At the heart of effective performance management is the need to establish an agreement between a supervisor and an employee about what is expected of a particular role and how to achieve this in practice. Amongst other things, it requires open communication, mutual respect, and clarity on goals and expectations.
Much of the traditional approach to performance management has revolved around observation, feedback, and face to face meetings, all supported by standard policies, procedures, and tools.
With the rise of remote working and social distancing, traditional performance management must be adapted to meet new challenges that have been added to this already complex blend.
The following are 5 tips to help you navigate performance managing an increasingly remote workforce:
1. Expect Performance Changes
For all the stories about how wonderful working from home has been and how productivity has increased, there are just as many about how difficult it is to balance work and home life, and how hard it has been to retain performance levels.
This is not a reflection of the attitudes of employees, but more of workforce diversity. For those who can set up a quiet home office, who have roles that lend themselves to be working remotely, and who haven’t dealt with the complications of home schooling alongside home working, maintaining productivity has been easier. Balance this against the employee who has no space to dedicate to an office set up, who may have several children at home requiring schooling support, and whose role requires significant interaction with others, and the dynamics are clearly very different.
Add to this the stresses of unnatural living conditions and additional health concerns brought on by the pandemic, and it is easy to see why many have struggled to maintain usual levels of productivity.
The bottom line is that everyone needs to accept that performance and productivity will have been impacted by the extreme circumstances everyone has been facing. More importantly, remote working is likely to be a norm for some time to come, and for others it may even be a permanent work state.
HR needs to work with managers and employees to develop a new set of procedures, policies, and systems support, and to re-calibrate performance standards for those roles that have been impacted. And this this leads us to the second tip – the need to remain flexible.
2. Be flexible
The key to adjusting expectations and establishing what performance standards and goals need to be in place to drive the achievement of business goals, is to remain flexible.
What works for one individual or set of circumstances may not work for another, for all the reasons given above, and more.
Keeping a flexible approach and collaborating with employees to agree on practical working patterns, methods, goals, and deliverables is key to maintaining an engaged and productive workforce.
It should also be remembered that the need for flexibility must be two way – essentially creating a culture of give and take, where both parties involved accept that they are working towards the same overall objective. There will be times when employees can set their own agenda, but equally times when getting a team together in a virtual meeting is critical to decision making.
An environment of mutual respect and trust needs to be in place to achieve this level of flexibility.
3. Trust your employees
Maintaining performance whilst providing flexibility depends on trusting your employees.
For some time, there has been movement in the workplace towards reduced levels of management supervision. This has been driven by many different changes in working patterns, for example, the increasing implementation of agile project management which has seen self-driven and cross-functional teams directing their own work within agreed parameters.
Another factor has been the evolution of organisation structures with flatter hierarchies, managers having a larger scope of responsibility, and correspondingly larger teams, often dispersed across various locations and even across different business streams.
In short, the increase in remote working has sped up the need for managers to let go of any tendencies to micro-manage, and instead to move their role to one of leadership.
The key takeaway is to recognise that seeing in person what employees are doing, and continually monitoring their progress, is even less of a viable approach when faced with a remote workforce.
From a HR perspective, it may be tempting to try and replicate the workplace norms by looking to introduce some form of monitoring using technology. Before considering this as an option, care should be taken to consider whether this adds any value to the process, and, more importantly, how this impacts the emotional engagement of the employees.
One activity that can support trust building and alleviate anxiety for managers is to re-focus on the importance of positive and open communication.
4. Focus on Communication
Now, more than ever, regular communication between managers and employees is one of the most important activities for supporting productivity and performance, as well as for maintaining employee engagement.
Taking on the earlier point about the need for flexibility, it is important that managers pay attention to making themselves available and approachable. Regular conversations on goals and objectives help to maintain focus and provide guidance, as well as giving the perfect opportunity for providing feedback and recognising good performance.
Everyone will benefit from regular and open communication, but it can’t be emphasised how much the “personal touch” can positively impact an employee who may be feeling detached, stressed, or even depressed.
Managers should also find ways to maintain team dynamics and relationships as the sense of belonging is an important influence on motivation, making full use of technology available to streamline connecting and communicating.
5. Use Technology for Support
Using technology such as Microsoft Teams, Skype, WebEx or Zoom to connect to individuals and teams and open new channels of communication is important when employees are working remotely. The ability to see colleagues and share ideas and experiences reduces stress and lifts productivity. Progress and goals can be shared visually, and teams can work together remotely on documents and projects.
Equally as important is for HR to leverage HRMS technology to significantly enhance engagement and reduce the stress employees can feel when trying to interface with HR or carry out mandatory activities whilst working remotely.
In summary, if you are feeling overwhelmed by the new challenges that have been added to the already complex world of people management, these five basic steps will support your employee performance activities.
One last tip for you to take away is to take a few minutes to look at our HRMS, HRBluSky, a user-friendly environment offering centralised, anytime, anywhere access to a full range of core functionality including benefits, ongoing training, online support and, of course, performance management