Raj Karunakaran, HR Head, Cargill India feels that during this crisis, the everyday performance management helped Cargill in responding to business challenges with far more agility. In an interaction with People Matters, he shares the key focus areas for the company, why the organization is measuring performance amid the crisis and how he is preparing the business and workforce post-COVID.
As a leader, do you measure performances during the crisis? If yes, what are the key parameters that are considered while measuring performances?
Back in 2012, Cargill decided that effective performance management needs to be a continuous process. Instead of performance ratings and annual review forms, we focus on managers having frequent, on-the-job conversations, and giving regular, constructive feedback. We call it ‘Everyday Performance Management’. This includes effective two-way communication, giving feedback, and coaching. During this crisis, everyday performance management helped Cargill in responding to business challenges with far more agility.
We focused on –
- Simplified process, goals aligned to the changing business needs, and a new way of working protocols.
- Ongoing discussions between managers and employees, informal feedback, coaching, goal review, and adjustment during the crisis.
- Simplified and flexible goal setting with fewer, more dynamic goals aligned to business strategy and tailored to the dynamic business environment.
- Qualitative assessment of the employee achievements, contribution to business success, and development opportunities.
During the crisis, our managers approached performance management with more flexibility, leniency, empathy, and compassion. We looked at various ways to recognize and show appreciation for employees who ensured we continue to deliver to our commitments. This approach has helped Cargill in keeping high employee morale, engagement, and productivity during this crisis.
How do you recommend addressing performance management today? What are some of the pillars of performance that you focus on?
The need for performance management systems is to be flexible and agile in order to meet a myriad of business needs and dealing with challenges during the COVID crisis. Employee-manager relationships and trust are central and the foundation of the performance management. The pillars of a strong performance management process are having more frequent, future-focused conversations on continuous improvement and development. It’s critical that managers and employees feel equipped and empowered to adapt both their work and goals to the new situation. By putting people first, you will help set up your organization to be successful in the future.
As the pandemic resets work trends, how should HR leaders rethink workforce and performance planning? What approach are you following?
In many organizations, HR remains the custodian of overseeing the performance management process. It is critical that HR leaders rethink this approach and see how it can be made truly a manager-employees driven process. We believe that effective performance management is an ongoing process employee-manager relationships are at the heart of effective performance management.
- Performance management processes need to be flexible to address different business needs. We have invested in strengthening the related capabilities of both managers and employees. This included building trust, coaching, effective communication and effectively delivering and receiving feedback. Here are some of our approach at Cargill.
- Engage in more dynamic and flexible goal-setting rather than once a year SMART goals.
- Build managers' capability on coaching, giving regular informal feedback rather than limiting feedback to once or twice in a year.
- Streamline documentation to the minimum required rather than extensive and complex documentation.
We have integrated a coaching approach in our performance management process. This approach has built an engaging and collaborative partnership between our employees and managers. Managers guide employees to make deliberate and empowered choices. It helps in generating creativity and promotes collaborative discovery of solutions and helps employees understand how they can develop and grow.
One of the studies suggests that globally 43% of people are redesigning jobs as a way to prepare for the future of work. As people leaders continue to wrap their heads in this crisis. How can employers ensure their workers to embrace new technology and upskill themselves?
We put people first and reach higher. These values guide every decision we make. It helps us to balance both our business and people's needs. The pandemic has reshaped the way we think about our physical work environment for our employees – in our offices and plants, as well as how we connect with our customers. As a result, we’ve turned our attention to how we innovate our ‘new normal’ embracing new technologies and upskilling our employees to work in a new work protocol.
This includes investments around virtual leadership, collaboration tools, digital ways of doing business, long-term goals for employee experiences, as well as the physical needs of the organization like work innovations, technology investments, etc. COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of fully digitized approaches to re-create the best of in-person learning through live video and social sharing. This transformation permits greater personalization for learners—and in turn greater effectiveness.
You have launched the Cargill Cares Employee Disaster Relief Fund for the health and wellbeing of the employees. What was the thought behind coming up with such an announcement? Do you think, it’s high time and employers need to prioritize the well-being of the employees? Do corporates need ‘Chief Wellness Officer’?
At the core of our values is our commitment to Putting People First. Our commitment is stronger than ever as we navigate this challenging time. Mitigating financial distress for those impacted by COVID-19 is a key pillar of our Putting People First commitment. To support employees during times of personal or natural disaster, including the COVID-19 crisis, Cargill recently launched the Cargill Cares Employee Disaster Relief Fund and contributed $15 million as an initial start to the fund. Employees can apply or contribute to the employee disaster relief fund through a new online portal. The fund will be managed by a non-profit organization, E4E Relief, which specializes in administering funds like ours. We hope through this fund, we can come together in a powerful way to help our colleagues by providing some peace of mind during this incredibly uncertain time.
We’ve taken all necessary precautions to support employees and keep people safe at our production facilities, including temperature testing, cleaning and sanitizing procedures, prohibiting visitors from entering our facilities, prohibiting international travel, limiting domestic travel, adopting social distancing practices and offering shift flexibility to keep our major production facilities open. We’re prioritizing overall health and wellness, which includes mental health support for employees. We have a dedicated focus on providing resources, including a Psychological Well-Being Toolkit. In the next six months, we will deliver additional employee and leader resources, mental health awareness training, and leadership-led campaign to de-stigmatize mental health and demonstrate care and concern.
What kind of impact you have seen on the business and workforce due to this pandemic and how are you preparing your business and workforce post-COVID?
During this unprecedented time, Cargill is working around the clock with farmers and our customers to continue feeding the world safely, responsibly and sustainably. As our work comes under the ‘essential services category’, the responsibilities of our employees have risen exponentially during this time. We have seen outstanding resilience amongst our teams, with employees putting in longer hours and additional effort to get work done.
I strongly feel that this is a time to show more empathy, be role-models and be declarative on employee wellbeing and worklife balance. Goes without saying, that we are providing all possible infrastructure support to help employees work remotely and ensuring all safety precautions are taken at our manufacturing locations across India.