How to successfully navigate virtual performance management
Lucinda Carney, April 20, 2020
With the COVID-19 pandemic causing the majority of employees to work from home, it has never been more important for us to have the skills to manage remote workers effectively.
Many HR processes like pay reviews and appraisals still need to continue and most importantly, staff that haven’t been furloughed need to remain productive.
By moving employees from the typical workplace environment, we no longer see team members face to face (unless it’s through video chat) and the traditional routines of contact have been disrupted. This can cause a number of concerns, namely, how can we ensure that colleagues are happy, healthy and productive without having the usual office-based contact?
With this in mind, HR teams are likely asking themselves what performance management now looks like. The long-standing debate between annual appraisals and more regular check-ins has rapidly moved to how do I manage my teams virtually, and what is the new norm for people and performance management? Will the methodology and technology have to change?
Traditional management approaches need to be adapted to fit the new requirements of the workforce throughout the COVID-19 outbreak. It might not be business as usual for most, but forward thinking HR teams are using this as an opportunity to embed better people and performance management practice in this new virtual work environment.
Increased frequency of contact
Although we might have had one-to-ones relatively often pre-COVID-19, working from home has ramped up the requirement for us to talk to our people, at least in the early stages. Where we were previously holding monthly one-to-ones, the new virtual frequency needs to be at least weekly.
It's also important to bring employees together and hold virtual team meetings. Bringing people together more frequently than we may have done previously brings a sense of collaboration and familiarity that many colleagues need right now.
Clarify priorities and break down objectives
Most people will have a number of pre-covid performance objectives established. However, the new business environment brought on by the pandemic may have made these less achievable or relevant. We need to encourage managers to review existing objectives, refocus people and break down the ‘big rocks’ into specific deliverables so everyone has clarity on what is important right now.
Setting realistic objectives can motivate staff and focus their attention on the personal and business goals that are feasible and applicable during this change.
Focus on effectiveness
This is also a great time to focus ourselves and others to work on less urgent tasks that would normally be postponed simply because of the lack of time. Suddenly, urgent projects, key meetings and deadlines have been put on the back burner and we have more time for downtime activities like planning, development, and others. If we use this time for planning and preventing future issues effectively, our organisations will be in a much stronger position when we are back to business as usual.
Maximise productivity with technology
Many of our staff may be struggling to work effectively in isolation and managers might find themselves worrying too much about their team’s performance, especially as they are out of sight.
This is where line managers and HR teams should use existing performance management systems (or consider implementing new ones like virtual performance management software) to have visibility of each employee’s activity, progress and results. This helps both HR and staff to stay organised and maximise productivity, and gives the business a greater insight into the performance of its employees.
We cannot expect our people to be robots and replicate office work at home. It is possible that pre-coronavirus performance management had become primarily about ‘the task’. Virtual performance management requires us to start with empathy. Expectations need to be managed, based on the circumstances.
And, coupled with revised employee objectives and goals, employees need to be given the opportunity to adapt to their new working environment.
Ultimately, this is not the time for presenteeism or expecting ourselves or our people to continue to work the 9-5 day. Employees might be dealing with many other responsibilities, from home schooling to unwell family members, which are distracting them from their usual workplace performance.
Increasing communication, adapting working routines and listening to employees will ensure that virtual performance management can be just as successful as traditional performance management.
Lucinda Carney is founder and CEO of Actus Performance Management