Performance management shouldn’t stop when businesses face tough times. Amidst the pandemic, many organizations are having immediate concerns on how to cope financially. Potential customers may be cancelling meetings. Important campaigns may need to be pushed back; international expansions put on hold; crucial conferences postponed, or supply chains disrupted. For many of us, thoughts are already turning to how we do more with less. Should we scale back investment? Freeze hiring? Perhaps even downsize?
If it does come to that, the fallout will be hard. Redundancy can be as tough for the people who stay as those who leave. So-called survivor guilt can take its toll. At the moment when you need your highest performers to continue being your highest performers, they may find their focus fragmenting and their resilience shattered by the emotional turmoil. It’s at times like this that performance management really proves its value. Here’s how.
Goals can help you focus on what matters
Goal-setting is a crucial part of the performance management process. During a time where employees are being laid off or furloughed, employees that are left behind may feel a loss of purpose and morale. Refocusing on goals and setting clear ones that align to an organisation can help give employees a sense of purpose by showing them how their hard work will take the company further. Setting personal development goals is another element of performance management which can help your employees grow and equip them with the skills and talent the organization requires.
There are many and varied ways of setting clear goals — from setting individual objectives, to collaborative goals to OKRs and beyond. Goals — as well as being clear and assessable — need to be aligned so that the benefit and contribution to the wider organization is clear, and aspirational to help encourage people to excel. Goals should also identify whether they are shared team goals or require collaboration with others. The process should also keep goals agile (to cater for our rapidly changing world). Here at Clear Review we call our goals “Priorities”: when you’re incredibly busy, they help you to understand the things that you absolutely need to focus on.
Know who your high performers are
Knowing who your high performers are is essential for managing talent. At times of uncertainty and when there are major changes in the organisations, it’s important to know what talent you have and how you can help your employees perform better with the right training and development plans. Focusing on employee development means performance in the organisation can improve. It shows your employees that you are invested in their development and their career aspirations and helps employees feel like they are valued members of the organisation — not just another replaceable cog in the machine.
Doing performance management in a continuous way can help you get the information you need to understand your talent. The closer managers are to their employees, the clearer the performance picture will become. Making sure that you hold regular check-ins, and are available to support and advise your team members, will give you a clear picture of their capabilities and potential for development. Within the Clear Review system for example, Talent Snapshots helps managers make more objective pay, promotion and succession planning decisions by assessing high performers based on fact rather than opinion.
Checking in with your employees
Whatever your plan for coping with uncertainty, remember that it has a human impact as well as a commercial one. If nothing else, your team will be concerned for friends and family. And if the worst comes to the worst and you are forced to make hard decisions about your people, remember that those who stay need support too. Stress, anxiety and depression are increasingly common and have a direct impact on performance. Companies that put measures in place through performance management systems to have more check-ins and have conversations on wellbeing are more productive. They benefit from employees, who feel they matter to the company and are of value.
A 2019 YouGov poll found that around a third of employees wanted the opportunity to discuss their wellbeing in a check-in. This is something managers can get ahead of simply by adding a question or two to the usual check-in conversation. We often say that these conversations can be a time to step back from the business-as-usual topics and talk in more general terms about wellbeing, workload and resources. Simply asking “Do you have everything you need?” and “How are you feeling?” can go a long way to reassure people.
Improving employee engagement
Employee engagement is crucial in boosting performance. In a recent eBook, we discuss how employee engagement and performance go hand in hand and how engaged employees help power performance. When everyone is going through a tough time, there will be times where employee morale is low. There will be feelings of uncertainty and isolation, which is why it’s important that we pay attention to employee engagement. Are employees engaged in their work while they are working from home? Are they being supported by the rest of the team? If they feel more engaged in group projects, are they doing enough of those whilst working remotely? A good way to start measuring how engaged your employees are is by doing surveys to check the status of your employees. This will help you give real data and help you understand where the problem may lie, and how you can improve it.
Managers should be on the lookout for obstacles and blockers that can stop people getting through their task list and breeding disillusionment. We’re better able to work remotely than we’ve ever been, but we must stay focused on employee morale and performance of our people. Whatever decisions we need to make in the coming months, we need to be informed so we can do the absolute best for our organizations.
Want to learn more about boosting productivity, performance and engagement?
Download our eBook on “Maximizing performance in the new normal” which looks at the 5‑step productivity model. This model is built on the key elements of performance management and employee engagement.