Article (January-2021)

Articles

Make it more objective, real and closer to todays realities

Alok Nigam

Designation : -   Senior Vice President and Group CHRO

Organization : -  Bhartiya Group, Gurugram

01-Jan-2021

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The new normal has forced us to   shift beliefs, behaviours, and the way we will work in times to come. The experiences from the pandemic are already changing how we work, including a greater emphasis on remote working, digital collaboration, employee engagement, mental health & workplace hygiene amongst others.

Many organizations may be realizing their performance management approaches are no longer suitable for the new workforce dynamic, and that they, to revamp and realign it with who and how we work today, is apparent. In my view there is nothing drastic that one needs to do about performance management framework in the new scenario. However it is true that in order to ensure that the right talent is retained and engaged, the most relevant performance management framework is vital.  Therefore one must look at the relevance in the changed scenario. There is a need to bring in simplicity and agility to the entire framework. When organizations strive to simplify their performance management processes, the increase in efficiency allows for a performance review that is more focused on the individual. This streamlining provides the reviewer with ample time to get to know and understand the employee's professional and personal challenges as related to their work, and reviewers can approach the conversation with empathy.

The pillars of an effective PM framework doesn't go anywhere, one has to only make it more objective, real and closer to today's realities.

Performance planning and Setting up clear objectives

The current year's performance planning may have gone topsy turvy for many businesses because of the changed economic scenario due to Covid but lots of organizations have done mid-course corrections too by adjusting individual employee and organizational goals, but continual change highlights the importance of being agile. As a way forward the organizations must be agile enough to respond to further uncertainties.

One of the biggest problems remote employees have is understanding what their parameters are. Leaders and management should clearly communicate expectations, job responsibilities, skills, and competencies required for the role in the changed scenario. Communicating how individual goals align with department and organization goals is crucial. The organizations may consider setting short-term goals to cover the quarter, Half year objectives as opposed to traditional process of managing them year to year. This will help organizations stay agile and respond faster to changing needs.

In the new normal the organizations have to carefully analyse the results and implement changes where needed before setting bolder, longer-term targets.

Performance reviews and feedback

Performance evaluations/reviews help measure employee's achievements against goals and expectations and determine performance standards across different types of roles and levels. During pandemic, employees might not be as productive due to crisis-induced circumstances. They might be adjusting to fully-remote work, dealing with unexpected life changes, or juggling care giving responsibilities. In this environment, performance evaluations can be a heavy lift. Instead of routine periodic performance evaluations like Half yearly or annual reviews the focus now should on continuous, on-going feedback.

Ongoing feedback doesn't just keep employees on track and working towards the agreed-upon goals, but it helps them feel a sense of connection and psychological safety, which is particularly important during times of crisis. Continuous feedback isn't a new idea, companies around the globe have been utilizing this strategy for years. Particularly during a time of crisis, managers and employees should be encouraged to explore whether it's necessary and possible to take something off an employee's plate. This is also a good moment for a manager and employee to reset expectations around work hours, responsiveness during the day, and prioritization of tasks.

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Rewards and Compensation

An important and critical part of performance management program is its linkage with compensation and rewards. With global markets reeling and companies' business continuity plans are being put to the test like never before, remote working practices are likely to become commonplace, forcing employers to rethink how they could relook at their rewards strategy post the performance evaluations. In current times of crisis there is huge pressure on the organizations to keep the people cost under check and, therefore, this element will be under the watch. Ensuring people are rewarded at the right time is crucial to maintaining employees' trust and motivation. Now with sharp economic shock, companies of all sizes are under intense pressure to get it right. Many will need to adapt their systems and structures to keep up with the changing times and prioritize their staff's best interests.

There are, however, indications that certain sectors will not compromise on their compensation and rewards strategy but even then the performance and merit linked compensation increase will become more sharper and focused. The organizations need to come out with a very clear communication on rewards strategy during these times to avoid any negative impact on employee motivation and performance. In my view this should address the concerns that employees may have on the following aspects :

  • How my performance rating/ evaluation will affect my compensation rise/bonuses this year and in subsequent years.
  • Will there be a market correction this time or in near future.
  • If the threats of more headwinds still looming, will my bonuses be further deferred.

It's also time for the firms to redesign their approach towards compensation as they go forward in terms of the fixed costs, performance linked variable pay outs, fringe benefits, long-term incentive plans.

Technology

Today, technology is knocking down the old methods to make room for an updated and more effective method to improve employee performance. Companies use performance management software that helps them to establish employee performance standards and help managers to evaluate employee's job performance. These systems are used to manage employee progress, performance, and development in regard to organisational goals. With the proliferation of information technology, today's forward-thinking organization generates more data than ever before. When properly harnessed, this information can help to create opportunities for organizations to use this data to their advantage to drive new opportunities, clarify goals and deliver measurable performance improvements.

The use of technology in the performance management programs and systems is, therefore, the best way to manage and run an effective program in these testing times when remote working has become the order of the day. The most critical element here is how user friendly the technology is - for the employee and the reviewers.

Overall the need is to simplify the performance management process to enable the employees to see what's in it for me. A lot more effective communication, transparency and objectivity will definitely serve the purpose.