In the three decades of my professional experience, I have observed that the more people gravitate towards newer modes of communication, their ability to wait for responses comes down. Since the advent of social media, a sense of urgency has infiltrated the personal and professional lives of the people, especially those who are digital natives or have embraced the digital-way wholeheartedly. This is in stark contrast with the older generations that lived in an age when a 12-hour wait for a trunk call was considered ‘lightening quick’. This proclivity for quick turn-round-time has also percolated into the organizational work-culture across the globe. Performance management has ditched the TTYL approach and even ASAP has been deemed too slow for the future of work!
Modern-day workforce performance management is all about communicating Right Here Right Now.
Millennials constitute a large percentage of today’s workforce and they seek a different experience than their predecessors driven by a culture of openness, better and more frequent communication, teamwork, timely mentoring and career progression programs. Traditional approaches are bound to fail in the technology-driven dynamic corporate environment; therefore, a modern performance assessment perspective properly aligned with business growth, employee aspirations and organizational values are essential.
Evolution of Performance Management
Employee assessment has come a long way from the days of confidential reports which defined the draconian Bell Curve method imposed by companies to segregate the workforce into best, average and poor performers. This enabled the managers to control and define the distribution of payment especially for the variable component for the previous performance year and compensation revision for the future. However, this method was quite rigid and did not allow employees to alter their performance instantly as the feedback to their work-routine was shared by the managers once a year. Due to this rigidity, organizations started looking towards other alternatives that facilitated instantaneous feedback and evaluation.
At first, removal of the Bell Curve started as an experiment but gradually this practice has found its way into most progressive organizations. They have realized that it is virtually impossible to attract and retain top-class talent without giving them assurance of constant feedback, engagement, and a defined career path. Modern-day performance management framework has ditched the old and dead-beat approaches and embraced a more holistic outlook that aims at balancing professional commitment with personal development. An indicator of this development has been the rise in the corporate trend of reserving a substantial part of the compensation as variable, sometimes with no upper cap for high performers. This practice not only motivates professionals to strive harder, learn more and be more efficient but also help companies in implementing feedback driven meritocracy.
Trends that drive the new-age work culture
The past decade has seen major revolutions in performance management as the business sectors have continued to steer away from conventional once-a-year appraisals bringing ineffective practices that symbolize the future of work. According to my experience, HR practitioners are aggressively looking to stay ahead of the curve and evolve their performance management strategies. Some such notable transformational approaches are:
Rise of the authentic company culture
The foremost change in the performance evaluation system has been the rise of the authentic brand i.e. a company ecosystem that treats employees as an integral part and not mere means to an end. Today’s professionals want to be part of the decision-making process especially pertaining to performance assessment; they like being spoken to regularly and addressed on-the-spot rather than being in doubt about their credentials and performance. While the new-age work culture revolves around how much trust an employee has on his/her company, it is also necessary to distinguish continuous assessment form irritating interventions and prying. The social media savvy workforce of today is quite temperamental and their threshold for tolerating needless meddling in their day-to-day work is pretty low. The managers and the HR division have to efficiently harmonize their business requirements with the satisfaction levels of the employees.
Agile industries covet agile talent
As companies look to leverage emerging technologies, they have turned their talent management approach on its head.
No more are permanent employees more valued than those on contracts and thanks to the gig-culture, the management focus has shifted to nimble teams comprising of both employees and contractors or freelancers.
Companies have embraced the notion that genuine talent cannot be assigned a label and while employees on fix payroll maybe at the core of their offering, it is often the freelancers who bring in the x-factor. Naturally, companies are seeking talent wherever and whenever it can be found and allocating them projects that suit their skill-sets and career aspirations. Trends indicate that enterprises prefer hiring contractual employees on need basis than keeping a bench of dormant employees.
New skills and challenging projects
A few decades ago, employees were not concerned about evolving their skill sets and were content with the repetitive nature of work. The new-age professionals, on the contrary, do not like redundancy and whether permanent or contract-based, their priority is the enhancement of their profiles and competencies. Companies are accordingly aligning their scope of work with the preferences of their employees and facilitating necessary training such as those related to data and digital literacy. One such trend has been the provision of learning and development tools to the workforce, customized to their career preferences and tailored to enhancing organizational productivity simultaneously. Identification of skill-gap becomes an input for development intervention & for future career management for HR team.
Cognitive Performance Management
Today, the singular characteristic trait of a successful company is the extent of technology integration across its various operations. By harnessing the power of technology, HR professionals can identify organizational readiness to take up new projects. Depending upon the requirements, the existing employees can be exposed to new skills and technologies or people can be hired on a temporary basis with the required expertise. Emerging technologies can help the HR system of a company to move beyond mere employee engagement and retention and facilitate detailed insights on managerial and operational issues. According to Deloitte, data driven tools can churn real-time insights to analyze employee work-patterns, time management, productivity levels, tendency to exit the company, fraud risk and level of satisfaction and dissatisfaction with the existing process of the enterprise.
HR Teams, take a note!
The seismic shifts in the thought process of the modern-day employees can be correctly attributed to the rapid pace of digital innovations. A 2018 report by Hootsuite highlighted an interesting fact, 82 percent of consumers expect an immediate response on sales or marketing questions from the brands. This social media driven exigent behavior is the new normal for the modern employee who values evolving job profile and rapid career growth over the longevity of service. This is the age of gig-economy where career experiences take precedence over the brand value of the company and employees’ personal branding and marketability is more important than that of their employers. While it may be a tectonic change for the companies and their HR teams, this is the truth of today that they have to accept and adapt to.