There has been few years like 2020. Although the world has seen healthcare crises and pandemics before, the response to Covid-19 from a commercial point of view has been very different. Obviously in certain sectors such as hospitality and construction, people have needed to be physically present in the workplace to complete their job roles. However, because the outbreak of Covid-19 occurred in the digital age, many other sectors were able to do something quite different. In short, this meant a greater reliance on communications technology than had ever been the case before as more and more people started to work remotely. Like many other areas of business, performance management saw quite a few new tends come into play.
It should be said that 2020 simply sped up a shift to more working from home and flexible working patterns. This was already a trend before the pandemic. However, it has not been as simple as replicating office working practices in domestic situations. Although certain tasks can be conducted just as easily remotely as they can in-person, performance management was a concern for many employers. In 2020, large numbers of businesses found that they could adapt their performance management processes to meet the new mode of working and, indeed, improve on what they had had in place before. What did managers and business owners learn in 2020 that they can continue with as the world returns to something like normality?
Continuous Performance and Closer Alignment
Formal reviews still tended to occur at quarterly or end-of-year appraisals in 2020. However, as the adoption of home working models took off, managers were much more likely to engage with their team members more regularly. Some would book check-in meetings on an almost daily basis to keep staff updated and felt looked after in a vastly changed world. In turn, this has allowed many of them to make ongoing assessments with regards to performance, feeding their periodic analysis in a much more meaningful way than might have been the case if remote working patterns hadn’t become the norm.
Equally, there has a been a shift towards a closer alignment between team leaders and middle managers and the staff they manage. Because much of the online activity that has fed performance management metrics have been informal, some managers have often felt closer to their teams than ever before. Of course, this really means being more aligned with their thoughts about work than being closer in a physical sense. For many, it is only the use of digital tools that has really enabled this shift to a closer alignment between staff and their managers.
Shifting Motivations and Higher Expectations
One of the key aspects of a workforce that was more spread out than it ever had been before in 2020 was that it meant that workers often showed different motivations in their roles. For some people, work is and always has been primarily a social thing. Of course, motivations like money and status play their part but lots of people cite the ability to spend time with others during the day as a big part of what gets them going. In 2020 of course, it was much harder for this to be a motivational factor any more. Managers needed to work out in a much more in-depth and individualised way how to get the best out of their teams, especially ones which included people who really wanted to work with others but could not.
In some cases, 2020 saw a growth in performance expectations among employers. This is because the digital tools needed to allow people to work from home often meant that they were more efficient. Although the increased stress and home life situations that some workers faced meant that their performances dropped during the pandemic, many others found that they faced fewer distractions, attended only the meetings they needed to and were consequently more productive.
Generally speaking, the more empowered middle managers felt to allow their teams to work out for themselves how best to get their work done, the higher the level of performance they saw. This might have meant allowing workers to get their work done outside of the usual office hours or even at weekends. However it may have been achieved, 2020 saw lots of enterprises operating more efficiently with a higher level of expectation in performance management metrics as a result.
The Role of Digital Tools in Performance Management
It is fair to say that those organisations that saw an upturn in performance in 2020, despite all of the challenges of the year, were the ones which had already invested in the sort of digital tools that support performance management. HR software that could integrate what managers were reporting about their team members while recording the key performance indicators of individuals was just one of the tools that the most successful companies had at their disposal.
Other software features that were essential in 2020 were adaptable scorecards by which employees could rate themselves and those they managed in a qualitative way that was both quick and easy to roll-out. Where teams were reorganised to suit the new working structures of 2020 and where they might have been under new managers, so past and current appraisals and reviews needed to be stored in a database where they could be easily accessible by both employees and supervisors. Even better, the sort of digital appraisal tools that really worked tended to offer simple solutions to the transparency of the entire performance management process, for example, by leaving an audit trail of who has written what and when.
With these sorts of digital performance management tools at their disposal, companies that have invested in them in 2020 look set for a much less cumbersome appraisal process in 2021. Not only will carrying out performance reviews take up fewer resources but they will lead to more in-depth knowledge that will inform high-level management decisions as the economy changes in the coming twelve months. The good news is that it is still possible to invest in enabling performance management software to benefit from doing so