Indira Ramachandra, CHRO, AscentHR

Indira Ramachandra, CHRO, AscentHR is an experienced Human Resources professional with a track record of successfully handling HR strategy and operations in the information technology and services industries – with an exposure to diverse culture. With over 25 years of experience in HR and business roles, she is a trusted advisor across strategic and operational aspects apart from managing multiple scaling up operations.

 

After months of speculation, contemplation, and adjustment to the “new normal”, it’s perhaps time to revise this phrase because remote working seems to be taking over our conventional working style. Though some detest this transition, others enjoy the perks of working from home; either way, people are yet to get accustomed to the reverse shift of taking work back to their workplaces. Many companies are contemplating moving the workforce back to office workstations, while many others are getting used to remote working.

However, several companies that prefer the remote working option are yet to revisit their existing workforce policies and undertake much-needed reforms that deal with the shifts at work. These policies impact people, their performances, and the strategic direction that businesses take, and therefore, merit meticulous attention and forethought.

Though remote working has blurred the boundaries between work time and home time, some workers suggest that the transition has helped increase their productivity. The critical question at the employer’s end is how the organization will manage the workflow so that virtualized teams can adhere to it comfortable. They need to measure productivity uniformly among a hybrid mix of in-office and remote workforce. Two sets of tracks and monitoring need to be in place in the hybrid environment:

  • The extra effort put in by the employees – not only to meet the demands of work projects but to exceed them.
  • The ways in which employers are contributing to establish a healthy work-life balance and how it pans out in actual execution.

To do this, the onus is on the employers to:

  • Demonstrate a sense of empathy and support for the employees
  • Keep a track of the employees’ performance
  • Institute a system and approach that evolves with the hybrid system of working

Challenges to Implementing an Effective Performance Management

The disparity and the inconsistency of measuring performance only increased with the remote work movement. Employees need to readjust to the new models of measuring performance – learning how to delineate the challenges, define the problem-statements, align with the process-flows, and map out the results in the way that any examiner would understand. The team leaders and people managers who review their performance should announce ahead the different parameters under which performance is assessed and incorporate a healthy and workable appraisal model. As they do this, they have to make room for tech-related challenges, time to adjust to the new models, and variations in adapting to the hybrid work environment on part of the employees. Therefore, they need to devote more time to understand their team members’ struggles while working from home.

The idea is not to compartmentalize the performers but to devise a fluid system that is suited for evolving to enhance performance. Therefore, emphasis should be on effective performance measures that are wide-ranging and comprehensive.

This must also mean increasing the frequency of measuring performance. Regular tracking of data and mapping the targets early on helps the workforce adapt better to new systems.

Timely feedback is to be given as opposed to quarterly feedback. Regular discussions with the team leader are highly crucial, as a leader must provide success metrics that are both qualitative and quantitative.

If the leader fails to communicate the goals, then the employee must ask for them. Only when the employee and the employer agree on agreeable standards of performance for each project and even in general does the effort evolve into effective performance management.

Settingexpectations and blueprints for evolution

The long-term vision of a performance management system is to show the probable paths of career progression and succession. This has to be done in an engaging, cohesive manner so that the employees’ goals align with the company’s vision.

Methods to ensure a seamless Performance Assessment process:

2020 was all about survival and sustainability, but 2021 is all about getting back into the groove and setting the expectation right as early on as possible. Every organization must re-set its goals and communicate them to the employees. Since every individual has their unique talent and means to achieve the target, a targeted roadmap should be devised to meet it. Having said that, the senior management should be mindful that the set target is realistic, given the pandemic is not over yet and the economy is yet to recover. Since everyone is working from home and struggling to find the right balance between home and work responsibilities added with existing performance pressure, it is important not to overwhelm the employees with revised strategies, deliverables, and action plans. In this space, HR must take over and play a crucial role in setting the pace and priorities.

The process of conducting the performance assessment of employees in a dynamic environment is an ongoing and evolving one. Here are factors to be considered in a top-down fashion in an emerging normal:

Redefiningvision and purpose: If an organization’s purpose changes and is redefined, it is imperative that the employee is made aware of the journey and is aligned accordingly. Their assessment models – ratings, performance indicators, and methods of evaluation – should be firmed up hand in hand with managers and communicated openly to the workforce.

Going back to the drawing board: HR needs to work in tandem with the senior management and develop up-skilling programs and systems to help employees meet their targets. Regular counselling sessions and mental health symposiums to deal with stress management will also help boost employees’ morale and help them become more productive.

Leading byexample: Companies must have culture advocates who will lead by example and revisit performance management. The advocates will be responsible for redefining new guidelines and avoiding any deviation or falling back through regular assessment

Rewards that keep coming (monetary/ non–monetary): To drive motivation and avoid complacency, multiple monetary and non-monetary benefits could be announced to keep the employee morale high. Most employees are facing pay cuts. Therefore, timely rewards and recognition will make employees feel cared for. Besides, it will also help in keeping track of regular performers.

Measuring performance post-COVID in a hybrid work environment is undergoing an evolutionary journey, passing through trial and error until organizations arrive at an effective measurement program. But at all times, the performance assessment process has to be a healthy partnership between employers and employees to drive the organization’s competencies, and thereby, the outcomes up.

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