Almost certainly, Covid 19 has presented us with the opportunity to revisit the purpose, process and outcomes of our Performance Management Systems. It is clear as day that agile goals, continuous feedback and flexible targets yield better results than inflexible cast-in-stone practices.
The biggest area of ambiguity that envelopes PMS is its raison d’etre. Why does PMS exist? Employees believe its main purpose is to distribute and dispense increments and incentives. Leaders believe it exists to give them a grip on individual and team performances. HR function believes it’s the alchemy for all organizational woes. Often lost in this milieu is the most important component of PMS- Communication and Feedback.
Imagine a set of managers who give daily feedback or never, or those who believe only in negative feedback, or worse only positive feedback. There are also those who only dish out problems and never discuss solutions, or provide resources to perform. All of these, and many more such instances are sure fire ways to demotivate and disengage employees. On the other hand, PMS provides a structured and rare opportunity to discuss individual and team goals, resources, timelines and performance.
Although PMS is a key business process , It is often incorrectly seen as a HR Process.
PMS’ primary objective is to spread business goals to teams, and into individual KRAs and later, assess the performance on these scales. HR function drives this process on behalf of business, while ensuring continuous performance by employees, that are motivated and engaged.
HR teams too, like their peers and other employees, are facing unique challenges. They are being drawn into different and opposing directions. Priorities have changed and most need immediate attention. PMS needs to quickly adapt to employee performance when goals have changed or are non-existent, and the work environment is remote and virtual.
When it comes to employees not everyone has worked according to the goals set during annual planning. Not all have enough work, while some have found themselves overloaded. Many employees have gone above and beyond to support their organization where as few have been clueless and figuring out how to fit in with the changes.
On which side of the Performance Management Process are you?
Are you the business leader who meticulously built a plan and developed a strategy in the first quarter of 2020, and see it go all awry? Or maybe you are the Senior Manager who leads a large team of high performers. But this year, you are struggling to remain above waters. On the other hand if you are the HR Leader, I completely empathise with your struggle to manage change fast enough, and make sense of the numerous crises unfolding, almost every week. Or you could simply be the hard working sincere employee, very confused about anything that remotely sounds like performance. Is there going to be an increment, bonus, incentive or you would just be happy to retain your job, and draw a regular salary!
On whichever side of performance you are, this year has been tough. Alongside many other processes, organizations have seen how robust or weak their Performance Management System (PMS) has proven to be.
Are there any quick solutions?
Many are taking unprecedented paths and setting the agenda for others to follow. Popular solutions include abandoning the current performance cycle, rate everyone the same or continue as per plans. The efficacy of each of these solutions is yet to be seen.
However, in case PMS is abandoned or suspended, communication and feedback will suffer the most. Ongoing communication and feedback help employees remain motivated and aligned to common goals. One on one communication, accompanied with recognition amongst peers and higher ups, provides a sense of connection, security and belonging which are critical in times of crisis.
Companies must leverage the possibilities hidden in the threats. It is a perfect opportunity to review and redesign their Performance Management into an agile framework, that enables valuable feedback. The other outcomes will organically flow in.
Communication is the key, not just this year, but every year.
Crisis management, this year, has highlighted the need to be agile in every area of business. Right from the large conglomerate to the lone solopreneur, everyone requires communication strategies that engage.
When business is in trouble and leaders are fighting with time and resources, it seems convenient to drop the rigmarole of PMS. But the employee who has survived this crisis, adapted to the myriad changes, taken on the extra work load of departing colleagues, and contributed to the survival and growth of the company, needs to know how well he has done. A demotivated employee can hardly contribute to growth and more so in a crisis.
Continuous performance management based on objective communication and feedback seems to survive tragedies more, than those that are linked to increments incentives and control.