Article (January-2021)


Basis of reward, recognition and growth will remain the same

Andleeb jain

Designation : -   President & Chief People Officer (CPO)

Organization : -  JK Cement Limited, New Delhi


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How do you see the PMS landscape across organisations and define the new fronts of Performance management that may open up post Covid?

AJ I don't see too much of a change in PMS landscape unless until there is a marked change in how the KRA's/KPI's are set in an organisation. We are still transitioning and last year's PMS was either put on hold by many organisations or has been done in the way it use to happen in the particular organisation, barring minor changes. In manufacturing Sector, I have my own doubts that the PMS landscape, in terms of the soul of it, will change for plant/Factory staff as things don't change much for them. I myself being part of a traditional manufacturing sector don't see it happening.

However for support functions e.g. HR, Finance, Procurement etc. there are bound to be some technology oriented changes, especially adoption of technology, the way we upskill and the mode through which we develop employees.

Having said that, I am very sure, technology will play a major role in implementation and assessment practices of in an organisation, as the traditional pen and paper methods and face to face feedback mechanisms will become things of the past and will not be sustainable. This use of technology will also enable speed, and, continuous monitoring as online PMS tools will play a major part and feedbacks/developmental needs will be 24X7 available to the Managers.

The landscape may be slightly different for some other sectors, especially Technology driven sectors like IT, Ecommerce, Logistics etc. where use of technology and customer connect will see new benchmarks being considered.

Will it be appropriate time to rethink about conventional metrics HR consider for performance management system? If yes, what changes should be required?

AJ Last year has given us good time for introspection, and, has forced us to rethink about many practices and policies that we have been adopting in the past. It has also given us an experience to adopt change much faster, as we have been forced rather than opting for it. But the results have been more on the positive side rather than negative.

Same is the case for many of our past practices and policies, especially related to PMS. We as HR, must change with the changing times and improve/modify certain aspects of the metrics we consider for performance management system. Though wherever we have been following the Balanced Score Card or a KRA based system, the backbone in terms of the principles will remain more or less same as these are proven good systems. Some new metrices like adoption of technology in one's area of work, turnaround times in certain key metrices for certain functions may find their way in, as main metrics, or, sub set of main metrics. The need for leftover physical interventions and manual assessments will definitely be looked into for change. One new metrics which has surely come up at a senior level, for a position which manages substantial costs as part of their role is the cost consciousness and cost optimisation efforts. For customer facing roles where earlier the customer visits were a major metrics, its evolving into customer touch frequency, whether on video calls or voice calls. Similarly in some other areas like branding and marketing, the effectiveness of digital marketing and incentive tools vs. conventional methods is becoming one of the newer metrics etc.

What can be risk and opportunities in refining PMS post COVID?

AJ I don't think there will be many risks per se, but the speed of change will need to be different for different aspects, after all we are dealing with Human beings.

I personally feel, the change, though its good, if its developmental, should not bring in too much discomfort and frustration in anorganisation. In the end all organisations are a social set up.

We need to properly define, what should change, how much and by when. Like any change process to be successful, this also needs a participative approach by stakeholders. But it's high time we sit down and have a relook at our PMS process and the basis of origin of certain metrics. Lets also come out of the Silo of "It cannot happen in our sector/category" and critically analyse the pros and cons of adopting a best practice or technology.

I am sure, like certain old British era laws that Government of India is attempting to redefine or shelve, we, in our own organisations, are sure to find many processes and thoughts worth relooking and reviewing. The crux lies in HR identifying them and being able to convince the stakeholders, the value and rationale of changing them.

Keeping in mind the WFH model and remote working that has emerged in a significant way, what new metrics should be included while refining new PMS strategies so that remote/WFH workforce are not discriminated?

AJ Like I said earlier, the habit of face to face interactions and going through physical papers, reports, invoices, vendor meetings, town halls, reviews etc. has already changed a lot.

This is bound to continue as we have all seen the positive effect of digitisation and speed associated with it. Since WFH is going to stay with varying intensity in varying sectors, we surely need to redefine our interaction and review strategies, as WFH will make everybody equidistant from each other, as digital distances are same for everybody, unlike physical ones. Gone are the days of someone being more approachable just because of being seated at next work station, or on the same floor, or even the same building. Now everybody is same Zoom, MS Teams, Whatsapp, phone, or Webex away.

It has its own merits and demerits. For colleagues in the far flung areas, who were contributing with equal zeal for business results, now seem to be more connected, the colleagues whose faces were visible everyday in the office, or, over lunch, or in get togethers have become comparatively less visible. Other major thing to be kept in mind is regarding the female colleagues who work from home. All said and done, they, as I can see in my own home and get a lot of feedback from my own female colleagues, are stretched to balance the official and domestic/home front. With children also at home and studying from home puts an extra pressure on female colleagues, so we need to be conscious of their outputs and comparison related to male colleagues. Your 8-10 hour average work day has got more even spreaded in terms of the geographical coverage, and also more people can be accommodated in one call so the quantum of spread has also increased. This has given good opportunity to employees at lower level to have direct interaction with senior decision makers of the organisation , and also equally giving insights to the senior management about the talent available in the organisation, and develop and strengthen strategies around it.

Though at times you miss the bonhomie and emotional bonding built in a physical interaction and brainstorming sessions, Inductions, Factory visits etc., I think it has brought in lot more openness and transparency in the organisations.

A fair, documented and widely circulated document on Business Objectives, desired behaviours, expectation and hardcore numbers at each level must be communicated, and reviewed from time to time, so that it's not unfair for certain set of employees who miss frequent interactions with their supervisors etc.

When many organizations have resorted to pay cuts and reduction in head counts and employees financial standing have taken a hit, how organizations will meet this challenge of setting employees expectations about assessment and compensation through PMS?

AJ Though it's a hard fact that many organisations across the globe have resorted, though forced by the financial situation, to resort to pay cuts, layoffs etc., which have hit the employees hard, I think a fair and transparent communication about each step has gone a long way in building that much needed trust during these difficult times.

Many companies, like we at JK Cement Limited, have kept our employees informed of each and every step that we are taking, and we have assured them of certain things right in the beginning of these hard times in Feb/March 2020. We informed them that we will not cut salaries or lay off employees. The senior most management assured that through messages, videos, social media. We followed up with regular communications and assurances. The management walked the talk, and I think this strengthened our employer brand further during this tough time, rather than eroding it.

We had strengthened our communication systems a lot during these tough times and made sure that each and every employee is touched and informed about the various decisions of the Management and the direction that we are taking to keep them safe, motivated and Engaged. I think many good organisations resorted to giving comfort to their employees and stakeholders during these times.

Since its has been an economically tough year, the initial budgets, sale targets etc. have all gone haywire, and I think that's the case with most companies. This has forced companies to reset the financial No's and thus necessitating a reset of the employee KRA's etc. too. There are exceptions to this scenario in companies for which the pandemic has thrown open new opportunities e.g. online learning platforms etc. During these times, a warm, open communication with employees on the need for realignment and certain drastic measures is the most comforting factor.

How Performance management and reward strategies should be streamlined post COVID and which performance metrics will determine compensation?

AJ I think the basis of reward, recognition and growth for employees will still remain the same e.g.Business Results, Individual KRA's, Team Targets etc. but the way they are assessed or realigned will be different for different companies.

Since the adoption of technology in many facets of HR will be much faster than ever, the employees can expect more regular updates on their performance rather than once/Twice a year. Especially where No's are very clearly defined and recorded, employees should be able to access their achievements online and regularly discuss gaps and ways and means to plug them with their supervisors/Bosses. This will bring in more transparency and trust among employees and will also pave way for midterm, need based corrections in their KRA's so that they are assessed on realistic metrices. One major change will be related to development of employees. The physical training programmes, seminars, conferences and specialised courses will take a back seat. Team leaders have to be sensitised and supported by HR in how to develop their team members in this era of technology and WFH, as they will have to attend flexible courses as also attending to work simultaneously. Bite size learning will take more concrete shape and anytime anywhere learning modules have to be perfected by organisations and seeded in the DNA of the learning culture. Because of the technology available , good news is that all of this can be tracked and analysed in terms of desired spread and target audience for a content.

What kind of discussion should be preferred between the assesse and the assessor while measuring performance post COVID?

AJ I think one factor that consciously needed to be kept in mind when assessing an employee by the supervisor should be the constraints that may have been there with the employee during these times. Whether they are from home front with somebody getting affected with covid and the whole work life balance gets severely upset, or, in some cases the employee himself/herself getting infected and would have taken a substantial time to recover.

Many employees, especially singles, have been working alone in these times, with very less social support in physical terms, where the parents etc have been far away and support system for day today living has got severely affected. The stress levels and anxiety have been high. The resource constraint at hand in terms of availability of good Internet bandwidth, other infrastructure may also have affected the output, with no fault of the employee as such.

As a case in point, in many cases especially in plants, one major KRA of an HR team member has also become related to covid protocols e.g. contact tracing for an infected employee/worker, maintaining and ensuring proper covid centric protocols. sanitisation, medical facilities, social distancing etc. for the workforce. This definitely takes a toll on some other regular works, which form part of a standard KRA sheet. Some points of discussion between the assessor and assesee should be "What has changed in the work life of the employee and how it has affected his/her output?" What more support can the organisation provide to him or her to increase the efficiency? What developmental support does the assessee need to overcome technology adoption challenges?

What challenges organizations and HR in specific may face while refining the PMS post Covid and to how to address them?

AJ There are many facets of a PMS system. In terms of the plain Numbers related to the profile of an employee, not much changes will happen in terms of how they are decided and how they are evaluated as its going to be very objective. These are purely business results related metrics hat get percolated down to the last level and need to be put on paper e.g. sales volume, new customer acquisition, new markets, new products, EBIDTA per ton etc.

What will definitely change is the softer parts. In terms of how the employee achieves these No's, what kind of resources, trainings, skilling and team the employee needs to perform well. As the market factors have changed, the way we do business or sales, or acquire and service customers has become more technology oriented.

Also the social fabric of the employee has changed, with offices either working at reduced capacities or in many cases the satellite offices getting closed. This has affected employees in terms of the peer learning and emotional support. The water cooler moments have surely reduced significantly and the post work de-stressing get together and celebrations also are missing.

This brings in the need of increased empathy and emotional support to employees, not only by their direct team leaders and supervisors, but, we as HR also in a very significant way. Today we don't even come to meet new employee face to face for months together, so that personal bonding and connect takes more time and more effort to build.