How COVID-19 Has Changed Performance Management 

An effective performance management system is essential for optimum employee engagement, performance and productivity. 

COVID-19 has forced businesses to adapt to constant and rapid changes in the way we work. Organisations that have clung to outdated performance management processes that rely on annual or bi-annual reviews have had to swiftly transition to a more flexible system that provides ongoing support, motivation, and development.

So, what has changed, and what does it mean for the future of performance management?

A Shift To A More Flexible Approach

Performance management has traditionally been a rigid system in which employees meet with their managers once or twice a year, set a few SMART goals and rarely think about the process again until their next appraisal rolls around. 

This approach no longer works in today’s fast-paced work environment, and the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted this. Government restrictions on the movement of people and business activity are continually evolving as transmission rates ebb and flow. Organisations must be prepared to adapt quickly as the needs of the business and its people change.

Effective performance management is an ongoing conversation; a cycle of continuous development rather than a programme of sporadic check-ins. Every employee is experiencing the pandemic differently — remote working, reduced hours, balancing childcare responsibilities with work commitments, etc. Remote workers can quickly become isolated and disengaged without regular and meaningful conversations and strong leadership. Opportunities and problems need to be promptly identified and addressed. Managers must adopt a flexible approach to goal-setting, development and support to ensure that employees remain engaged and productive.

A New Approach To Goal Setting

SMART targets have long been hailed as the holy grail of goal-setting. However, SMART goals only show part of the picture. They are often long-term and inflexible, and once set, may be forgotten for months until they are dusted off ahead of the next appraisal. 

Forward-thinking businesses are adopting an agile approach to goal setting. Agile goals are typically short to medium term (a few months) and can easily be changed to ensure they remain relevant and continue to drive performance. This is not a tick-box exercise to be completed once or twice a year as part of a formal review process. Employees are encouraged to take ownership of their goals and use them as a tool to guide their daily work. 

COVID demands an agile approach to working. In this uncertain and volatile climate, the organisations that will thrive are those that provide the support and motivation employees need to overcome new workplace challenges.

A Greater Focus On Employee Wellbeing

Employee engagement, wellbeing and performance are inextricably linked. Recent research by HR Grapevine found that every £1 spent on workplace health initiatives delivers a return on investment of between £2 and £34.

The coronavirus pandemic has pushed employee health and wellbeing to the top of the agenda in every business across all sectors. The most effective performance management systems, now and post-COVID, will incorporate strategies for monitoring and measuring workplace wellbeing. Without an understanding of current levels of wellness and engagement, organisations cannot implement measures to improve them.

The most successful organisations will gather rich employee data and use this to deliver employee wellbeing programmes that drive performance whilst supporting positive mental health.

How To Adapt Your Performance Management System For The Modern Workplace

Most organisations have a performance management system in place, but not all are effective or appropriate for the rapidly changing modern workplace. Now is the perfect time to review your organisation’s system and identify opportunities for improvement. Make use of all the data you have access to and consider running an employee survey to gather up-to-date feedback on how well supported, motivated and engaged your team is.

Performance management in a post-COVID world must be agile, personalised, and ongoing. With so many conflicting demands on businesses time and resources, it could be easy to neglect employee support for development and wellbeing. But a company’s most important asset is its people. Invest in them now, and it will pay dividends in the future.

Author Bio: Stuart Hearn is a speaker, people management specialist and the CEO & Founder of performance-tech company Clear Review. With 20 years’ HR experience, both as an HR Director at Sony Music and a consultant, he has spent the last 10 years helping organisations to embed practices that engage, develop and retain their people.

Photo Credits: Dreamstime

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  1. Thank you for covering such an important topic. While many business owners are fixated on improving efficiency, it is very important to understand that it is directly related to the indicators of employee health, both physical and mental.

  2. The article discusses the shift towards a more flexible approach to performance management, emphasizing the need for ongoing support and development in today's fast-paced work environment, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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