Rethinking Performance Management In The New Normal

Many UK businesses are currently in the process of returning to the workplace, even as a large percentage of their staff continue as remote workers, creating new challenges for managers and HR leaders when trying to manage teams and individuals in the “new normal”. Employees returning to work need clear communications on any updated protocols, while coordination with those continuing to work remotely requires new feedback mechanisms to keep everyone in the loop.

Performance management tools can offer businesses a foundation for success, helping to tie together hard data from which leaders can make decisions instantly, while creating a network in which continuous feedback ensures employees get things right quickly, avoiding costly and time-consuming mistakes. 

A recent survey from Robert Half into the experience of professionals working from home – and how they feel about returning to the office – offers some important insight for managers and business leaders to consider as they deal with the new normal. 77% of employees surveyed are working from home, with a majority of 60% believing their work-life balance has improved due to the lack of commute, and 63% realising their job is doable outside of the office. 

This shifting mentality around the topic of remote working has impacted sentiment regarding returning to the office. Half’s survey examined some of the measures being adopted by companies as a result of COVID-19, rating the top measures as follows:

  1. Allowing employees to work from home more frequently/having better cleaning protocols – tied at 79%
  2. Holding fewer in-person meetings and trainings – 70% 
  3. Staggering employees’ work schedules – 55% 
  4. Requiring employees to wear masks – 52% 
  5. Changing the office layout – 46% 

This radical reappraisal of office versus remote working represents a huge shake-up for the business community. But it also offers the potential to uniquely reshape how things are done moving forwards, introducing new processes which could significantly improve your bottom line. 


Using performance management tools to streamline processes

Making the most of your performance management system is ultimately about streamlining processes to free up time for managers and HR leaders to focus on the more strategic aspects of running the business. Performance management tools used correctly give users a commanding overview of the data needed to better understand everything from sentiment, productivity concerns, employees who may be a flight risk or those who require training, and other issues which need to be identified and addressed early.

Data gathered from performance management tools can help in a wide range of ways:

  • Deliver trustworthy data so you know when you’re getting it right
  • Gives real-time insights to make sure productivity is heading in the right direction
  • Shed light on issues with remote workers in a timely manner to allow leaders to respond
  • Reveal areas where lack of engagement is negatively impacting on performance
  • Give leaders confidence that new processes and requirements are fully understood by their employees

Let’s take a closer look at some of the key aspects of performance management you can use to streamline these processes when dealing with remote workers while ensuring a smooth transition for any members of staff returning to the workplace.

Implementing a reliable and continuous feedback loop

Whether you’re setting transparent objectives which need to be instantly accessed throughout the company hierarchy or tracking an employee’s progress towards these ambitious goals, implementing a reliable and continuous feedback loop is essential if you want to identify problem areas and take action before any real damage is done. Being able to offer constructive feedback in a timely manner helps to bolster a high-performance culture where accountability is driven by data. 

Performance management tools can help bring managers directly into contact with their remote workforce and communicate on the issues which matter most in an instant. Regular feedback boosts engagement and should be a core mechanism, so using a system which offers real-time feedback while allowing managers to schedule regular one-to-ones and check-ins  ensures that a continuous feedback loop is maintained. 

Team leaders and managers should try to focus these frequent but brief meetings on near-term work, making sure they recognise any recent good performance, focus on strengths and acknowledge weaknesses while avoiding giving the feeling that the employee is being micro-managed. It’s also important that these chats are not 100% dedicated to work: taking the time to ask how they are feeling, or if they are experiencing any problems coping with working from home, can help you address any concerns they have promptly before they lead to more serious issues.

Matt Phelan, co-founder of The Happiness Index, has noted a general decline in the happiness of employees who are working remotely, saying, “Your employees may say they are okay at the moment but that’s not backed up by the anonymous data that has seen a huge drop since the lockdown in employee feeling from 7.6 to 5.8 on a scale of 1-10.” And with a 2017 report from Gallup indicated that companies with engaged employees outperform those without them by 202%, keeping the conversation going between managers, team leaders and individuals can not only boost engagement but also decrease absenteeism and turnover. 

Tracking and analysing employee sentiment

Without raw data to track and analyse, it can be difficult to fully understand if the systems your business has put in place to motivate and engage your teams and individuals are having a tangible effect both on performance and job satisfaction. So if you want to leverage the best results possible from your staff, you need to implement a method for gathering data on employee sentiment in a way that is both consistent and reliable.

As mentioned, regular feedback can be a powerful tool for understanding and monitoring employee sentiment and boosting engagement, and these can be supplemented by integrating an Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) survey into your performance management tools. These surveys ask employees a variety of questions about their role within the company, allowing them to score their responses on a scale of 1 to 10, delivering the feedback anonymously so they have the freedom to answer honestly.

With managers especially blind to any potential issues employees working from home might be experiencing, tracking employee sentiment via feedback and eNPS surveys not only gives them raw data on how engaged and loyal their workforce is, but also provides off-site staff with the means to raise personal and professional issues which need to be addressed. 

Motivating teams and individuals with daily recognition and rewards

Dealing with a workforce that is either 100% remote or split between remote and office working brings new challenges to leaders and managers seeking to keep their staff inspired and motivated. For entirely remote workforces, effective internal communications tools are essential for keeping these employees alert to their responsibilities and motivated to perform at the top of their game, and workforces facing geographical fragmentation also require consistent communication methods to ensure alignment. 

To this end, performance management tools that put recognition at the forefront help cultivate a culture in which employees are visibly appreciated for their hard work, tracking their ongoing performance individually and within teams so that rewards can be offered in a timely manner. Manager-to-peer recognition can be accompanied by peer-to-peer recognition, and employee achievements can be logged and tracked in your performance management software, whether this is related to high sales performance, effective management and resolution of a specific problem, or the completion of an ambitious goal. 

This data has an additional benefit to employers looking to spot new talents and improve their employees’ overall skill sets. While an employee might possess such skills as communication, flexibility, leadership and great time management, regular feedback combined with an all-encompassing process of recognition can bring a spotlight onto skills and expertise managers and HR leaders might otherwise overlook. Running this data through performance management tools not only allows you to keep track of your employees’ skills, but can also illuminate members of staff who might be better suited on a different project or working in a different department. 

By allowing employees to receive recognition on a daily basis via a performance management app that can be accessed on mobile devices, managers needn’t worry about being unable to communicate this much-needed positive reinforcement to remote workers who might be away from their home office at unusual times. And with everyone in the company granted the same access to these tools, celebrating achievements can be done instantaneously, strengthening your company’s culture and bringing teams and individuals closer together.