The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has forced individuals and institutions to relook at their ways of living and working. As a result, many changes are underway in managing businesses. Thanks to remote working and work-from-home regimes, living rooms and study rooms in homes have emerged as the new collaborative workspaces.
Given the WFH scenario, performance assessment is poised to become more decentralized, real-time and continuous in the post-pandemic years. In the legacy approach, managers determined goals for employees at the beginning of each year. Thereafter, an annual review was undertaken towards the year-end for rating/scoring employees. The reviewed staff were then segregated in different buckets for deciding downstream actions such as salary hikes, promotions, etc.
Changing Dynamics of Roles
Presently, however, a rising number of organisations are tweaking their performance management mechanisms. The main motive is in ascertaining how the model can be changed to meet its core intent of proper performance assessment that considers the dynamics of the present situation.
Every organisation has its predetermined overarching goals that need to be achieved annually or periodically. In one way or the other, each employee contributes to meeting those goals through their assigned roles.
But this was largely so in the pre-pandemic period. During the past year, the COVID-19 outbreak has forced corporates to remain focused on strategies promoting survival and sustainability. Accordingly, the mantra of achieving or exceeding yearly targets was forced to take a backseat. In such scenarios, the traditional assessment benchmarks are no longer valid – at least in the short run.
Instead, what has been paramount in the past months is a combo of smart and hard work in managing the current circumstances while meeting targets. Now, obtaining the best possible outcome has gained priority over achieving the outcome.
Currently, the core currency of performance management systems should focus on paying prompt attention to human resources in teams. For this, it is imperative to stay committed to assessments based on reasonable performance metrics while taking cognizance of COVID-related constraints. Such assessment norms should be decided through open, frequent and transparent conversations between the managers and employees as per specific circumstances. These could comprise real-life challenges and other elements that can affect the performance outcomes of employees.
Going beyond business, awareness of COVID-19’s comprehensive impact on the employees’ personal space calls for crucial consideration before establishing what level of performance is required. This would necessitate the HR function evolving from business partners to people partners. Moreover, managers and leaders will have to be upskilled in catering to both these aspects regarding people.
Tweaking Assessment Norms
Traditional performance parameters apart, employees are now contributing to company goals in varied ways outside the scope of their roles and responsibilities. Consequently, organisations have a greater obligation to avoid clock-hour mindsets in evolving performance measurement metrics. Also, companies must consider employees’ voluntary contributions that surpass the call of duty.
Continuous feedback and conversations are needed to help employees navigate unchartered terrain well while having sufficient opportunities to align their performance with evolving expectations. In such situations, the frequency of assessments will rise, moving to a monthly and even weekly model. It could even become activity-based, especially in a matrix structure.
Simultaneously, tech solutions will address the complexity of managing a process requiring frequent assessment of performance. Here, mobile would play a pivotal role while HR leaders will be at the forefront in heralding this change. There is immense scope for science and research to augment and facilitate performance assessments in a matrix reporting structure. As the flexibility of employees in the organisation rises, the future matrix will include leadership teams as well as other levels. HR heads will bear the onus of making this a reality, both from the change and process perspective.
Nonetheless, redefining performance and tweaking corporate goals only scratches the surface of a revamped performance assessment strategy. To drive effective implementation, culture advocates must be appointed. This will help in both leading the revised performance assessment initiatives from the front and reinforcing adherence to the new guidelines to forestall any nonconformist tendencies, which could trigger a regression to the old outdated practices.
A one-size-fits-all approach won’t work in performance management and, certainly, there is no proven methodology to get it right under the prevailing conditions. Despite this, everywhere talent leaders are contributing their mite in making the assessment process as empathetic and seamless as possible while ensuring the communication lines are active and open.
Although vaccines are beginning to make a difference, the pandemic and its unprecedented challenges will linger on for some more time. Therefore, while the modalities of operating businesses and the way of working evolve, the process of evaluating human resources needs to change in tandem.