Performance Management: How HR leaders can help facilitate this in a remote environment

For many organisations, the transition to large-scale remote working in 2020 has been a bumpy one. This is especially the case for managers who would normally measure their employee’s performance based on what they see in the office. A more traditional management approach takes cues such as length of time spent in the office or looking over an employee’s shoulder to determine how hard their staff are actually working.

As many employees transitioned to remote work during the last six months, these cues have all but disappeared. It has left some managers asking their HR leaders a simple question – “How can I measure my employee’s performance in a remote environment?” HR leaders know that building trust between managers and remote workers is the absolute cornerstone of measuring remote employee performance, but here are some additional tips for successful performance management in 2020.

1. Shift towards measuring outputs rather than inputs

HR leaders understand that being present in an office or online is not the same as being productive. Encouraging managers to measure performance based on the achievement of outputs, as opposed to inputs (such as time spent online) will help to measure actions that actually contribute value to the company. Establishing a shared task list with an employee can help to get everyone on the same page in terms of priorities. For employees whose roles can’t really be appraised by outcomes, this BCG article highlights companies such as Apple who use a Net Promoter Score from internal customers to gauge performance.

2. Understand what you are measuring

Dispersed teams do run the risk of going off track, so it is important to make sure that teams are focused on your organisation’s current objectives and priorities. Performance management software can certainly help form company goals with employee goals in a remote environment. Company or team priorities may have changed during COVID-19, so many organisations are setting aside 12-month plans in favour of shorter planning cycles, such as quarterly. Organisational leaders also recognise that performance and productivity may have taken a hit in 2020 due to shifts in the economic and social environment. Company, team and individual goals and expectations need to be adjusted to reflect this.

3. Don’t take employee underperformance at face value

Times are challenging in 2020, so if an employee is underperforming it is important to understand the root cause. Frequent communication is vital and can start with a simple question from a manager to find out what is going on in their employee’s life. Investigating any underlying organisational issues that are contributing to underperformance is also important. Could it be that an out-dated process or technology has made an employee’s job more difficult to complete?

4. Consider changes in your annual review

Many employees will be feeling more anxious than usual about their annual performance review. HR experts are recommending an empathetic approach to the review, focused more on teamwork and collaboration than traditional performance metrics. Aaron McEwan, VP of Research and Advisory at Gartner said in a recent HRM article that “We need to shift the focus to how our employees have behaved, how they have reacted to what we’ve thrown at them, what they’ve contributed, not just to the organisation, but to their peers and colleagues.”

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