Pay cuts, layoffs, deferred appraisals, slashed bonuses-all these became the hallmark of the last two quarters as the world grappled with the economic fallout of the COVID crisis. This economic crisis has resulted in the compensation and rewards component of employee experience taking a big hit for many employees, sending them two to three years behind in their financial standing with or without exaggeration. Yet we expect employees to maintain more than 100% productivity and performance with no respite on the financial front. Despite being nearly six months into the crisis, there persists a regressive approach towards the impact of the crisis beyond business. The financial and non-financial benefits are yet to experience a much needed revamp to meet the employee needs of today.
But as recovery begins, it’s time to step up and revisit the total rewards strategy, factoring in both the compensation as well as benefits. How should businesses go about streamlining the new performance and reward framework? In an exclusive interaction with us, Rhiannon Staples, Chief Marketing Officer at Hibob, the transformative HR tech platform that helps companies engage with and develop strong company cultures, shares her views on rethinking performance and benefits for the new normal.
The colonial mindset around working from home being synonymous with lesser work being done has been challenged by the endless hours of work being put in by leaders, managers and employees. However, there continues to be a need to prove online presence. What is your take on this?
It’s clear COVID-19 has forced companies to adapt to remote work quickly and without warning. However, the unexpected surprise is that many employees are thriving in remote work environments - indicating this new normal isn’t taking a toll on business operations but is instead heightening productivity. According to a recent Hibob study, 37% of employees are feeling equally as productive working from home, and 13% are actually feeling more productive from home. With only 18% of respondents indicating they feel less productive from home, it’s evident the global work from home experiment is finding success.
Despite remote work policies often allowing for more individual autonomy when it comes to a physical location, many employees are facing issues related to burnout due to working longer, demanding hours, and little separation of work and personal life. Work from home has become our new normal, and many people are realizing this situation is no longer temporary.
“To keep employees mentally stimulated and avoiding burnout, modern leaders must recognize online presence does not always equate to productivity. In accepting this, leadership should focus on outcomes (goals) rather than perceived outputs (tasks) to ensure employees are remaining effective from home.”
How performance reviews have changed since the beginning of the pandemic?
In many instances, business priorities have shifted in response to the pandemic. There is now greater uncertainty surrounding employee productivity and responsibilities, as well as a ‘moving target’ for many employees as businesses learn to navigate this unchartered territory. This may leave employees feeling unclear or insecure, and managers unsure about how to keep employees focused and motivated amidst the chaos.
Managers that have relied on frequent interactions and seeing employees working in a physical workspace must make an effort to focus on defining clear goals, objectives, and targets that help employees understand expectations. Once these expectations are defined, employers should ensure this is the bar they’re being measured and assessed at.
What should employers keep in mind while revising the performance framework for their remote employees?
“In this new normal - companies should reconsider their approach to annual or even semi-annual reviews.”
Business and team agility require performance reviews that collect bite-sized performance data throughout the year based on regular check-ins, post-project debriefs, and end-of-quarter summaries. Employers must also remember to always demonstrate empathy, no matter how difficult it might be at times. Stress is at an all-time high for so many, so it’s vital employers are mindful of this when evaluating employees.
Employers and HR teams should ask themselves important questions throughout the review process, evaluating the employee on a holistic level. In many cases, any issues might not be related to skills or performance but could be related to personal issues such as balancing work, child care, elder care, or financial concerns.
Industry-wide pay cuts have sent several employees 2 or 3 years behind in their financial standing. With finances expected to be in a slump for an unpredictable time period, what reward strategies can organizations consider to help employees navigate these challenging times?
Right now, organizations must consider how remote work can help lessen financial stress. For example, by allowing employees to work remotely, they can save significantly on commuting costs. On a more significant scale, remote work can enable employees to move to a suburban area if they so desire, where the cost of living is less.
“Employers should also think about flexibility as a form of reward. Flexible work schedules may help certain employees alleviate childcare costs.”
Other reward strategies include offering a stipend for remote work, for example, paying for home internet access or mobile phone fees to help offset costs for services that employees need to work remotely.
Additionally, consider reallocating funding that was formerly used for expensive office perks - stocked kitchens, monthly team outings and happy hours - to education programs for employees so they feel the company is continuing to invest in career development and training.
As business and HR leaders look to reset workplace and people policies in the new reality of work, how is the benefits landscape changing? Any specific initiative you plan to take around performance and rewards?
To recruit and retain top tier talent, employers should first and foremost consider implementing permanent flexible work arrangements if they haven’t already.
“The future of the workplace will include generous leave policies that provide benefits to employees that need to care for loved ones, stipends for remote work expenses, and investments in education and skills development.”
Right now, it’s also integral to company culture that employers place an increased focus on wellness and stress management mechanisms to foster an environment that prioritizes wellbeing - everything from free wellness apps to internal support programs and access to professional resources will be important.