that some of our managers are not fully equipped to perform these effectively. We recognise we need to address this to ensure everyone has a positive experience, so will be concentrating on offering specific training for managers to help them acquire the new skills that they need.” <div class="author">Lisa Rose, Human Resources, Aldenham School</div>
As the world learns to live alongside Covid-19, employers must think about the best way to ensure employees continue to perform to their full potential and remain aligned to their business objectives. The latest trends in performance management are about supporting employees to perform to the best of their ability through creating a culture and managerial framework that allows them to thrive. This means ensuring they have a clear direction, receive regular updates and learn the necessary skills to allow themselves and the business to succeed.