Now Is the Time for Continuous Performance Management

April 27, 2020 Lynne Levy

5-minute read

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COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the world of work. How can we motivate our people and positively impact performance during these challenging times?

Before the current crisis, the HR community had already come to a consensus that the annual review is ineffective. A Mercer survey found 2% of HR leaders believe their current performance management systems are effective. Another study from McKinsey reported that two-thirds of employers are making significant changes to their performance processes. Because of this, many organizations were starting the journey to continuous performance management, with a focus on ongoing feedback, recognition, goal-setting, and check-ins before the crisis hit. 

Now life and work are changing at a rapid pace. Many employees are in a state of fight-or-flight, worrying about their health, their families, and their job security. How can continuous performance management support employees' performance as we work through this crisis and create a human-centered culture? Where should you begin?

1.   Start with positivity.

An effective performance management strategy begins with a foundation of gratitude and trust, generated through a strategic, comprehensive employee recognition program. Through recognition, trust increases, and employees feel safe giving and receiving feedback from both their colleagues and manager.

Some ways to begin with positivity during this pandemic include:

  • Start meetings with recognition for individual and/or teams.
  • During check-ins, start with what went well this week.
  • Make recognition moments public so others can celebrate in the moment as well.
  • Express gratitude for the positive things occurring at work and even in your personal life.  
  • Every conversation, regardless of who you are talking to, should start with positivity. It could be something simply like a funny story from home or an uplifting anecdote from a customer. For me, I try to reflect on the fact that it’s spring and how wonderful it is outside. Always start with a bright, positive moment.

Be sensitive to each employee’s individual situation. Be sure to balance enthusiasm with the reality your employees are facing, whether a family member who is ill or a relative who lost their job

2.   Adjust goals frequently. 

Organizations are fighting to survive. Top-level strategies are evolving as leadership builds plans for getting through these challenging times. Managers must work with employees to help them understand what the changes mean for their specific goals. Employee goals should be easily adjusted and revisited as organizational strategies evolve.

Goals also need to take into consideration the COVID-19 reality and the fact that employees might not be as productive as in normal circumstances. It might make sense to take something off an employee's to-do list or even pass a low-priority project onto someone more junior as a stretch assignment. 

Individual goals should also be connected to company goals. Now, more than ever, you need employees who are emotionally connected to helping the organization succeed through this crisis. 

To maintain engagement and morale, managers should continue to check in with their employees and make sure they still have some time dedicated to personal growth and development. 

3.   Have frequent check-ins.

Many employees are starting to feel a sense of isolationCheck -ins are not only good for getting a sense of workload, but also for getting a read on an employee’s well-being. Managers need to use empathy and adjust workload as needed.

HR plays a critical role here too. They should provide managers guidance on how best to navigate subjects such as alternative work models, job security, and stress management, which will come up during check-ins. 

Some things to address during a check-in right now include:

  • “How are you?” Not a standard, "How are you," but a heart-centered "How are you? How is the family? How is everything?"
  • “How can I support you?”
  • “What went well this week?”
  • “What learnings did you have?”
  • Corporate changes
  • A quick discussion of any goals that may have changed

The significant impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on employees' personal and work lives is leading to anxiety, frustration, and burnout. These emotions can negatively affect productivity and engagement, and ultimately impact the organization's ability to survive. Managers need to be equipped to navigate the stress employees are under as part of the check-in.

4.   Ask for feedback.

Now is not the time to for continuous constructive feedback. Instead, ask employees what they learned this week, nudging them toward self-reflection. For many, receiving feedback invokes a fight-or-flight response.

Managers should instead focus on strengthening the relationships within their teams by building trust through check-ins, goal setting, and recognition.

Organizations should encourage employees to ask their peers for feedback on their performance and goals. The science tells us that by asking for feedback, it not only promotes employee growth, but it minimizes the stress involved with receiving feedback.

5.   Leverage nudges.

There is so much information, stress, and overload that everyone is feeling. Yet each one of these parts of continuous performance management is critical for morale and organizational success. 

Workhuman® is offering mission-critical solutions, including Conversations®, free for a year to support employees through the COVID-19 crisis. The solutions replace isolation with recognition, connection, and celebration. They replace uncertainty with transparency and alignment through frequent check-ins, goal setting, along with feedback. 

Learn more here.

As we emerge from these challenging times, my hope is the relationships between managers and employees will have fundamentally changed – focusing more on collaboration and respect and less on hierarchy and power dynamics. Leaders who are employee-focused will rise to the top and continuous performance management will be a critical part of this evolution.

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About the Author

Lynne Levy

Lynne Levy is a Workhuman evangelist who lives and breathes helping organizations build cultures that bring out the best in the employees. Her mantra is “do what you love, love what you do.”

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